In 1970 the EU-commission initiated a survey in 5 of the by then 6 EU countries (leaving out Luxemburg), to collect information about public awareness, knowledge and attitudes towards the European Common Market and the various institutions of the EEC. In addition some questions were asked about the proper aims that each member country ought to consentrate on within the community. This first survey was followed up by another survey in the summer of 1971, in the second survey it was in particular focused on the agricultural problems.
After the extension of the EEC from 6 to 9 member countries, the same main questions were covered in a third survey in september 1973, but now several new topics were added. Most important was to collect data on subjective assessment of economic conditions and quality of life. These three first studies are named The European Communities Studies 1970, 1971 and 1973, and are available in the archieval world as ICPSR Studies no. 7260, 7275 og 7330. The 1973 study may also be found mentioned as Eurobarometer 1.
From 1974 onwards these studies have been conducted on a regular basis twice a year, spring and autumn, to collect information on attitudes and assessments of social, economic and political conditions of the population in the member countries of the Common Market. A common denominator of all the barometers is the measurement of:
- the public support for the integration activities and the institutions of the European Community
- people's subjective assessments concerning "quality of life"-questions
In addition to the above mentioned core questions each barometer do as a general rule focus on one or a few specific topics of political or scientific interest. As this data collection program has obtained substantially more interest from various types of data users over time, the amount of data collected in each barometer has grown. A standard Eurobarometer may now be so voluminous that it is split up in 3-4 separate surveys to keep the interview time at a reasonable level for the respondents.
The Eurobarometer data are collected by the Surveys and Public Opinion Research Unit (Reorganised in 2001) under the Directorate General Press and Communication. Data and documentation are made available for social science research purposes and distributed freely via CESSDA(Consortium for European Social Science Data Archives) The practical documentation work is carried out and the best updated overviews of the present state of the data collection at any time is made available by GESIS - Leibniz Institute for the Social Sciences or ICPSR - University of Michigan
Data from the Eurobarometers are made available as processed and well documented analysis-files, usually documented in SPSS. Number of respondents are generally appr. 1000 for each country, save for Luxembourg which normally interview ca.300, later 5/600 respondents, Northern Ireland with approx. 300 respondents and Malta and Cyprus with approx 500 respondents. The European Commission have for each survey a general analysis report made and published, this is additional good documentation for the data.
From 1990 onwards several of the Eurobarometers have, been conducted in Norway (nr. 34, 36-39, 39.1, 40, 41, 42, 43.1, 44.1, 46.1, 52.1,56.1). In connection with the EES-negotiations and the line of applicants for membership from the former EFTA-area in the first half of the 90-ties, the Commission also financed a comparative data-collection effort in former EFTA-countries. These «European Integration Surveys» were carried out in Finland, Sweden, Austria, Switzerland, Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania. Norway was connected through data from the regular Eurobarometer 37.
Central and East European Eurobarometers
In connection with the breakdown of the Soviet Empire in Eastern Europe and the increased contact between east and west, minor versions of the Eurobarometers have been carried out also in countries in East-/Central Europe. From 1990 to 1997 8 Central and East European Eurobarometers were conducted.
Candidate Countries Eurobarometers
Because of the many new applications for membership in the European Community, the Commission started a new data collection program, labeled "Candidate Countries Eurobarometer". The first round under this program was conducted in October 2001 in all the 13 countries that had by then applied for membership in the European Community. Data collection follows a procedure allmost identical to a standard Eurobarometer. Every year a report is published with the results from this data collection.
Standard Eurobarometers are conducted at fixed timepoints, for many purposes that may be to rigid. In situations with particularly important political questions on the agenda there has also been conducted some so-called Flash Eurobarometers", polling of public opinion. Flash barometer 1 was conducted in connection with the 30-years anniversary for the Treaty of Rome, in 1987. Since then, more than 350 Flash barometers have been carried out. In 1994, the Flash barometers were deemed to be so well developed that a monthly monitor was published 1994 and 1995 The sample was 500 respondents for every country, interviewed by telephone and usually only some 5 questions on some current important topic. In addition came some trend and demographic informtion. This project turned into a weekly European Continuous Tracking Survey (CTS) in 1996. 200 telephone interviews were carried out in each member country every week, 44 weeks (11 months) a year. Results were released every 4 weeks and published under the label Europinion This series was stopped in 1998.
Beyond this the Flash barometers have been used to interview specific target groups. This started with a Top Decision Makers Survey in 1996. Usually Flash barometer data are made available for secondary analysis a year after collection. Main results are published in official reports.