Europeans want greener, quieter urban living with less cars in city centres, according to a new report. A majority of people also want to see fiscal measures aimed at redistributing businesses and people away from large cities, and a significant number of people hope for a ban on petrol and diesel cars by 2025.
European Tech Insights 2021: Part I, How the Pandemic Altered Our Relationship with Technology outlines the findings of a survey focused on public perceptions about technology and its use in people’s everyday lives.
“The findings of the study suggest a sense of growing public responsibility to address societal issues that have been exposed and exacerbated by the pandemic,” explain Oscar Jonsson and Carlos Luca de Tena, researchers at the IE Centre for the Governance of Change and the report’s authors.
The researchers aimed to provide insight on how the Covid-19 pandemic impacted public opinion on matters related to ongoing technological transformation. The report touches on healthcare, the workplace, urban living, and the regulation of content on social media platforms.
“While the long-lasting effects of the pandemic in our lives are yet to determined, our report unveils public opinion shifts that reveal the profound impact of this crisis,” the authors write.
Environmental considerations play a greater role in people’s minds, according to the findings. A substantial proportion of Europeans now support a ban on petrol and diesel cars. This position has even stronger support from younger cohorts.
A majority of Swedes (46%) and Spaniards (45%) between the age of 25 and 34 support the ban; in the United Kingdom all age groups under 45 have majorities that support it.
Europeans backing government measures aimed at reducing the number of cars in city centres have for the first time become a majority. In 2021, 43% of European citizens are in favour of such measures, with 42% against. The percentage of people against these measures has fallen from 49% only a year ago.
The strongest support for government measures comes from Spain (55% for, 28% against) and France (51% for, 32% against).
The figures indicate that Europeans are re-evaluating their priorities in the wake of the pandemic and the resultant economic disruption. People show support for the use of more forceful measures to mitigate the impact of climate change, and they seem to be changing their outlook on what is most important.
The desire to reshape our societies extends even to the way work and life are organised geographically. An overwhelming 67% of Europeans now believe fiscal measures should be employed to help businesses and people move away from large, concentrated cities towards smaller cities and rural areas. In Spain 83% of people are in favour, and in Estonia 70% agree.
In Ireland, the government already has plans to act on these trends. The aim is to offer superfast broadband in rural communities and tax breaks to remote workers willing to move to smaller towns.
Once again, these shifts in public opinion indicate that what people most care about is changing. The pursuit of career success in national capitals seems to have lost its lustre for many, worn down and with new perspectives after months of home-bound pandemic lockdowns.
The number of Europeans in support of government measures limiting automation by law now represents a majority (47%) for the first time. All European countries surveyed are in favour of such limits, with the exception of Germany and Estonia. There is, however, an intergenerational gap which sees support for limits strongest among those under 44. People over 45 show less support for limitations.
The results suggest that the public are increasingly aware of the fast-approaching waves of job losses that automation likely represents for many industries, and they show greater concern about what this could mean for their individual job prospects.
European Tech Insights 2021 was fielded in January 2021, surveying 2,769 people from 11 countries. The samples were representative of national populations in terms of age and sex.