Long-term vision for rural areas: Commission publishes public opinion survey on rural areas
A majority of EU citizens support the EU including rural areas in public spending decisions. The key need of rural areas most mentioned is transport infrastructure and connections, according to the latest EU-wide Eurobarometer survey of public opinion about rural areas published today by the European Commission.
The survey was conducted from 9 to 18 April 2021, including more than 25,841 respondents in 27 Member States. The Flash survey contributed to assessing which priorities the Long-term Vision for rural areas should focus on, complementing the open public consultation conducted by the Commission from 7 September to 30 November 2020.
EU citizens support the EU taking into account rural areas in EU public spending, with 38% ‘strongly supporting’ and 41% who ‘tend to support’.
The key need of rural areas that is mentioned most frequently by the survey respondents is transport infrastructure and connections (44%). This is followed by access to healthcare, childcare or care for the elderly and the availability of jobs/employment/business opportunities, mentioned by 27% and a similar proportion (26%) mention digital infrastructure.
Furthermore, a majority (65%) of EU citizens think that, when the EU invests in rural areas, it is the local area or region receiving the investment that should be able to decide how the investment is spent.
Regarding remote rural areas, between 52% and 59% answer it is difficult, or not possible, to move around by public transport in their local area. By contrast, among respondents living in large towns and cities, between 60% and 72% say that it is ‘very easy’ to reach their nearest supermarket, their doctor’s surgery, the local post office and the nearest large town or city by public transport.
On the consequences of the pandemic, a third of respondents say that following the end of the restrictions, they will be much more likely to visit rural areas for leisure. About one in seven say that, compared to before the pandemic, they are more likely to consider moving to a more rural area (for urban residents) or a less rural area (for rural residents). Finally, among employed respondents, 21% say they will be much more likely and 16% somewhat more likely to work from home at least some of the time when all the current COVID-19 restrictions end.
In terms of environmental issues, a majority of respondents reply that it is an immediate problem for the rural areas in their country. Including in environmental problems, the destruction of natural habitats or the loss of animals or plant species is identified as an immediate and urgent problem for rural areas by 65% of EU citizens.
EU citizens are divided when asked whether they can influence decisions affecting their local area, with 51% agreeing and 47% disagreeing. More than half of respondents (78%) agree that they would like to be more involved in decisions affecting their local area.
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