Will solidarity with Ukraine fade as winter approaches? This is the question many analysts are posing as we face dropping temperatures and rising living costs. The data featured in our October 2022 eupinions’ “Under pressure” report pointed to a consistently high level of support between March and June 2022. Now, as a follow-up to this report, we’re publishing data that tracks the changing views on Ukraine from March to September 2022. These eupinions slides are titled “End of Summer, End of Solidarity?”.

The data shows how the intense debate on energy security and energy-saving measures has shaped views from March through September of this year. The questions we posed concern three issues:

    1. The EU’s role in the world and its capacity to strengthen this role
    2. The policies aimed at supporting Ukraine in its war effort: weapons delivery, acceptance of refugees, energy independence, EU enlargement and a common European defense policy
    3. Personal worries

Europeans want to see the EU play an active role in world affairs

This question has been part of our catalogue of trends tracked since 2015. Overall, a large majority of Europeans have consistently supported the EU taking a more active role in global affairs. Support consolidated with the Russian attack on Ukraine and remains high at 80%.

When asked about the appropriate means of power, Europeans consistently expressed the view that the EU needs to exercise both soft and hard power to play a role in global affairs. Around 90% of Europeans believe that economic strength, strong allies and attractive values are essential. 70% believe the EU needs military power.

Europeans are cautious when it comes to weapons

Across Europe, 50% of respondents still say their countries should support Ukraine by providing it with arms shipments – allowing it to defend itself against Russian attacks. Shortly after the war began in March, this EU-wide figure was 56%. In Germany, however, public approval for arms transfers fell below 50% in September to 48% (down from 57% in March). The approval rate is lowest in Italy, at 36%. By contrast, approval for such activities has remained at a consistently high level of 76% in Poland, Ukraine’s immediate neighbor.

Support for energy independence remains under pressure 

There has been great concern that the public's willingness to accept personal sacrifices to become independent of Russian energy supplies would collapse over time. However, this effect has occurred to a much lesser extent than feared. Across the EU, a clear majority of 67% still say the EU should become more energy independent even if this means higher costs. In March, this figure was 74%. As in the surveys conducted in March and June, Germany shows the EU's lowest national-level result on this question, at 62%.

Overall, eupinions recorded a decline of 10 percentage points in Germany since March on this issue. At 80%, Poland's willingness to bear additional personal costs in the drive for energy independence is the highest. Belgium recorded the sharpest drop in this area, showing a decline of 12 percentage points (March: 76%, September: 64%).

Acceptance of war refugees is waning

More than three-quarters of the Europeans surveyed say they are ready to accept Ukrainian refugees in their own countries. The extent of this openness is greatest in Spain – and has been so consistently since the first survey on the issue in March. A total of 89% say their country should accept refugees.

Across the EU, 77% are still of this opinion. In Germany, this level of willingness has declined from 86% in March to 74% in September. The lowest level can be seen in France, with 72%. Public willingness to accept refugees has fallen by 12 percentage points in both countries.

A clear majority supports EU enlargement

There is still a clear majority in favor of admitting Ukraine to the European Union. Just under two-thirds of respondents in the EU indicated that they are in favor of this step, a share six percentage points lower than in March. The level of support remains highest in Poland (82%), followed by Spain (78%). In contrast, Germany shows the greatest degree of skepticism. Here, the majority in favor of accession has shrunk to just 55% (down from 61% in March).

Strong support for EU defence policy

With levels of support consistently above those seen for any other question on this survey, Europeans agree that the EU needs a common defense policy. Nearly 90% of respondents in the EU agree with this statement. Almost 80% of Europeans also say they favor the EU taking a more active role on the world stage.

The levels of support for these statements differ only slightly from one country to another. Since Russia's attack on Ukraine, traditional defense policy has once again become very popular. We see that Europeans recognize the importance of a common strategy to deal with major crises. This applies not just to financial, economic and health crises but to security crises as well.

Cost of living a major concern

Asked what worries them most at the moment, respondents in the EU showed just how strongly inflation is weighing on their minds today. A total of 49% overall cite the rising cost of living as their main concern, with this figure rising to 51% in Germany. The Spanish have fewer concerns in this respect. Only 39% say rising costs are their main concern.


The eupinions' figures presented here aim to shed light on whether European solidarity with Ukraine will be affected by the impact of the energy crisis, particularly in the face of plunging temperatures. In short, we see the following developments:

Notably, the data points to stability rather than any major changes in views. We see a general, though slightly downward, trend on all issues between March and September. A closer look at the issue of weapons delivery to Ukraine reveals a more palpable change in opinion. Support has dropped by roughly 10 percentage points, nearing the 50% mark. The support for energy independence is under pressure as well.

Nonetheless, in broader terms, we still see a high level of support for policies aimed at supporting Ukraine and Ukrainians. Given the gravity of the situation and the costs involved, this stability is remarkable. However, two things can be true at the same time.

Europeans are also worried about their personal situation as they face narrowing opportunities and a continuing increase in the cost of living. These two states of mind could increasingly conflict with each other. At this moment, radical political actors in the EU seek to capitalize on this conflict by presenting themselves as the only viable way forward.

Democratic leaders in Europe should therefore persist in clearly communicating the benefits of a united, common effort to support Ukraine. Why we are in it? What's at stake? What's to gain? Who are our allies?

At the same time, they should do their best to mitigate the economic and social fall-out of the crises we face. Large and well-off countries like Germany are better positioned to do so than many of their European peers. A common European approach should thus be pursued whenever possible.

Europeans have high expectations regarding the potential of the EU and its united political action; seeing this potential in action is vital to continued solidarity.

About the author

Isabell Hoffmann is Senior Expert at the Bertelsmann Stiftung and head of „eupinions“. eupinions is an independent platform for European public opinion. As an expert researcher on democracy and legitimacy in the European Union, she has managed research projects on the role of national parliaments in the EU as well as the origins and impact of populism, nationalism and authoritarianism in Europe.

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