As elections near, polls show Europeans feel disconnected from Brussels

BRUSSELS Mon May 12, 2014 6:49pm EDT

Flags of European Union member states fly in front of the European Parliament building in Strasbourg, April 15, 2014. REUTERS/Vincent Kessler

Flags of European Union member states fly in front of the European Parliament building in Strasbourg, April 15, 2014.

Credit: Reuters/Vincent Kessler

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BRUSSELS (Reuters) - With just over a week to go until European Parliament elections, two separate polls on Monday suggested around two-thirds of Europeans feel their voices are not heard in Brussels, although trust in the European Union is rebounding from record lows.

Only 37 percent of Europeans believe their voice counts in Brussels according to a poll by Eurobarometer, a public opinion service of the European Union.

Just 29 percent of those polled by the Pew Research Center said the same thing, a separate poll released on Monday showed.

In a vast May 22-25 election covering 28 countries, as many as 350 million people will be able to vote for members of the European Parliament, the bloc's only directly elected body.

Policymakers in Brussels are trying to democratize the election process, and for the first time, the election results will be linked to the selection of the European Commission president.

But frustration with the European Union is expected to lead to strong showings for anti-EU parties such as Britain's UK Independence Party (UKIP), in the elections.

Sentiment has brightened since the start of this year, however, as the crisis in Ukraine and an improvement in European economies sparks some optimism about the 28-member bloc, according to pollsters.

"Ukraine is a reminder of why we created an integrated Europe to begin with. So as negative as the crisis was, there is still residual idealism," says Bruce Stokes, director at Pew Research Center.

Some 52 percent of Europeans view the EU favorably, up from 46 percent a year ago, the Pew Center poll showed. France and Britain saw the biggest jumps in positive sentiment, up 13 and 9 percentage points respectively since last year.

People also still believe in many of the European Union's original ambitions, such as its role in global diplomacy, although the grip of recession continues to weigh on attitudes regarding the economy.

Eurobarometer carried out its poll from March 15 to 24 and interviewed 28,000 people across the European Union. Pew Research carried out its poll from March 17 to April 9 and interviewed 7,022 adults across seven EU countries: France, Germany, Greece, Italy, Poland, Spain, and Britain.

(Editing by Hugh Lawson)

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