Zelensky is Europe's most popular leader, poll reveals

Zelensky is Europe's most popular leader, poll reveals
Zelensky is Europe's most popular leader, poll reveals

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Hind Al Soulia - Riyadh - BRUSSELS — Almost half of Europeans have a positive opinion of Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky but the feeling varies wildly across member states.

This is one of the main conclusions from an exclusive Euronews poll conducted by Ipsos among almost 26,000 respondents across 18 member states ahead of the elections to the European Parliament, which will be held between 6 and 9 June.

The first-of-its-kind survey shows that 47% of Europeans hold a "positive" opinion of Volodymyr Zelensky while 32% have a "negative" view. Meanwhile, 21% say they "don't know enough" about the president, who has topped headlines for the past two years and has travelled extensively around the continent to speak on behalf of his war-torn nation.

This makes Zelensky the best-liked leader of the eight European figures surveyed by Ipsos but also the most divisive, as his scores suffer the strongest swings.

In the Nordic region and the Iberian Peninsula, Zelensky receives the highest "positive" marks: 81% in Finland, 74% in Sweden, 72% in Denmark and Portugal, and 64% in Spain.

By contrast, more than half of respondents in Hungary (60%), Greece (57%) and Bulgaria (56%) have a "negative" opinion of the Ukrainian president.

Other countries where the "negative" judgment outweighs the "positive" are Slovakia (50% against 26%), Austria (47% against 33%), Italy (41% against 32%) and the Czech Republic (37% against 36%).

The picture contrasts with the official line taken by national governments: Italy's Giorgia Meloni and Czechia's Petr Fiala are vocal supporters of Ukraine and defend the sanctions regime against Russia. Recently, the Czech Republic launched an initiative to procure 800,000 rounds of ammunition for Kyiv in an accelerated timeframe.

Another notable case is Germany, the EU's leading donor of military assistance. According to the poll, Germans are far from consensus in their assessment: 41% have a "positive" opinion of Zelensky and 36% a "negative" one.

In Romania, where farmers have complained about low-cost, tariff-free grain coming from Ukraine, the divide is equally eye-catching: 49% say "positive" and 40% say "negative." Poland, a country that has seen fiercer protests over the same issue, is nevertheless in the "positive" camp (57%) rather than "negative" (24%).

Looking at voting intention ahead of the June elections, Zelensky earns the most points from supporters of the main pro-European parties: the European People's Party (61%), the Socialists & Democrats (62%), the liberals of Renew Europe (59%) and the Greens (63%). The "positive" rate drops to 47% with the hard-right European Conservatives and Reformists (ECR), the group that encompasses Meloni and Fiala.

The Left, which has broken ranks with the mainstream on the issue of ammunition deliveries, is evenly split: 40% say "positive" and 42% say "negative."

Among backers of the far-right Identify and Democracy (ID), the "negative" opinion (53%) convincingly overshadows the "positive" one (26%).

Overall, Zelensky stands as a love-or-hate figure, eliciting powerful reactions on both sides of the debate. The rates of "I don't know enough" are limited across all countries, genders, age groups, occupations and party affiliations.

The exclusive Euronews/Ipsos poll also offers insights into how Europeans feel about other prominent leaders in the continent.

French President Emmanuel Macron is second in the best-liked rank, with 41% of respondents saying they have a "positive" opinion of him as opposed to 34% who say "negative." Unsurprisingly, the French people are the harshest critics, with a whopping 62% choosing "negative" and just 28% "positive."

Macron's popularity is a majority sentiment in Romania (57%), Greece (55%), Germany (53%), Denmark (52%) and the Netherlands (50%).

German Chancellor Olaf Scholz provokes greater indifference: 38% of respondents say they "don't know enough" about the man leading the bloc's largest economy, while 29% express a "positive" opinion and 33% a "negative" one.

Four countries stand out in their dislike towards the 65-year-old socialist: Germany (61% say "negative"), Austria (47%), Greece (45%) and Poland (39%).

Italy's Giorgia Meloni, Spain's Pedro Sánchez and Poland's Donald Tusk are too shielded from contempt by the "I don't know enough" option (43%, 58% and 50%, respectively). As a result, none of the three can be said to be particularly liked or disliked. Outside of Italy, Meloni only faces aversion in Spain, where 44% have a "negative" opinion.

Interestingly, participants in Romania warmly approve of Meloni (54%), Sánchez (49%) and Tusk (53%) even if they all come from vastly different backgrounds.

Hungary's Viktor Orbán is another different story: 48% of respondents have a "negative" opinion of the man who has promoted "illiberal democracy," repeatedly derailed the EU's decision-making and embraced an unabashed Russian-friendly diplomacy. Just 15% have a "positive" assessment of him. The rest (37%) declare they "don't know enough."

Sweden (65%) and Finland (64%), two countries that saw their NATO bids delayed partly because of Orbán's foot-dragging tactics, register the sharpest disapproval, closely followed by Romania (60%), Poland (58%), Austria (58%), the Netherlands (56%), Germany (53%) and Denmark (52%).

In Hungary, where Orbán governs with an unassailable majority, 54% of participants have a "negative" opinion of their premier and 32% a "positive" one. (The poll was conducted after the scandal that forced Hungarian President Katalin Novak to resign, which analysts have described as the biggest test for Orbán's leadership.)

Orbán, though, sees a forgiving trend in Bulgaria: 47% "positive" versus 24% "negative."

The Euronews/Ipsos poll closes with an examination of Russian President Vladimir Putin, who is by far the most reviled leader: 79% of respondents hold a "negative" opinion of the man wanted by the International Criminal Court (ICC) over war crimes in Ukraine.

On the other hand, 10% have a "positive" opinion of him, and 11% "don't know enough."

The censure is overwhelming: Finland (94% say "negative"), Sweden (91%), Denmark (91%), Poland (91%), Spain (90%), Portugal (89%), the Netherlands (88%) and France (80%) lead the condemnation against the Kremlin's infamous tenant.

The "negative" rate falls under the 60% threshold in just four countries: Greece (59%), Hungary (57%), Slovakia (56%) and Bulgaria (48%).

Once again, Bulgaria sticks out as an exceptional case: 37% of respondents have a "positive" opinion of Putin, his highest mark across the board.

This article concludes the series related to the exclusive Euronews poll conducted by Ipsos. A total of 25,916 individuals were interviewed between 23 February and 5 March online and by telephone in 18 member states, representing 96% of the EU's population. You can check out the whole series on the EU Elections hub. — Euronews


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