Public Attitudes to European Integration in 2018


The majority of Bulgarian citizens support EU membership and the future entry of the country into Schengen and the Eurozone, but are against replacing the national currency – the Bulgarian lev – with the euro. These are the results of a nationally representative survey of public opinion, conducted by the Open Society Institute – Sofia in April 2018.

About two thirds of respondents (61%) say that if they were to decide today, they would vote for Bulgaria’s membership in the EU, while just 16% would vote against membership. Despite the decrease, when the result is compared to the peak of support to EU membership of 70% in 2013, when compared to 2016 the trend is of increase in support by 4% and decrease by 7% of the share of those disagreeing with membership.

Close to 45% assess positively EU membership so far, one third don’t know and only 16% assess it negatively More opportunities for travelling abroad (50%), jobs (48%) and education (33%) are perceived as the three biggest advantages of EU membership. Just 9% of those asked say that it has no advantages. The ranking of advantages remains almost unchanged through the years, but for example the expectation that the EU will introduce “rules and rule of law” fell from 2nd place in the ranking of advantages in 2008 to 7th place in 2018.

In 2018, nearly 57% would not vote for a party that wants Bulgaria to leave the EU and 15% are inclined to do so. In comparison to 2008, there is a decrease of 15% of those who would not vote for such a party and at the same time there is an increase of 3% of those who would vote for such a party.

In regard to further integration of Bulgaria into the EU, half of the respondents support membership in Schengen and 18% are against it. Support to membership fell by nearly 17% compared to 2011 and those disagreeing with this statement increased threefold in the last seven years from only 6% in 2011 to 18% this year.

Most people (42%) support the future membership of Bulgaria into the Eurozone, while 24% disagree with this and 33% don’t know. At the same time however, when asked if they support replacing the Bulgarian lev with euro only 22% are supportive of it, 56% are against it and 21% don’t know. Nearly half (45%) of respondents, who stated their support to Eurozone membership are against the replacement of the Bulgarian lev with the Euro.

„Part of the citizens probably are not aware that Eurozone membership is related to replacing the lev with the euro and are inclined on an abstract level to approve of everything “European”, but do not accept its practical application in the country” says the report.

For the last 5 years the support for the replacement of the lev with the euro has increased from 16% in 2013 to 22% in 2018. At the same time, the opponents of such a change have decreased from 67% in 2013 to 56% in the spring of the current year.

The supporters of GERB are divided over the issue of the replacement of the lev with the euro. Among them 42% declare their support for such a replacement, 45% are against and 13% cannot decide. Among the supporters of the rest of the main political players in the country, the opponents of the introduction of the euro have a clear majority. Among BSP supporters just 12% state their support for the replacement of the leva by the euro, 61% are against it and 28% don’t know.

Age and education are indicative for a number of attitudes with the younger (70% of those up to 29 years old) and the more educated (70% of the respondents with higher education) Bulgarian citizens are more inclined to support EU membership as well as the future Eurozone and Schengen membership. Among those aged 60 as well as among people with primary or lower education support is lower (respectively 53% and 24%) and among them there is a significant share of people without opinion on the issues (respectively 26% and 60%).

In terms of electoral preferences, the supporters of GERB are those most inclined to support EU membership (82%), the Eurozone (62%) and Schengen (65%), while those of BSP are the least inclined to do this (50% in favor of EU membership, 33% in favor of the Eurozone and 37% for Schengen). Among the BSP supporters there is relatively higher share of people without an opinion on these issues (29% in regard to EU membership, 41% in regard to the Eurozone and 41% in regard to Schengen).

Full text in English of the analysis Public opinion in Bulgaria in 2018: EU membership and further integration

The data presented is from a nationally representative survey of public opinion, conducted among the adult population of Bulgaria (18 years old and older), using a face-to-face interview with a standardized questionnaire. The respondents are selected by two-stage cluster sampling. From 1200 interviews planned 1179 were conducted. The maximum stochastic error is ±2,8%. The survey is implemented and financed by the Open Society Institute – Sofia. More summarized data can be found in an analysis entitled “Public Opinion in Bulgaria 2018: EU membership and further integration”.