Was the European Central Bank ensnared by birdwatchers?

(For the original French version of this blog entry, click here. All comments and suggestions to improve my English are welcome.)

With apologies, it’s with considerable delay that I comment here on the news of the banknote changeover project in the euro zone. On November 30, 2023, the European Central Bank announced1 that it had selected two themes for the new banknotes: “European Culture” and “Rivers and Birds”, 2 themes out of the 7 that had been submitted for public consideration last summer. In fact, a bit of a sleight of hand was involved, as “Rivers and Birds” is the combination, devised after analyzing the results of the consultation, of the initial themes “Rivers: the water of life in Europe” and “Birds: free, resilient and inspiring”.

It is worth recalling that the 2023 consultation was carried out in two parallel ways: an open consultation conducted over the Internet, and a more restricted study carried out by, as we learn now, Kantar Public (which became Verian in November 2023), a company belonging to Trilantic Europe.2

“Both of the chosen themes share a common thread of connecting Europe and Europeans, and this is very much in keeping with our goal of making banknotes more relatable to people of all ages and backgrounds.”

Christine Lagarde

An advisory group has been formed to “propose motifs for the selected themes by the end of 2024.” Then, a design competition will be held, and a further public consultation will take place. In 2026, the ECB will make the final decision on the banknote designs, as well as on the production and issue schedule. No date has been given for when they will be available. As I wrote in a previous blog entry “Does this mean they will be issued in 2030 or 2032 for the euro’s 30th anniversary?”

A brief review of the results of the two surveys

Here are the results of the two surveys, one carried out directly by Verian (23,377 inhabitants of the Eurozone and Bulgaria answered) and one organized online jointly by Verian and the European Central Bank (more than 376,000 responses, 364,000 coming from the Eurozone). I’d like to take this opportunity to apologize for being too alarmist and skeptical of the ECB’s transparency policy in my previous post. Indeed, the ECB is to be commended for releasing the full report of this survey.

 VerianECB online survey
“European culture”1.21 %2.23 %
“Rivers: the waters of life in Europe”2.18 %3.16 %
“Birds: free, resilient, inspiring”3.17 % 1.34 %
“European values mirrored in nature”4.13 %4.10 %
“Hands: together we build Europe”5.12 %6.6 %
“The future is yours”6. 10 %5.8 %
“Our Europe, ourselves”7.9 %7.5 %
Comparative table of the two surveys’ results
Comparison between both surveys

The main difference between the two surveys concerns opinions on the subject of birds. In the online consultation this theme came out first, by a considerable margin over the second most liked theme. As a result of its popularity, the European Central Bank seems to have felt obliged to take it up and merge it with the rivers theme for the next stage in the banknote replacement process.

The results of the birds theme

Verian is well aware that an online survey is less controlled than a survey carried out on a selected and calibrated sample and that its results must therefore be treated with greater care . It also points out that the online survey on the new banknotes could also be influenced by the media or “influencers”.

Finally, it is worth noting that the results of the ECB online survey were potentially influenced by media articles and influencer posts that encouraged people to participate in the survey. This is common for public surveys, since they are open to everyone, and the respondents initiate the participation themselves. For the Kantar Public survey, it can be assumed that there was no media influence. This is because the survey started before the announcement of the ECB online survey and also because the respondents were invited to participate by the survey company, and most probably had no prior information about the banknote redesign process.

Verian, Report on public preferences for new euro banknote themes, p. 11.

I’m no statistician, nor am I a specialist in opinion polls, but it seems to me that the result for the “birds” theme shows signs of anomaly and should have been greeted with some caution. Besides the overall result, other differences between this theme and the others appear in the online survey. For example, the reasons given for liking themes:

Report p. 18.

For birds, the most frequently mentioned reason for choosing the banknotes was that they would be attractive. For all the other themes, the primary reason was that they would offer a good representation of Europe.

Finally, in terms of how opinions are distributed from very positive to very negative, the difference between online and Verian surveys for the bird theme also stands out in relation to the other two favorite themes, European culture and rivers.


In August 2023, relying on a press review of the ECB survey, I wrote that birdwatchers seemed to be mobilizing. I think the graphs above confirm my intuition and show that birdwatchers responded en masse to the ECB’s online survey, to the point of influencing its results and consequences. We shall see with the next stages of the process what impact this enthusiastic participation will have on the euro images.

At any rate, this calls for caution and shows that analyzing a country’s iconography without in-depth knowledge of the stages in its creation and history can sometimes lead to inaccuracies or misunderstandings. Here, we certainly can’t say that Europeans consider birds to be good symbols of Europe, but we can say that ornithophiles are numerous and effective, and that they think birds would look good on euro banknotes.

Citer ce billet
Alexis D'Hautcourt (2024, 16 février). Was the European Central Bank ensnared by birdwatchers? Faces d'identité. Consulté le 19 juin 2024, à l’adresse https://doi.org/10.58079/vuq1

  1. Press release. []
  2. Kantar Public to Rebrand as Verian, mrweb (23/10/2023) ; Liam Kay-McClean, Kantar Public changes name to Verian, Research Live (9/11/2023) ; Kantar Public rebrands globally as Verian, Consultancy.uk (14/11/2023). []
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Catégorisé comme English

Par Alexis D'Hautcourt

Professeur, Université des Langues Étrangères du Kansai (関西外国語大学, Kansai Gaidai University)

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