When the Coronavirus arrived in Europe in February, governments took historic measures to stop its spread. Voters were on board and most national government parties gained in polls up until around June. The Europe Elects polling average shows, for example, that Angela Merkel’s centre-right CDU/CSU alliance (EPP) jumped from 26% in February to 39% in June. Sweden’s ruling Social Democrats (S&D) increased their rating from 23% in February to 31% in May. In Slovenia, the centre-right SDS (EPP) under prime minister Janez Janša surged from 23% in January to 33% in March. As the second wave of the COVID-19 pandemic hits Europe, we at Europe Elects take a look at how voting behaviour has been affected and whether governments, again, profit from the so-called ‘rally-around-the-flag’ effect.
There are different ways to estimate government support beyond traditional approval ratings. One can for example focus on the vote share of those parties who hold the head of government position in the different EU member states. This would include, for example, the Spanish centre-left PSOE (S&D) of Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez and the Irish Fianna Fáil of incumbent head of government Micheál Martin. Since June, the vote share for these types of parties has decreased by an average of 2 points.
Our exclusive September 2020 projection shows that especially centre-right parties have been affected by decrease in their support in incumbent national governments. Compared to 1 June 2020, when the ‘rally-round-the-flag- effect peaked across Europe, EPP parties holding the head of national government position have lost on average 2.9 points. For example, the German CDU/CSU alliance under Angela Merkel dropped in the Europe Elects polling average from 38.8% in June to now 35.3%. The Slovak OĽaNO (EPP) dropped from 23.7% to 17.0%. The ruling Bulgarian GERB (EPP) collapsed, also amidst ongoing anti-government protests, from 33.8% to 25.0%.
However, the centre-right European People’s Party (EPP) Group in the European Parliament would again remain the largest bloc in the assembly if there was an EU Parliament election today, with 195 seats out of 705 post-Brexit and a popular vote share of 24.4%.In the EU election in May 2019—discounting the United Kingdom and adding the post-Brexit MEPs around the EU—the EPP finished with 187 of seats and a popular vote share of 22.6%.
The centre-left Socialists & Democrats (S&D) would come second, if an EU Parliament election was held, with 136 out of 705 seats and 17.9% of the popular vote. This would be 12 seats and 1.0 percentage points less in the popular vote than in the 2019 election—again discounting the UK and adding the post-Brexit MEPs.
Social democratic parties holding the position of head of government in Europe have also declined since June, by an average of 2 points. This decline is led by Malta’s PL with minus 4 points and Sweden’s Social Democrats that lost 3.7 points.
Trailing the two frontrunner groups by some margin, the third biggest European Parliamentary group in our September projection is the liberal Renew Europe (RE) Group with 95 seats, which is two seats fewer than compared to what the group achieved in the 2019 EU election sans the UK. In terms of vote shares, the RE Group receives 11.4% in our projection. That is 0.9 percentage points less than in the EU election last year. The RE Group hosts political parties such as the French LREM and the German FDP. Liberal parties across Europe holding the position of head of government have lost on average 1.2 points in voter support since June.
With this level of support for EPP, S&D, and RE, the European Commission of Ursula von der Leyen would continue to hold a comfortable majority of 426 out of 705 seats.
The right-wing Identity & Democracy (ID) Group in the European Parliament is projected to get 77 out of 705 seats, a vote share of 11.0% and be the fourth largest European Parliamentary group if there was an EU election today. This is one seat more and 0.2 percentage points less than in the EU election minus the UK and adding the post-Brexit MEPs.
Europe Elects’ projection of popular vote in the EU in September 2020
The conservative European Conservatives and Reformists (ECR) Group is projected to get 71 seats should an EU election be held now. The group—which amongst others includes the Polish PiS and the Italian FdI—received 62 seats in the pre-Brexit 2019 EU election, discounting the UK and distributing the post-Brexit MEPs. Across the EU, the national parties affiliated with the ECR Group have a combined EU popular vote share of 9.7% in August, which is 1.6 points above ECR’s 2019 election result.
The left-wing European United Left-Nordic Green Left (GUE/NGL) group is projected to be the sixth-largest bloc in the European Parliament, should there be an election today, rather clearly behind the five biggest groups. Europe Elects’ September projection predicts the group would receive 55 out of 705 seats, up from 40 in the EU election 2019 sans the UK. In the popular vote projection, the group stands at 7.9%, up from 7.0% in the 2019 election.
The Greens/European Free Alliance (Greens/EFA) was the fifth-largest parliamentary group in the European election in May 2019 without the UK but has since slid to the seventh position. In terms of seats, Greens/EFA decreased from 68 seats and 11.5% in the election night to only 49 MEPs and 7.8% in Europe Elects’ September projection.
The Non-Inscrits—those parties left without a parliamentary group in the European Parliament—would send 23 MEPs with a 4.1% vote share in the popular vote to the European Parliament in September’s projection. Four seats would go to unaffiliated parties that have no relationship to the groups mentioned before.
Disproportionate or sometimes opposite developments in the popular vote share and the seat projection can be explained by the slight disproportionality of the electoral system for the European Parliament.
Europe Elects’ projection of seats of European Parliament in September 2020 without the United Kingdom
Europe Elects’ projection offers data to understand the overall trends in the political mood in the European Union. The monthly projection shows how voters in the European Union would vote, should there be an EU Parliament election today. When comparing seats and popular vote projected to the election result in this article, we contrast them to the EU27 scenario—meaning we exclude the United Kingdom.
Visit our European Parliament projection site for a more in-depth overview and the methodology behind the monthly projection.