Trends in Europe’s Socio-Political Values: How Much Specificity is There Within the European Mediterranean Area?

Renzo Gubert

Lecturer in Sociology, Università degli Studi di Trento


Based on the EVS survey, and with specific attention to trends in socio-political values, the study examines the distribution characteristics of such trends within the different European countries. It shows how any specificity characterising the European Mediterranean area recurs in values of social equality, solidarity and religious-political relationship. An analysis of groups within the European countries confirms that the Mediterranean area does not possess its own individual homogeneity in this respect.


The aim of this survey of European values is to understand the degree of cultural unity (and conversely, of differentiation) that exists within Europe. Among the possible differentiation criteria, the most frequent concern:

a) The differentiation between geographical macroregions: the Mediterranean, Central Europe, Northern Europe, Eastern Europe, etc.

b) The differentiation between linguistic-historical areas: the Romance area, the Slavic area, the German-speaking area, the Anglo-Saxon area, etc.

c) The differentiation between major religious traditions: the Catholic area, the Orthodox area, the Protestant area, the mixed area, etc.

Some areas share the same values in all the three criteria mentioned above. For example, Spain and Italy are Mediterranean countries, belong to the Romance area, and have a Catholic tradition. France and Portugal share them only partially: France is not only nor mostly Mediterranean, while Portugal is not Mediterranean either in the strict sense even though it shares some of the cultural aspects, but both have a Latin language and a prevailing Catholic religious tradition, like Belgium, which is however alien to the Mediterranean, unlike France and Portugal. It is possible to continue with this intercrossing in order to understand how some homogenous areas exist for the three criteria, some for two, and some for only one of the criteria.

The analysis of the degree of unity/differentiation of European culture is, thus, complex. From here on, the attention will be focused on the Mediterranean area, the primary object of attention of the Congress. The territorial delimitation of the analysis can be broader or narrower. The most common refers to the states and, in fact, the EVS survey is based on samples by state (with some exceptions, like Northern Ireland). Even with considerable imprecision, it is still possible to carry out the analysis of the regions, even at a fine scale. This has been done with 1990 data. The range of the analysis of EVS data can also be broader or narrower, considering all the trends within the value lines (family, work, politics, ethics and religion) or one or several only. A detailed analysis can be made of how relevant the individual indicators or individual questions from the survey are, or of the instruments for synthesis adopted, that is, more comprehensive concepts representative of what a larger number of indicators commonly measure.

The value area relevant to politics is limited for the EVS 1999-2000 data, while a broader analysis is available for the EVS 1990 data. For reasons of conceptual economy, reference will always be made to synthetic conceptual aspects derived from the analysis of factors on groups of indicators having common elements. Beyond our attention for the moment, within this context, is the dynamic analysis that compares the three EVS surveys, starting in 1981. In short, the analysis can stop at the initial level of comparing populations separately by each value aspect or seek a more complex comparison between two or more aspects, evaluating with regard to each of the differentiation criteria in their explanation. It is intended to start at the first level, afterwards going into more depth as needed.

One-Dimensional Differentiation Between States Within Trends in Socio-Political Values in the EVS 1999-2000 Survey

Trends in socio-political values involve some important questions:

a) How are “attachment” or “loyalty” distributed at the different levels on which the collective is politically organized: local, regional, national, European, global?

b) What is the collective’s degree of social cohesion, and what are the internal social gaps in that specific category?

c) What is the perception of the social mechanisms generated by the great social inequalities and thus the situation of poverty?

d) What is the meaning of “fair society”?

e) What are the options in the dilemma between equality and liberty?

f) What are the desired relationships between trends regarding the “ultimate” values, the religious values and politics?

g) What are the desires for change in the contemporary way of life that can redirect political orientation?

h) What are the primary problems to which politics should pay attention?

i) What role should the state have as regards the economy and social needs?

j) What is the evaluation of democracy?

k) How far do people trust the social and political institutions of their own country?

l) What is the willingness to act politically and according to which political stance?

This is the group of questions to which we aim to provide an answer.

a) The Distribution of Loyalty and Attachment at Different Territorial Levels of Political Organization

The analysis of factors shows four aspects of territorial attachment priorities in some of the questions put into consideration: the priority of the sense of local belonging, the priority and strength of the sense of state/national belonging, the priority of the sense of regional belonging and the priority of the sense of European belonging. The Mediterranean area shows no significant particularity in this aspect, except for a slight tendency towards a lower sense of local belonging especially in relation to the Anglo-Saxon and the Nordic areas, as well as to the countries of Central/Eastern Europe, slightly in favour of the strength and priority of the sense of national belonging, especially for Portugal and Malta. National peculiarities seem to emerge, like Malta’s strong national sentiment and Spain’s equally strong regionalism (or the strongly European sentiment in Sweden).

b) Cohesion and Social Gap Within the Political Community

Five significant individual aspects have been identified; two directly related to social cohesion/solidarity and three related to the social gap versus particular social categories that could present low desirability, like having such people as neighbours. Of the first two aspects, the first refers to the level of trust in others, at a certain level of involvement in the form of basic social control, and the second refers to the solidarity in explicit terms towards the more needy classes. The data reveal how the Mediterranean area shows a fundamental cohesion, an internal capacity for social control which is varied on a basic level, and as a tendency, on a level between that of the lowest ex-USSR and South-East European countries and the highest of the Central-Northern European countries.

Within the European area, Spanish and, particularly, Italian society have a fundamental basis of trust and reciprocal co-involvement that is better than that of other Mediterranean states and closer to that of the other Central European states. However, this does not prevent the Mediterranean society from showing, almost homogenously, a (declared) level of solidarity towards the needy classes among the highest in Europe (similar to other countries like Ireland, Sweden, Croatia and East Germany). Also in accordance to some extent with the previous survey data are those shown regarding the three factors of social gap towards the socially excluded and maladapted, and towards immigrants and political extremists. Regarding the social gap with the socially excluded and maladapted, the Mediterranean area, internally nonhomogenous, is in an intermediate position between the higher values of Eastern Europe and insular Western Europe and the lower level of Central Europe. Spain is, thus, at the lower level, among the lowest in Europe, unlike Malta.

The situation appears similar also with regard to the social gap affecting immigrants, while as regards the social gap with political extremists, although there is a strong difference per country, it is the central European area which shows the widest gap. It should be noted that fundamental social cohesion, solidarity towards the needy and the social gap with certain classes are not superimposed aspects, but instead a high level of fundamental social cohesion could result in widening the social gap with classes which could endanger social cohesion and solidarity towards others. The willingness to help the needy does not necessarily imply a greater availability in the case of people who could create possible problems of coexistence or of other types due to their very different ethnicity and culture from that of their neighbours. In this respect, the Mediterranean society is not characterized by a particularly high degree of fundamental social cohesion, but instead by a certain individualism, although this does not preclude solidarity tendencies in the case of need or aggravate the social gap with some classes of the population which present nondesirable characteristics.

c) The Perception of Poverty-Generating Mechanisms

The perception of the reasons why a person can fall into a situation of poverty and destitution is at a level probably much closer to the cognitive than to the evaluational and from some viewpoints it can thus be considered more relevant to political values. The analysis of factors includes three of the four aspects in the questionnaire as the cause of poverty: misfortune, idleness and social injustice. The Mediterranean area does not show clear traits in this respect, instead revealing evident internal differences. Misfortune is seen to be considered the main cause of poverty particularly in Spain, Portugal and Italy, at levels not far below the highest levels obtained in Holland, Belgium, Luxembourg and Denmark.

Idleness is blamed especially in Malta and Portugal, which have the highest values in Europe together with the Czech Republic. Social injustice as a cause of situations of need and poverty is underlined especially in Spain, and there is a wide difference here with Portugal, Greece and Malta. Altogether, it can be said that the Mediterranean society as a whole does not present a distinctive characteristic in this regard.

d) The Definition of a “Fair Society”

Two aspects are applied to the in-depth analysis of this, together with four indicators of what a “fair society” is. These are the two classic aspects: fairness in retribution and fairness in distribution. Less conceptually autonomous are the aspects of justice as equality of opportunities and justice as the universal fulfilment of basic needs. It can be seen that no significant differentiation or peculiarities are found around the affirmation that a society, in order to be fair, must provide for each person according to their merits. Only in Italy is the conviction on this issue slightly less, coming close to some of the Nordic states.

The differences are greater with regard to the emphasis on the distributive aspect. Spain, Portugal and Greece have the highest levels in Europe, alongside Slovakia, Hungary and Latvia, while Malta is at the lowest level together with Holland and Denmark. As with the previous case, no Mediterranean community with typical or universal characteristics can be discerned.

e) The Liberty-Equality Dilemma

The dilemma regarding the preference for the wide exercise of individual liberty versus the need to control social inequality is one of the basic differentiating factors in political preference. As can be observed, the variations existent in Europe are difficult to explain on the basis of major distinctions by geographical area. Within the Mediterranean societies, the Italian society shows the greatest preference for equality in Europe, followed by Portugal and Spain.

Greece and Malta are in an intermediate position. Regardless of whether it makes sense to take an average or not, and also taking into account the relative importance of the different populations (Malta and Greece are demographically less significant than Italy, Spain or Portugal), the Mediterranean area, together with that of Hungary, Croatia and Slovenia, shows a greater sensitivity towards the values of equality, more so than the rest of Europe. There is a certain consonance with the emphasis on the aspect of equality, regarding the perception of what justice is and with the tendency being towards social solidarity. Therefore, the Mediterranean area, particularly the Romance area although not perfectly clearly, appears to be the area in Europe most sensitive to the values of equality and solidarity.

f) The Religious-Political Comparison Between Secularity, Secularism and Secularization

Two relatively autonomous conceptual aspects result from the factor analysis: approval or disapproval of politicians having religious convictions, and religious authorities having a political influence. The importance assigned to the politicians’ religious beliefs shows a link between politics and basic values which, although compatible with the secularity of politics, confront secular and secularist stances. As in many eastern European countries, this is more commonly shared the Mediterranean area, especially in Malta and Greece. Spain, Portugal and Italy place the values of political secularism and secularization just slightly below those of the majority of the European Union countries, and the maximum levels are found in Denmark, France, Holland, Belgium and Sweden.

The opposition to the religious authority having political influence can be apparent in laicism and secularist visions of politics, but also in a secular vision, which does not necessarily deny the religious view on life and the world by the political sphere, but which insists that those who defend this vision should be the lay and not the religious authorities. The Mediterranean area, in this respect, shows medium values, while some of the countries with a stronger Protestant or Anglican religious characterization are not so much against the political influence of the religious authorities, i.e. Sweden, Holland, Finland and Great Britain.These are followed by a Catholic country, Ireland, and by some other countries of prevailing Orthodox religious culture, as are Russia, Greece and Ukraine. Among the countries showing the greatest opposition to the political influence of religious authorities are France, Denmark and also Poland, where the political actions of the Catholic Church were decisive in the change in the political regime that took place in 1989.

The traditionally Catholic Mediterranean world is thus characterized, although in a non-accentuated manner, by a greater sensitivity towards the importance of those who act in politics positively sharing a deep religious conviction but without falling into certain forms of clericism, which find fertile ground in some areas of Protestant, Anglican and Orthodox tradition.

g) The Desire to Change Contemporary Lifestyles

The indicators relevant to the desire for changing modern lifestyles all converge in one aspect, related to a desire (or not) to reduce the importance of acquisitive, productivist and artificial elements in the current way of life. In other words, taking up Ronald Inglehart’s approach, this aspect could be defined in terms of a materialist / post-materialist trend. The differentiation in values within Europe is found among the countries that have long been in the market economy with a higher income, and those from the socialist area with a lower income.

The former are more oriented towards a non-materialistic direction, as they find a more adequate response to their material needs, in accordance with Inglehart’s hypothesis. There are, however, some anomalous cases (Croatia, for example or, at the other extreme, West Germany, Austria and Holland). The Mediterranean area is in an intermediate position, with Spain having the highest values in the non-materialistic direction and Portugal the opposite, which also reflects their difference in income. On the whole, geographical factors seem to play a minor role, although the case of Spain is exceptional, as with regard to desire for change to a non-materialistic approach it is situated within the top countries within Europe, alongside France, Belgium and Great Britain.

h) The Most Important Social Problems in the Politics of One’s Own Country

There are three major relatively autonomous attitudes in this respect: the priority assigned to maintaining social order, to fighting inflation and to the safeguarding of freedom of speech. Regarding the priority of maintaining national order, this is moderately more prominent in the Nordic countries and in Eastern Europe (with the exceptions of Croatia and Lithuania) and somewhat less in the others, and notably lower in the Mediterranean area (Malta and Italy). The priority given to fighting inflation is generally higher in Eastern Europe and less in Austria and Holland. In the Mediterranean area there are clear differences between the medium priority of countries like Spain, Greece and Italy, and the higher priority of Malta and Portugal, among the highest in Europe.

Finally, the priority assigned to the safeguarding of freedom of speech finds its lowest levels in the ex-USSR countries and in some countries in Eastern Europe (Hungary, Slovakia and Poland), while it is higher in the continental Central European nucleus of the European Union. The Mediterranean area is in middle position and is somewhat heterogeneous, with a greater concern for freedom of speech in Spain and Italy, and less in Portugal, Malta and Greece. In this case, the most important factor, rather than belonging to a determined geographical area, appears to be the sensitivity towards the non-material needs of those who have less problems as regards security and finance.

i) Extent of the State’s Role in the Economy and in the Response to Nocial Seeds

The Mediterranean area does not appear to be characterized in any particular way regarding a more or less favourable trend towards an incisive role of the state in the economy and the response to social needs.The median is similar in many other areas, although stronger support of a state role is noticeable in the ex-USSR countries (excluding Lithuania), and less in Nordic states such as Sweden and Iceland and Central European states like West Germany and Austria. Among the Mediterranean countries, Greece most favours a significant role of the state in the economy and social services, followed by Spain and Portugal.

j) Evaluation of Democracy

For many of the European countries, democracy, as it has developed in western countries, is a recent experience. For others, signs of a certain exhaustion exist, such as the low participation in voting, the adoption of majority electoral systems and direct election of a president with wide powers. It is always interesting to measure the strength of the democratic conviction within the European society. Three are the relatively autonomous aspects that emerge from the analysis of indicator factors present in the survey: the evaluation of democracy, the evaluation of its dysfunctions and the evaluation of strong leader-directed systems. With a few exceptions, the less negative evaluations of the democratic system are those of the European Union, while the most critical opinions are found in the ex-communist republics, particularly Russia.

The most evident exceptions are the highly critical attitude of Great Britain in the western area, and the moderate stance of Croatia in the East. In the Mediterranean area Portugal and Spain are more critical than Malta, Italy and, particularly, Greece. Overall attitudes when highlighting the defects of democracy are quite similar, especially in ex-communist Europe, and less in the central and northern areas of the EU. The Mediterranean area is in an intermediate position, although with significant internal diversity, as Spain and Malta tend to deny democracy’s dysfunctional aspects more than Portugal or Greece do.

The negative evaluation of systems with a strong leadership, or high concentration of decision-making power in one leader, is accentuated in Greece (the highest in Europe), Italy and Malta, as in other European Union countries like Austria, West Germany, Denmark, Iceland or Eastern Europe, while it is more attenuated in the exUSSR countries, Romania and Bulgaria. Except for this last area, no clear specificity per large geographical area is found and the Mediterranean area presents great diversity. It can thus be concluded that the Mediterranean area does not show specificity as a whole as regards strength of democratic convictions, and that a difference of some relevance exists between post-communist Europe (especially the ex-USSR) and the rest.

k) Mistrust of Institutions

There are four relatively autonomous aspects regarding the evaluation of the institutional system of each country. One regards the functioning of the democratic system and the respect for human rights, one the trust in the armed forces, another the trust in other national institutions, and the last one the trust in supra-national political institutions. Regarding the negativity in the evaluation of the functioning of the democratic system and the safeguarding of human rights in one’s own country, apart from some exceptions, the results are higher in the ex-communist countries than in the others, with variations from country to country. After these the most negative evaluation is made by Italy, whereas the smallest states like Malta and Luxembourg show the most positive evaluation. There is no Mediterranean specificity registered in the evaluation of the Armed Forces either.

Confidence in these is particularly high in Spain (with the Armed Forces actually being the institution that inspires the most confidence) and less in Portugal, Greece and Malta. Neither does trust towards other civilian and political national institutions show any large geographical area specificity, except for slightly higher confidence in the excommunist countries. Greece is the European country with the most confidence. The same can be said about mistrust in other supranational political institutions: this is barely higher in the ex-communist countries than in the others, with Russia and Greece showing the highest confidence and Italy with the lowest level in Europe, alongside Portugal, Luxembourg and Ireland. Thus, there is no sign of a Mediterranean specificity in relation to institutions. If anything, there is an accentuation of the Mediterranean’s internal diversity.

l) Interest in and Commitment to Politics

Three aspects of interest and commitment emerge from the analysis of the relevant indicator factors: general interest in politics, interest in and commitment to associations or groups of political relevance and willingness to take direct public action to create political pressure. There is no basic specificity by area of interest in politics: the lowest ratings are in Great Britain, Spain and Portugal, while the highest are in Sweden, Holland, East and West Germany, the Czech Republic and Lithuania. In the ex-USSR countries this is slightly higher, as in continental Central Europe, though the impression of a certain homogeneity prevails. The commitment to associations or groups of political relevance varies more between countries and areas: this is strongest in the North-Western European area, intermediate in the Central and Mediterranean areas and lower in Eastern Europe, especially in the ex-USSR countries, Romania and Bulgaria.

The high value in Greece stands out in the Mediterranean area, reflecting a high level of politicization, also observed in previous data. Attitudes are similar regarding willingness to take direct public actions to create political pressure, with Greece, in the Mediterranean area, again showing the highest value second only to those of Sweden and France. The lowest levels are in the ex-communist countries, evidently inherited from their many years of tight political control. Once more, the most evident difference in Europe is between the ex-communist countries and the others, with exceptions, as the Mediterranean area presents a high degree of diversity, and there is an accentuated politicization in the case of Greece.

To these three equally useful aspects another political one should be added, that of self-placement within the left-right wing dichotomy. There are no clear characteristics per geographical area in this regard except for a tendency to increased right-wing orientation in the ex-USSR countries and in Romania, Bulgaria and the Czech Republic, somewhat more attenuated in the Nordic countries. The Mediterranean area has a similar stance to that of Central-Western Europe. Only Malta stands out due to a strong centre-right wing positioning, while Spain appears within the Mediterranean states with more of a centreleft wing orientation, like France and Russia.

The One-Dimensional Differentiation Between European States with Respect to the two Main Value Trends Regarding Ethics and Religion in the 1999-2000 EVS Survey

If we exclude the Mediterranean specificity, not particularly accentuated, with respect to solidarity and social equality values, it cannot be said that the one-dimensional analysis used up to this point to analyse socio-political trends has served to explain the diffuse feeling of many populations of the northern bank of the Mediterranean that are different from the others for numerous reasons. As a result of this we wished to study whether such diversity is coherent with the two main aspects of the value trends that have the greatest influence on the cultural dimension: ethics and religion.

With regard to ethical orientation, the main dimension concerns the degree of ethical relativity, the certainty of judgment whether determined behaviour patterns are good or bad. The area showing less ethical relativity is generally that of the ex-USSR (with the exception of Byelorussia) and that of some other excommunist countries such as Romania, Bulgaria, Hungary, Poland and Croatia, and in other areas Ireland, Northern Ireland and Malta, with the lowest level in Europe. On the contrary, ethical relativity tends to be accentuated in Central-Northern European countries, particularly Sweden, France, Holland, Luxembourg and Greece, to which we can add Byelorussia, Slovakia and Slovenia. Once more, the Mediterranean area is heterogeneous, with values close to the maximum and the minimum, although if the extremes of Malta and Greece are excluded, Spain, Portugal and Italy present lower mean indexes of ethical relativism than the other areas of the European Union. More significant is the difference with respect to religiousness.

The Mediterranean area is characterized by a high degree of religiousness together with Ireland and Northern Ireland, Poland, Romania, Croatia, Lithuania and Slovakia. All these are countries with a prevalent Catholic or Orthodox religion tradition. On the other hand, East Germany, the Czech Republic, Latvia, France and Belgium are shown as having the lowest level of religiosity in Europe.Thus, if one particular Mediterranean characteristic stands out more clearly than the rest it is this greater religiousness which is at its greatest in Malta, and at its most modest in Spain. There are grounds for the perception of diversity between the Mediterranean and other parts of Europe, which can help to explain some other peculiarities in part, such as the appreciation of politicians with religious beliefs and the increased sensitivity towards the values of solidarity and social fairness.

An Attempt to Synthesize the Homogeneity and Differences Observed in Europe in the Socio-Political Value Trends

Within the 1999-2000 EVS Survey Thirty-three variables have been taken into consideration, mainly based on factor indicators all relating to sociopolitical value trends, in order to understand whether an outline of specificity can be obtained for large European regions, for each one, with particular attention to the Mediterranean area. Considering all these variables simultaneously and using the group analysis tools, we can now proceed towards a synthesis attempt, using two main methods plus a complementary criterion. It should be noted that states for which one or more of the measurements are lacking have been excluded, as is the case with Malta and Great Britain. With the method of maximum distancing between groups of countries, if we wish to divide the countries into two groups, as diverse from each other as possible, we have three countries on the one side: Holland, Denmark and Sweden, and the rest of the countries on the other side.

This second group is subdivided in turn into two groups, one made up of the Eastern European countries and the other of the European Union countries, to which we would add Iceland, the Czech Republic, Slovenia and Croatia.Within these there are also pairs or trios of countries that are similar to each other: Ireland, Northern Ireland and Italy, France and Belgium, Germany and Austria, Bulgaria and Byelorussia, Poland and Slovakia. To these groups we would also add some other countries, with a greater distance, which will join the three most significant groups. In the Mediterranean area, it should be noted that Spain, Portugal and Italy are not among themselves significantly close, although they are similar at some levels, though this is also the case for many other European countries. Spain is primarily associated with France, Belgium and Slovenia, and is grouped into the trio that contains Italy and also East Germany, Luxembourg and Finland. Portugal adheres to the last group immediately afterwards, and Greece is the last one to do so, having more similarities with Croatia.

If we consider the complementary criterion, that of maximum similarity between states in the same group, the essence of the results only changes in comparison to the large groupings. The three states Holland, Denmark and Sweden cease to belong to a single group (they are different from the rest, but too similar between themselves), and Sweden (and Holland, although not entirely), forms part of the group of European Union countries, together with Iceland, the Czech Republic, Slovenia and Croatia, as before. The other group, however, is made up of all the Eastern European states. Pairs of countries emerge: Ireland and Northern Ireland (with Italy somewhat less close), France and Belgium, West Germany and Austria, Bulgaria and Byelorussia, and Poland and Slovakia. As can be seen, not even in this case can we find a Mediterranean group. Some links exist between Italy and Portugal, while Greece is the most different. Despite there being specific identities linking the European Mediterranean countries, they are not found in socio-political value trends, or only occasionally so, as has been shown.

Results Relating to Some Important Regional-Level Values in the 1990 EVS

Survey As we have already noted, a significant specificity emerges through religiousness in the Mediterranean area. Some years ago, a regional analysis was made using the 1990 data in some of the European Union countries. With regard to trends in the more important values, we can ask ourselves whether a Mediterranean identity emerges for some specifically Mediterranean regions like Central-Southern Italy, the South of France and the Mediterranean area of Spain. Some factors seem to confirm a certain Mediterranean specificity, such as a higher level of religiousness, a stronger belief in the traditional Christian concept of truth and increased importance of religious rites of passage, lower ethical permissiveness whether this regards the rules of social coexistence or, particularly, sexuality, life and drugs, a major desire for a change in lifestyle in a non-materialistic direction, an increased conviction of transmitting values of social respect to their children.

In other topics, such as the mother’s central role in the family or the importance of transmitting the capacity and desire for independent self-realisation to their children, diversity prevails, as in the Italian regions, for example, especially in the south, the role of the mother is more highly valued than in the regions of Spain and Portugal, and in contrast self-realisation is considered less important, this being particularly strong in Catalonia. Once more, the core of the Mediterranean identity, on a level of culture-evaluating elements, seems to derive from the fact that they share the Christian religion (in this case Catholic), which has an effect on family and social ethics, and, indirectly, on politics, due to its relevance in justice and solidarity values. We would also stress how contrast or diversity in religious values is found more strongly in France, especially the non-Mediterranean part, than in the Austro-German or Anglo-Saxon worlds.

Causal Analysis of the Role of Some Geographical and Cultural Characteristics of the European Countries in the Explanation of Certain Elements of Socio-Political Value Trends

It has been observed that in some socio-political value trends, peculiarities common to the Mediterranean countries emerge. These countries share fundamental social cohesion, social solidarity, balance between the values of liberty and equality, distributive justice and the relationship between politics and religion. We can attempt to verify to what extent some variables that characterize the different European countries have a bearing on the explanation for the geographical differentiation found. The independent variables considered are the latitude and longitude of the capitals, the gross national product per capita, the population distribution (in the sample) of Catholics, Protestants, Orthodox followers and atheists, the average demographical extension of the communities in which the interviewees live, the average age of the subjects, their average educational level, their average religiousness, their average ethical relativity and the language group they belong to: Romance, Germanic or Slavic. This is an initial analysis of the data and therefore not intended as proof.

The only variable linked in any way to the Mediterranean location is that of latitude, which is minor as a tendency. It can be noted how at a lower latitude social selfishness decreases (and solidarity therefore increases), and politicians with religious beliefs are more highly valued. On the whole, the cultural characteristics prevail, more so than the demographic or economic peculiarities. In the Germanic language area individualism and social selfishness are less. The Christian Orthodox religion values the fact that politicians are believers, but tends to exert less pressure in the direction of equality and solidarity. The Protestant religion normally tends to appreciate liberty more than equality, and retributive justice rather than distributive. However, the Catholic religion, as can be deduced, encourages sensitivity towards equality, distributive justice and solidarity.

The actual degree of religiousness of a specific country is associated to contexts where liberty is more highly valued than equality, in a similar way to the effect on ecology of higher ethical relativity, which also has a favourable influence on reciprocal social trust and primary social control. A social context with more education means higher levels of solidarity, a higher sensitivity towards equality and a more secular view of politics, which is exactly the same effect but does not necessarily imply a higher gross national product per capita. We should not forget of course that we are discussing aggregate, ecological relationships here and not individual societies. These relationships, in any case, help to make the set of data initially considered more intelligible, going above and beyond the merely descriptive.


The road we have covered here has allowed us to better place the common perception, and not only common stereotypes, that the Mediterranean areas have common elements that distinguish them from other areas of Europe. The analysis is limited to certain cultural characteristics, evaluative trends and values inherent in the political way of life, from the most elementary sense of socioterritorial belonging to the degree of personal involvement in political action, including the evaluation of problems and institutions, and reaching the conclusion that such specificities pertain to a few profiles only, generally regarding values of equality and solidarity and the relationship between politics and religion. A brief look into the ethical-religious field has allowed us to find a common element of identity in the greater religiousness, which can also explain the common elements in political trends.

The final analysis has enabled us to specify that it is not only a question of religiousness but of the Catholic religion in particular which, more so than the Orthodox or Protestant religions, generates a context favourable to equality and solidarity values, which, in a way, characterize the European Mediterranean population in relation to others. The problem could be approached in a wider manner, with a larger database and more accurate tools, and different results could perhaps be obtained. What we have shown here can however serve as a basis upon which to build further arguments.