Euro zone citizens want to keep common currency: poll

LONDON Thu May 24, 2012 11:53am EDT

LONDON (Reuters) - Citizens from Germany to Greece would vote to keep the euro if their countries held a referendum tomorrow, according to a poll centered on the key national players in the euro zone debt crisis.

Six out of 10 voters who expressed a preference from Greece, Germany, France, Italy and Spain said they would opt to keep their countries in the euro, Thursday's Ipsos poll found, with the same proportion in favor of holding such a referendum.

Popular support for the common European currency was strongest in Greece, which nevertheless appears to be edging precipitously close to the euro zone exits after inconclusive elections earlier this month. Three-quarters of decided Greek voters there said they would back the euro.

But in Germany and Italy a far slimmer majority of voters backed the euro, with 57 percent of those decided in favor in both cases.

"Regardless of the turmoil and the debate that's going on in these crucial countries, it would seem that for the time being, people want to stick with the euro," said John Wright, senior vice president of global public affairs at Ipsos.

"Maybe it's an issue of 'if one goes down, we all go down together', but nevertheless, given the options, the public in these crucial countries seem to be on side. People aren't willing to abandon it - not yet."

Support for a euro referendum was strongest in Germany, with seven out of 10 in favor.

In contrast to lukewarm German sentiment towards the currency, French voters were among the most enthusiastic about the euro, with almost three-quarters saying they would vote 'Yes' to keeping the common currency.

A difference between German and French attitudes was clear in the meeting of EU leaders this week, with France's new president Francois Hollande making it clear he intends to stand up to Berlin on European policy.

Around 10 percent of the sample in most countries did not express a preference, however, suggesting the slim majorities in favor of the euro in Germany and Italy may be fragile.

"The undecided shows there's room for debate. It's not a done deal by any means," said Wright from Ipsos.

In Greece's case, voters could open the euro zone's exit door if they vote for anti-bailout parties at a June 17 election.

European Union government ministers are now talking openly about the possibility of a Greek exit, and while they have urged Athens to complete the reforms demanded under its bailout program, they are preparing contingency plans in case it quits.

(Reporting by Andy Bruce; Editing by Hugh Lawson)