The Listen to Europe Project

Reaching Beyond Our Base Audiences

Listen to Europe is the source for knowledge on the attitudes of Europeans and their thoughts on the most important issues of our time. We invite you to explore the data and join us if you want to be part of shaping the future of Europe and engage in campaigning for a future based on open societies and European cooperation.

In today’s interconnected world, digital spaces are becoming more polarised, creating cognitive echochambers that are increasingly dominated by malicious actors, influencers, and groups seeking to leverage division in order to gain power, demonise ‘out-groups’, erode basic human rights, and spread false and negative narratives about European democracy, the rule of law, the value of international institutions and cross-border cooperation to solve the biggest challenges of our time. Because people around Europe and the world are socialised in digital spaces, it is critical that we effectively populate these spaces with voices representative of the communities in our societies, especially the voices of vulnerable groups, and create enough engaging content so that ill-intended actors do not dominate the digital space with disinformation; especially amongst the vast majority of audiences that can be persuaded either way.

In order to actively foster a digital media landscape and dominant offline conversation that positively promotes and supports the universal values of solidarity, inclusion, and cooperation, we need to understand how these topics are discussed online, what narratives are pervasive, and how they drive digital conversations.

The current phase of the project builds upon the Listen to Europe (LTE) project launched in 2019 ahead of the EP elections and goes further in setting up targeted and informed as well as interactive campaigning that enables active engagement of citizens, especially those that are not usually in the focus of CSOs campaigns. The LTE project featured an opinion poll, conducted in 13 European Union member states, undertaken in an effort to assess how our fellow citizens feel about democracy in general (but also their stance on some more specific issues), to test narratives and develop messaging that can allow pro-democratic forces to reach and be persuasive beyond our usual audience.

In continuation, we were also testing civil society campaigns with the intention to strengthen the messaging of the Brussels-based civil society organisations. Based on this analysis and testing (focus groups in France and Netherlands), we have implemented cross-campaigns that put into practice narratives that proved the most successful aiming to learn how to improve the effectiveness of our communication campaigns and enable ourselves to reach beyond our base.

“We need to frame our messages in a way that positively resonates with the undecided majority. We will be able to protect and strengthen democracy only if we are successful in reaching the people living their lives beyond our own echo-champers.”

Petros Fassoulas – Secretary General, European Movement International

The Current Phase

In the current phase we go further in our effort to encourage citizens’ active involvement around the issues high on the EU agenda (European recovery, European democracy, future of Europe). To counteract disinformation and instigate civic, especially online engagement, while fostering democratic and informed European debate, the EMI has  developed a set of activities within 5 inter-connected Work Packages: i) Social media listening; ii) Public opinion survey and democracy tables with the civil society; iii) Development of messages; iv) Country specific manuals/handbooks and v) Digital Campaign. The activities are implemented in eight EU Member States including south, north and central European countries (Poland, Czech Republic, France, Spain, Portugal, Germany, Finland and Denmark).

The general objective is to raise citizens’ awareness of the role and democratic values of the European Union by promoting strategic engagement with EU citizens via civil society targeted communication. Through targeted and innovative campaigns we aim to reach out to citizens who are usually overlooked but interested in the EU and thus, support their active democratic participation. We also produce data – based on insights into existing narratives and citizens’ attitudes to be shared with civil society organisations and enable more effective engagement towards more open European societies.


The current phase of the project is supported by the European Parliament and the Open Society Foundation.

The EMI’s main research partner and analyst of the data, including the framing and messaging, is Matthew MacWilliams.

Matthew C. MacWilliams is a scholar, and a recognized expert on authoritarianism. His research on President Donald Trump and authoritarianism sparked international debate and is at the heart of his latest book, On Fascism: 12 Lessons From American History.
Matthew MacWilliams is a long-time political professional and an award-winning practitioner of American politics. He established MacWilliams Sanders Communications — a campaign- and issues-driven media strategy firm  —  more than 20 years ago. He earned his Ph.D. in political science from the University of Massachusetts and studied at the University of Pennsylvania for his bachelor’s degree.

In all segments of the 2021 LTE the EMI collaborated with our National Councils and other civil society partners: EUROPEUM and Portuguese National Youth Council.

Digital campaigns are implemented with the kind support of Meta.

Core Contributors

Matthew MacWilliams

Maja Bobić

Christian Skrivervik

Ines Ayyadi