If a week is a long time in politics, a year is a lifetime — particularly in the midst of a pandemic.
This time last year, voters across the EU were casting their final ballots in the European Parliament election. But what would happen if that election were (or even could be) held today?
POLITICO’s Poll of Polls has reactivated its European Parliament seat tracker, which uses an amalgamation of national opinion polling to estimate what the composition of the Strasbourg legislature would be after such a hypothetical election. In short: The result is a boost for the center-right European People’s Party, with voters flocking to incumbent ruling parties at a time of international crisis.
Before analyzing the details, first some methodology and caveats.
Poll of Polls combines all available high-quality public opinion polls in each country that ask about the voting intention. We aggregate the polls to smooth outlier results and gain a more robust estimate of the strength of each political party. The European Parliament seat tracker model translates that support into MEPs using the allocation system applied in each country.
The results are useful for interpreting the direction of Europe’s political winds, but we should be cautious about overinterpreting the figures. At this point in the European political cycle, polling firms are asking about national political sentiment, not specifically about European Parliament voting intention. Although the seat projection will therefore miss some quirks specific to European elections, voting behavior at the national and the European level are nonetheless strongly correlated. The fact that the U.K. is no longer included in the model is likely to improve its accuracy as the country was home to some of the largest polling upsets and very distinct voting behavior at the European level.
Also, for some countries such as Bulgaria, there are no recent polls available and we must revert to polls from several weeks back. In others, like Luxembourg, there have been no polls since the election so we have used the seat allocation from May last year. Naturally, we are comparing the hypothetical election result with the post-Brexit allocation of seats — so minus the MEPs elected form the United Kingdom that left the chamber at the end of January.
According to our analysis, if the European Parliament election was held today, the EPP would gain significantly, picking up 11 extra seats. The surge in support for Germany’s Christian Democrats, the party of Chancellor Angela Merkel, is the main driver of this trend. The CDU/CSU party union is currently at close to 40 percent in national polls, meaning it would pick up 10 seats in the European Parliament under our estimate. That would make it the largest party delegation by far with 39 seats, eclipsing Italy’s League party, led by Matteo Salvini, on 24. Currently, both party delegations hold 29 seats.
The League is still the strongest party in Italy’s national polls, but with significantly diminished support compared to the beginning of the year. Nonetheless, the Identity and Democracy group to which the League belongs would emerge from a hypothetical European election virtually unscathed with just one fewer seat, as they would pick up seats in Belgium and Slovakia to compensate for Italian losses.
Changes in the Poll of Polls’ European Parliament seat projection over time.
The projection is for the composition of the post-Brexit Parliament — that is, without U.K. MEPs elected in May 2019 — and is based on publicly available high-quality national polling. For more polling data from across Europe, visit POLITICO Poll of Polls.
Our projection suggests that the center-left S&D grouping would continue its long-term decline if an election were held tomorrow. It would drop from 146 seats to 143 with small losses across the EU, from Spain and Germany to Bulgaria and Greece. Liberals were among the big winners from last year’s election with 98 seats in the post-Brexit Parliament. But driven by poor polling trends for their national members in Spain and Germany, the Renew Europe group would lose 8 seats, according to our projection.
With the climate issue overshadowed by the coronavirus pandemic, green parties in several EU countries have suffered slight polling dips since the crisis hit. This is most clearly visible in Germany, where the party fell from 23 percent to 16 percent in national polls within a few weeks.
Meanwhile, the European Conservatives and Reformists (ECR) would overtake the Greens in the chamber. It has regrouped after it lost its founding party, the British Conservatives, due to Brexit, but with a strong showing for the Italian right-wing Brothers of Italy, the group would be projected to gain five more seats. The left-wing group European United Left–Nordic Green Left (GUE/NGL) would also make gains off the back of boosted support for Ireland’s Sinn Féin, among others.