Austrians have become happier about being part of the European Union since the credit crunch hit with more than three quarters saying they would not want the country to leave the union, according to a new survey.

The Austrian Society for European Politics (ÖGfE) said today (Weds) 79 per cent of people questioned in their study said they wanted Austria to remain an EU member.

ÖGfE member Paul Schmidt said the institute’s studies had shown an increase in positive attitude among people towards the EU this year, adding this could be down to the effects of the economic crisis.

The body cooperated with the Social Sciences Studies Society (SWS) to interview 1,001 Austrians with the Treaty of Lisbon – which offers EU states the option of leaving the bloc – due to come into force as of 1 December.

The ÖGfe research also showed that a majority of Austrians today regard the country’s accession to the EU in 1995 as the "right step". Sixty-seven per cent chose this answer option while 28 per cent told the pollsters they thought the decision was "wrong" from today’s perspective.

The ÖGfe said young people especially had a positive opinion of Austria’s membership since 87 per cent of them aged 25 or younger said they were happy Austria became a member 14 years ago. In the same age group 95 per cent said they wanted Austria to remain in the EU.

Elderly Austrians however have a more critical view, according to the research. ÖGfe said 37 per cent of people aged 66 or older said EU accession was a mistake, while 23 per cent wanted Austria to leave the union.

In European Parliament elections earlier this year, 17.9 per cent of voters cast ballots for independent MEP Hans-Peter Martin with the EU-critical former front runner of the Social Democrats (SPÖ) coming third.

The right-wing Freedom Party (FPÖ) meanwhile got 13.1 per cent, up from the 6.3 per cent they garnered in 2004.

The massively EU-critical coverage by bestselling newspaper Kronen Zeitung is seen as an influential factor in public opinion. The daily - which has almost three million readers – has over the years become a harsh critic of "pretentious EU bureaucrats" after initially backing Austria’s bid to join the EU.
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