Published: working paper on citizens’ understanding of social citizenship


Working paper How citizens understand European social citizenship: deepening quantitative survey results with focus group analysis.

EuSocialCit reserchers – Brian Burgoon, Gianna Eick and David van der Duin from the University of Amsterdam;  Kattalina Berriochoa and Marius Busemeyer from the the University of Konstanz;  Karolina Bolesta and Izabela Grabowska from the Warsaw School of Economics; and Francisco Gómez Abelleira, Jesús Mercader Uguina and Ana Muñoz from the Charles III University of Madrid – have finished a paper which explores how citizens understand European social citizenship.

Deepening quantitative survey questions through focus group discussions can shine a light on the deeper understandings of individuals about social citizenship, and also demonstrate how ambivalent and multidimensional attitudes are about social citizenship in Europe.

This paper presents the methodology, the research process and preliminary findings from a series of focus group discussions on the future of European social citizenship that were conducted over the course of 2022 in four European countries: Germany, the Netherlands, Poland, and Spain, involving a total of 134 participants. Importantly, as part of the focus groups, we also collected quantitative survey evidence via a short questionnaire handed out to participants before the discussion, allowing us to compare our qualitative data with quantitative evidence.

The focus groups covered three topical areas: 1) support for government redistribution broadly understood (and different meanings thereof), 2) the relationship between the national and EU levels in financing and providing social policy, and 3) inequalities in access to social rights and how to address them. To summarize the core findings of our preliminary analysis: Focus group participants were generally supportive of strengthening the social dimension of the EU (as quantitative surveys have also shown), but the qualitative data also revealed a significant degree of skepticism regarding the ability of the EU in harmonising social rights and dealing with the current series of large-scale crises. Furthermore, participants differentiated between a range of social policies and how fair and effective it would be to harmonise these on the EU level. Participants also discussed what conditions should be in place for granting social rights, particularly in the case of compensatory social policies and migrants/refugees. Finally, participants noted persistent inequalities in accessing social rights, which appear to be related to socio-economic status. Specifically, lower socio-economic status groups appear to have less access to much needed social rights. A main driving force of these inequalities is likely to be a prevailing information deficit, in particular regarding the initiatives of the EU in the social domain.