The research also warns that the "most worrying sign" would be if most Europeans see the EU as a big loser in the war, rather than interpreting its relative unity as a sign of robustness.
People in Portugal are among those in Europe most concerned about the impact of the war in Ukraine on the cost of living, according to a survey by the European Council on Foreign Relations (ECFR), which points to risks in European unity on the Ukrainian issue.
Across the 10 European countries studied, the ECFR found that Europe’s unity on the Russian-Ukrainian conflict is at risk as public attention shifts to cost of living concerns, and that while support for Ukraine remains high, concerns have changed at local level.
In Portugal, Italy and France, for example, people are the most concerned about the impact of the war on the cost of living and energy prices. Sweden, Poland and Romania are the countries least concerned about this issue.
Meanwhile, people in Sweden, Finnland and France are more worried about the threat of Russian cyber attacks than other Europeans.
The countries located closest to Russia – Finland, Poland, Romania and Sweden – are more worried about a possible threat of Russian military action.
According to the ECFR, Europeans’ opinions about the causes of the Russian invasion vary. For example, more than 80% of people in Poland, Sweden, Finland, Portugal and the UK say Russia is primarily responsible for starting the conflict, against only 56% in Italy, 62% in France and 66% in Germany.
On the question of who represents the biggest obstacle to peace, 64% of people in all countries say it is Russia – but only 39% in Italy and 42% in Romania agree.
In Italy, more than one quarter of respondents (28%) say the US is most to blame, against 9% in the other nine countries polled.
The analysis also shows those wanting peace already represent a majority of Europeans and points to this as likely to increase if the feeling grows that economic sanctions against Russia are not working.
The coming weeks will be critical, with the data showing that it should be possible to hold Europe together on such issues with the right political messages, according to the ECFR.
The poll also suggests that Europe’s break with Russia is irreversible, at least in the short to medium term, with Europeans appearing to be envisaging a world in which Europe cuts itself off entirely from Russia.
Also exposed are possible divisions over refugees, future membership of the European Union for Ukraine, the impact on living standards, and the threat of military escalation.
According to ECFR, the key to maintaining European unity in support of Ukraine is to take fears of military escalation seriously and present the conflict as a defensive struggle against Russian aggression, rather than talking about victory for Ukraine and defeat for Russian.
The research also warns that the “most worrying sign” would be if most Europeans see the EU as a big loser in the war, rather than interpreting its relative unity as a sign of robustness.
With around 8,000 respondents, the poll was conducted in nine EU member states – Portugal, France, Spain, Romania, Sweden, Finland, Germany, Italy and Poland – and the UK.