Press Release : South East Europe (SEE) Public Agenda Survey
The survey poll - the first ever professional measurement of public opinion undertaken simultaneously throughout South East Europe - involved a total of 10,000 face-to-face interviews conducted during January and February 2002 in Serbia, Montenegro and Kosovo, and in Bosnia and Herzegovina (with two separate surveys, one for the Federation and one for Republika Srpska), Croatia, Macedonia, Bulgaria and Romania.
Key areas covered in all 9 countries and territories surveyed in the poll include:
Reacting to the release of the SEE Public Agenda Survey Martti Ahtisaari, former President of Finland, European Union Balkans envoy and a member of the Board of International IDEA, commented: "The report contains very useful material for local authorities throughout the region as well as for the international community to help design their policies and actions in the Balkan countries. I see this survey as a tool to promote democratic governance by making the opinions of citizens heard on the key questions confronting their societies."
"I am particularly delighted that International IDEA has used the expertise of think tanks and research institutes from the region in conducting the survey," continues Ahtisaari, "as I believe that international organizations should utilize local expertise far more widely in their activities in the Balkans."
Significant regional trends to emerge from the SEE Public Agenda Survey include the following:
Commenting further on the overall findings of the regional survey Alin
Teodorescu notes: "The main findings show that public opinion in
those nine countries and territories is in very varying stages of development.
At one end is Kosovo, and to some extent Romania, where these is a high
appreciation of international organizations coupled with high levels of
optimism about the future. At the other end of the scale are Bulgaria,
Macedonia and Montenegro, where we see evidence of widespread disappointment
over the current course of developments, low optimism concerning the future,
low appreciation of international organizations and even low self-esteem."
"What we can see across the region, moreover, is that public opinion is dominated by day to day concerns such as poverty, inflation and corruption that have little connection with what at least a section of the ruling elite in the region considers important. Simply put, the ethnic, historical or anti-globalizing agenda of these elites is not supported by the people of the region."
"The research we are presenting," concludes Teodorescu, "is a good basis for policy making because it shows the kind of policies for which there is genuine public support - policies designed to reduce unemployment and inflation, social policies to combat poverty and marginalization. And if governments in the region want to achieve greater public support in their own countries then they need to focus on policies dealing with the public's primary concerns."
Commenting on the survey's findings on levels of optimism around the SEE region Dr. Deyan Kiuranov of the Sofia based think-tank the Centre for Liberal Strategies, who is heading the regional team of analysts involved in the SEEDS survey, notes: "Looking at the data on comparative levels of optimism and pessimism, it is tempting to conclude that people in South East Europe do not tie their attitudes to their own performance. For example, economically Bulgaria has been performing reasonably well recently, while Kosovo has not. At the same time, Kosovars are twelve times more optimistic than Bulgarians. The probable reason is that in South East Europe political issues serve at best as a drug. Kosovars are still high on their own particular political trip. Bulgarians, however, are experiencing the results of abstinence, combined with a difficult everyday life."
The economy and future prospects. When asked, "What do you fear most in the present?" the public in Serbia put unemployment first (19%) followed by economic problems/living standard deterioration (15%) and poverty (12%). And while 52% pronounce themselves somewhat or very dissatisfied with their present economic situation, a narrow majority (50%) state that they expect to see an improvement in their living standards during the next year. On a further positive note, too, almost half of the Serbian population (50%) express the belief that the country is broadly speaking heading in the right direction, making them the second most optimistic in the region after Kosovo on this topic.
Domestic institutions. On national institutions the survey finds that the public in Serbia has the greatest trust in the Church, which scores a 64% moderate to high trust rating, followed by the Army with 55%. The least trusted institutions are the Local Authorities with a 19% rating, the Trade Unions (20%) and Courts (22%).
Public figures. According to the survey the most trusted public figures in Serbia today are Vojislav Kostunica - with 47% of respondents indicating fair to high levels of trust in the Yugoslav President - and narrowly ahead of him Deputy Federal Prime Minister Miroljub Labus, who scores a trust rating of 47% followed by Finance Minister Bozidar Djelic (41%). At the bottom end of the scale the survey records a trust rating of 12% for President of the Vojvodina League of Social Democrats Nenad Canac, 14% for Serbian Radical Party (SRS) leader Vojislav Seselj and 14% for Slobodan Milosevic - though 17% indicated that they did not even wish to answer such questions about their former leader.
International institutions. Only 8% express even moderate levels of trust in the Hague Tribunal (ICTY), where former President Slobodan Milosevic is currently on trial for alleged war crimes. Among other international institutions covered in the survey the European Union (EU) scores highest trust ratings in Serbia (31%), with NATO ranked the lowest (6%). In addition, a large majority (78%) express partial or full agreement with the statement 'many things in my country are decided from the outside'.
Commenting on the Serbia survey findings Srdjan Bogosavljevic, Executive Director of the Belgrade-based public opinion research institute SMRI, who conducted the poll, notes: "The most important thing about this poll is that it confirms a major change in Serbian public opinion over the last year. Today people want to talk about real, day to day problems - poverty, crime, corruption - where previously they focused on big political issues - Kosovo, relations with Montenegro and so on."
"Concerning trust in Milosevic", Bogosavljevic continues, "it is notable that many people simply didn't want to answer questions about him. For years ordinary people were taught that Milosevic was the greatest, and now they are told that they are supposed to be against him. Many of them simply can't do this, so their response is simply to say 'I don't know' or refuse to answer."
The economy and future prospects. Asked about their main current fears the Montenegrin public rank corruption first, identified by just under half (47%) as one of the three most important issues facing the country, followed by unemployment (44%) and poverty (40%). In addition, in the light of recent political developments in Montenegro it is notable that in January 2002 the stability of the state was identified as one of their three most important issues by 21% of the population. Compared to a year ago only 16% think that their personal economic situation has improved, with over half (56%) asserting that it has deteriorated. While a majority (53%) report themselves somewhat or very dissatisfied with their present economic circumstances, 36% expect to see an improvement in their personal economic situation in the coming 12 months.
Domestic institutions. Nationally the most trusted institutions are the Universities with a 54% rating, followed by the Church with 44% and the Presidency with 41%. Least trusted are the Mass Media with 22%, followed by the Trade Unions (26%) and Police (27%). The Government scores a middling trust rating of 33%.
Public figures. President Milo Djukanovic emerges from the survey as the public figure with the highest current trust rating (39%) in Montenegro, followed by Prime Minister Filip Vujanovic with 35% and Metropolitan of the Serbian Orthodox Church in Montenegro Amfilohije Radovic (33%). These findings can be contrasted with the trust rankings for international figures such as Romano Prodi, head of the European Commission, who is found to be trusted by 19% of the Montenegrin public, or Vladimir Putin with 29% - the highest trust rating for an international political figure in Montenegro. General Secretary of NATO George Robertson emerges as the least appreciated international leader in the country, ranked trustworthy by only 16% of interviewees. Domestically, Montenegro's least trusted public figures at the present are Montenegrin Orthodox Metropolitan Miras Dedeic with a 8% rating, Prime Minister Dragisa Pesic (16%) and leading Montenegrin economist Veselin Vukotic (18%).
International institutions. In Montenegro the International Monetary Fund (IMF) scores the highest moderate to high trust ratings among international institutions covered by the survey (41%). Next equal come the European Union and the World Bank with a 39% rating. The survey finds that the least trusted international organization in Montenegro is NATO, with a moderate to high trust rating of 21%, followed by the ICTY (24%) and Stability Pact with 26%.
The economy and future prospects. Just under half the public in Kosovo (44%) view their economic situation as having improved either moderately or significantly over the past 12 months, with a slightly higher figure (47%) declaring themselves to be either somewhat or very satisfied with their present economic circumstances. According to the survey the most important problem facing ordinary people in Kosovo today is unemployment, highlighted as a key issue by 77%. Next comes poverty, noted by 39% of the public as a key concern, corruption (33%) and crime (28%). Despite these concerns, however, the Kosovo public are most upbeat in the region when asked for their assessment of the course of current develop-ments, with almost two thirds (64%) supporting the statement that 'generally speaking, things in our country are going in the right direction'.
Domestic institutions. According to the survey the most trusted institutions in Kosovo are Universities (84%) followed by the Army (83%) and the Police (76%). Least trusted are the Mass Media (35%), business and private enterprise, with a 37% moderate to high trust rating, and NGOs with (40%) - none the less all still high trust figures on a regional comparison.
Public figures. The survey finds that the most trusted public figure in Kosovo today is President Ibrahim Rugova with a 54% rating. Rugova is followed by Alliance for the Future of Kosovo (AAK) leader Ramush Haradinaj (50%), journalist and Koha Ditore publisher Veton Surroi and Christian Democratic Party of Kosovo (PShDK) leader Mark Krasniqi, both with 47%. Least trusted public figures are Social Democratic Party of Kosovo (PSDK) deputy leader Iljaz Kurteshi and PSDK Chairwoman Kaqusha Jashari, both with 21%, and Democratic Party of Kosovo (PDK) leader and Minister of Public Services Jakup Krasniqi (25%).
International institutions. Somewhat lower down the scale from Serbia, two-thirds (67%) of Kosovars agree with the statement that 'many key decisions about the country are made outside it'. In stark contrast to their northern neighbours, however, the population of Kosovo displays the highest levels of trust in international institutions found throughout the survey. Unsurprisingly perhaps, NATO emerges as the most trusted international institution, with a massive 91% reporting fair to high degrees of trust in the Western military alliance. Next most trusted is the United Nations (77%), closely followed by the European Union (72%) and the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE), with a 70% moderate to high trust rating. According to the survey, the least trusted and - significantly - least known among the international institutions in Kosovo are the World Trade Organization (WTO) (48%), Stability Pact (50%) and IMF (57%).
Inter-ethnic relations. While only 6% agree with the statement that 'our people is endangered by a civil war', marginally over a third (34%) fully agree with the proposition that 'ethnic minorities have too high demands in their struggle for their rights'. At the same time, only 6% rank ethnic conflicts among the three most important issues confronting Kosovo today.
The economy and future prospects. The survey finds the public in the
Bosnian Federation very pessimistic concerning the country's general direction.
A little under half (43%) think the Federation is moving in the wrong
direction, with only 22% taking the opposite view. The mood in Republika
Srpska (RS) is similarly gloomy, if somewhat less polarized, with 34%
believing that things are moving in the right direction, and 24% that
RS is on the wrong path. Asked to state their main personal concerns the
public in the Federation rank poverty first (27%), followed by unemployment
(25%). By contrast the unstable political situation comes out as biggest
current concern in RS (30%), followed by poverty (23%).
Public figures. In the Federation the most trusted public figures are Minister of Foreign Affairs and Social Democratic Party (SDP) leader Zlatko Lagumdzija, with a moderate to high rating of 39%, followed by Party for Democratic Action (SDA) leader Alija Behmen (28%) and Federation Presidency member Beriz Belkic (27%). The Federation's least trusted public figures are found to be Presidency member Zivko Radisic with a 6% rating, former President of the Federation Parliament Enver Kreso with 10% and Chairman of the Party for Democratic Action (SDA) Sulejman Tihic with an 12% trust rating.
Significantly, in RS the most trusted public figures are Hague Tribunal indictees Ratko Mladic, with a moderate to high trust ranking of 53%, and Radovan Karadzic with 47%. Prime Minister Mladen Ivanic ranks only third for trust, with a rating of 38%. According to the survey, RS's least trusted public figures are Constitutional Court President Snjezana Savic (17%), Presidency member Zivko Radisic (18%) and former Prime Minister Party of Independent Social Democrats (SNDS) leader Milorad Dodik (20%).
International institutions. Trust in the international organizations covered by the survey is markedly higher in the Bosnian Federation than RS. For the Federation the most trusted international institution is the Hague Tribunal (ICTY), with a moderate to high trust rating of 51%, followed by the World Bank, with 43%. The World Bank also emerges as the most trusted international organization in RS, though its moderate to high trust rating of 18% is still significantly lower than in all of the other territories covered by the survey. Unsurprisingly, perhaps, the Hague Tribunal is ranked as trusted by only 4% in RS.
The economy and future prospects. When asked, "what do you fear most in the present?" the Croatian public rank unemployment first (29%), followed by poverty and a low standard of living (24%). Overall, Croatians are fairly gloomy about the current economic situation, with 33% positive about their current position, and 44% negative. A narrow majority (50%) think that there will be no major change in their standard of living in the next 12 months. However, there is more optimism in the long run, with 55% asserting the belief that things will get better in the next 5 years.
Domestic institutions. According to the survey the most trusted institutions in Croatia are the Church with a 60% moderate to high trust rating, business and private enterprises (55%) and the Army (43%). By contrast the three least trusted are Mass Media with a 25% rating, the Local Authorities (22%) and the Courts (17%).
Public figures. The survey finds that Croatia's three most trusted public figures are currently President Stipe Mesic with a 41% moderate to high trust rating, Prime Minister Ivica Racan (36%) and President of the Parliament Zlatko Tomcic (32%). The two least trusted personalities are Croatian Democratic Union (HDZ) leader Ivo Sanader, with a 45% 'no trust' rating, and Croatian Social Liberal Party (HSLS) President Drazen Budisa, with a 41% rating in the same category.
International institutions. Viewed regionally, trust in international institutions in Croatia is around average. Institutions with the highest trust ratings are the EU (39%), UN (38%) and NATO (32%). Least trusted are the Stability Pact and OSCE, with a joint 16% rating and the ICTY (21%).
The economy and future prospects. Asked to identify the three most important problems facing the country today the Macedonian public rank unemployment first (70%), followed by poverty (41%) and corruption (40%). In addition, 59% pronounce themselves to be somewhat or very dissatisfied with their present economic situation - the third highest figure for the region after Bulgaria and Romania. On a somewhat more optimistic note, 29% state that they expect to see an improvement in their living standards during the next year. Asked to look at things from a long term (5 year) perspective, just over half (52%) express the belief that their own economic situation will improve during that time. At the same time 57% view the country as going in the wrong direction - regionally the highest figure in this category. Significantly, too, 48% of Macedonians identify the threat of war as their strongest current fear - by far the highest figure regionally.
Domestic institutions. Nationally, the most trusted institutions in Macedonia are the Army (55%), followed by Universities (40%) and the Police (39%). The survey finds the least trusted institutions are the Government (12%) and Parliament (13%) - the lowest regional ratings for both institutions recorded in the survey. Business and private enterprise scores a trust rating of 29%, a middle-order ranking by regional standards.
Public figures. Macedonia most trusted public figure today is Minister of Finance Nikola Gruevski 24%, followed by Minister of the Interior Ljube Boskovski (23%) and Social Democratic Union of Macedonia (SDSM) party leader Branko Crvenkovski (21%). The survey finds the least trusted public figures to be Public Prosecutor Stavre Dzikov with a 9% rating, Speaker of Parliament and Liberal Party (LP) leader Stojan Andov (10%) and Prime Minister Ljubco Georgievski (13%).
International institutions and personalities. Among international institutions covered in the survey the European Union emerges as the most trusted in Macedonia, with a 35% moderate to high trust rating, followed by the UN (34%) and World Bank (32%). Least trusted are the Stability Pact and Hague Tribunal, both with a 22% rating. Among international figures Vladimir Putin is the most trusted, with a 35% moderate to high trust rating - jointly with Bulgaria the highest regional trust rating for the Russian President. Putin is followed by UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan (26%), and US President George Bush (25%).
The economy and future prospects. The survey indicates high levels of popular dissatisfaction with the current state of the economy in Bulgaria. 81% of Bulgarians state that they are somewhat or very dissatisfied with their present personal economic situation - the highest figure for the region - with only 7% indicating a moderate to high level of satisfaction with their current standard of living. Asked to identify their three biggest personal concerns unemployment scores the highest among the Bulgarian public, with a 72% rating, followed by poverty (66%) and crime (33%). In addition, the pace of transition to a market economy is too slow according to 63% of Bulgarians. Adding to the gloom, only 12% expect to see their own economic situation improve in the next 12 months: even viewed from a 5 year perspective, the number of those expecting to see an improvement in their situation only rises to 26%.
Domestic institutions. The Mass Media emerges as the most trusted national institution in Bulgaria, with a moderate to high trust rating of 57% - the second highest figure for the media in the region. Next most trusted are the Presidency and Army, both of which score a trust rating of 53%. Least trusted institutions are NGOs and Trade Unions (9%) and the Courts (12%). In addition, the Government is trusted by 31%, the Parliament by 19%.
Public figures. Despite the evidence of deep public dissatisfaction with the country's current course Prime Minister Simeon Sacs Cobburg Gotta emerges as Bulgaria's most trusted political personality, with a fair to high trust rating of 54%. Next most trusted is TV talk show presenter Slavi Trifonov with a 50% rating, followed by former President Petar Stoyanov with 46%. Least trusted public figures are former Deputy Prime Minster Evgenii Bakardjiev (4%), opposition Democratic Forces Union (SDS) party leader Ekatarina Mihailova (10%) and former Prime Minister and SDS leader Ivan Kostov (11%).
International institutions. The EU emerges from the survey as Bulgaria's most trusted international organization (52%), followed by the UN (38%) and NATO (37%). The Stability Pact is only known to 17% of the Bulgarian public, and among those that are aware of its existence, only 17% say they trust it. Bulgaria's three least trusted international organizations are the WTO with a 13% rating, the Stability Pact (17%) and the OSCE (20%). When asked which countries it would be good for Bulgaria to co-operate more closely with, Russia and Greece come out joint top (89%), followed by Turkey (85%) and the USA (85%).
The economy and future prospects. Asked to identify the three most critical problems facing the country Romanians rank corruption first (64%), closely followed by poverty (61%) and unemployment (39%). And while 64% pronounce themselves to be somewhat or very dissatisfied with their present economic situation, only 27% state that expect to see an improvement in their living standards during the next year. Additionally, asked to look at things from a long-term (5-year) perspective, less than a half (37%) express the belief that their own economic situation will improve moderately or significantly. On a more encouraging note, however, 34% of the Romanian public express their agreement with the view that the country is headed in the right general direction.
Domestic institutions. The Church emerges as by far the most trusted domestic institution in Romania, with a moderate to high trust rating of 91%, followed by the Army (79%) and Mass Media (69%) - the highest media trust figure for the whole region. In addition the Police scores 46% - regionally their second highest trust rating after Kosovo. The survey further reveals that Romania's least trusted institutions are NGOs (24%) and the Parliament (32%). The current government receives a 44% trust rating, a fairly high figure on a regional comparison.
Public figures. According to the survey currently the most trusted public figure in Romania is Prime Minister Adrian Nastase, who gets a moderate to high trust rating of 61%. Nastase is followed by Democratic Party (PD) leader Traian Basescu with 56%, Foreign Affairs Minister Mircea Geoana (50%) and narrowly behind him President Ion Iliescu (49%). The least trusted personalities are Bucharest independent municipal councillor George Padure with a trust rating of 5%, National Liberal Party (PNL) leader Valeriu Stoica and Hungarian Democratic Union of Romania (UDMR) leader Marko Bela, both with a 12% rating.
International organizations. The survey finds the three most trusted international institutions in Romania to be the EU, with a 59% moderate to high trust rating, followed by NATO (58%) and the UN (49%). Least trusted international institutions among the Romanian public, according to the survey, are the WTO with a 19% rating, the Stability Pact (26%) and the IMF (32%).
The regional survey poll involved a total of over 10,000 in-home face-to-face interviews, conducted in Serbia, Montenegro and Kosovo, and in Bosnia and Herzegovina (with a special survey for Republika Srpska), Croatia, Macedonia, Bulgaria and Romania. Issues covered include:
Describing the objectives of the regional survey initiative Tanja Petovar, a former Yugoslav human rights lawyer and project co-ordinator of the SEEDS network, comments: "In co-operation with local think tanks and research institutes, we want to identify and promote a public agenda that can influence the political agenda and its priorities, and to enrich debates on further democratic reform in the Balkans with solid information about the aspirations and concerns of the public."
The full text of the SEE Public Agenda Survey report produced by the SEEDS network with the support of International IDEA is available at:
For further information and interviews with International IDEA/SEEDS network staff contact:
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