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Just as Europe is emerging from the COVID-19 pandemic, the continent is now preparing for a new winter of discontent brought on by an acute cost-of-living crisis which will likely remain at the top of the political agenda for months to come.
Our new research in the UK, Germany, France and Poland shows that rising prices for food and energy risk destablising the continent and could bring about a new populist surge if this moment is not managed well.
This is a critical moment for European governments: how they handle the crisis will have lasting effects not just on their own popularity but on trust in the system as a whole. Across all countries we surveyed in late July, people appear to be digging in for a long crisis and most are expecting social unrest and strikes this winter. With public trust already in decline after the pandemic, Europe appears more vulnerable to disruptive, anti-democratic forces who seek to exploit divisions.
But there is reason to be hopeful: the public broadly understands the reasons for the crisis and wants to see both short term-relief and long-term change, for example on the transition to renewables.
This research is part of an ongoing project called Navigating Uncertainty. The most recent wave of polling was conducted in late July with YouGov on a total sample of 7,000 people in UK, Germany, France and Poland.