The majority of Europeans think that mainstream parties and politicians do not care about them, according to an EU-wide poll that the bloc's Fundamental Rights Agency (FRA) published on Wednesday.
While 60% feel left behind by the political establishment, the alienation runs even deeper among people who face economic problems.
Among people who are struggling to make ends meet, 73% feel neglected by traditional politics, the Vienna-based EU rights watchdog reported.
To gauge views on democracy, rule of law and human rights, the FRA analysed the responses of nearly 35,000 people from EU countries, candidate country North Macedonia and former member Britain.
The survey found that nearly 9 in 10 EU citizens think that human rights are important for creating a fairer society.
However, a third of the respondents said that human rights only serve those who do not deserve them, such as criminals or terrorists.
Less than half of the respondents who were unemployed or struggled with their household income felt that everyone enjoys human rights equally.
The survey also revealed a widespread acceptance of corruption.
Only 4% reported that an official had ever asked them for money, favours or other gifts.
However, more than a third of the respondents said it was acceptable to give such favours in order to secure an urgently needed service.
Corruption as an option
In France and Croatia, around half of the respondents accepted corruption as an option for getting things done, while the rate was around 60% in the Czech Republic and Slovakia.
"The number of people who feel disenchanted by corruption and how our democratic society works should prompt EU countries to take action," FRA director Michael O'Flaherty said in a statement.
The rights agency called on the bloc's member states to fight graft, and to include those who feel left behind in political decision-making.
In addition, governments should reach out to young people and encourage them to take part in politics, the FRA said.
The survey showed that younger people do not feel as strongly about democracy and rule of law.
While nearly 70% of retirement-age respondents agreed that it is important that opposition parties can freely criticize the government, less than 60% of people in their teens and twenties shared this view.
Nearly half of young people would find bribing acceptable, compared with less than 35% in other age groups.