Matteo Salvini at the Chigi Palace in Rome on 23 March. ‘What kind of historical moment will this turn out to be, for Europe and the world?’ Photograph: Fabio Frustaci/EPA
The coronavirus crisis seems to be encouraging belief in radical change. An astonishing 71% of Europeans are now in favour of introducing a universal basic income, according to an opinion poll designed by my research team at Oxford university and published today. In Britain, the figure is 68%. Less encouraging, at least to anyone who believes in liberal democracy, is another startling finding in the survey: no less than 53% of young Europeans place more confidence in authoritarian states than in democracies to tackle the climate crisis. The poll was conducted by eupinions in March, as most of Europe was locking down against the virus, but the questions had been formulated earlier. It would be fascinating now to ask Europeans which political system they think has proved better at combating a pandemic, as the United States and China, the world’s leading democracy and the world’s leading dictatorship, spray viral accusations at each other.
Those two contrasting but equally striking survey results show how high the stakes will be as we emerge from the immediate medical emergency, and face the subsequent economic pandemic and its political fallout. What kind of historical moment will this turn out to be, for Europe and the world? It could lead us to the best of times. It could lead us to the worst of times.