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PRE-ELECTION MULTI-DIRECTIVITY OF INDICES

Such contradictory changes of social indices, as the ones registered in the course of the September opinion poll of 2010, have never occurred during the zero years. While the index of financial standing (IFS) did not virtually change, the expectation index (EI) went down from 11.1 percentage points to 5.9 percentage points, and the index of policy correctness (PCI) grew from 15.9 to 19.4 points (Tables 1-3). In addition, when respondents were assessing changes in their financial standing for the last three months and prospects of development of the socio-economic situation in Belarus for the coming year, polarization of opinions took place: i.e., positive and negative assessments increased simultaneously. The mentioned anarchy is a direct consequence of the contradictory signals which have been bombarding the public opinion for the last three months. First of all, the flywheel of the presidential election campaign has begun to work: pensions in the country have been raised since August, 1 and since September, 1 before the very beginning of the poll–standard salaries for certain categories of employees of government-financed organizations. However, a price rise for the basic foodstuffs has started simultaneously. Inflation is perhaps the only macro-indicator which the population can directly sense. One should not disregard the Belarusian-Russian war either, which got a second wind after two “Molotov cocktails” had been thrown over the fence of the Russian embassy in Minsk.

Table 1. Dynamics of answering the question: “How has your personal financial standing changed for the last three months?”, %

Variant of answer

11’06

09’08

12’08

03’09

06’09

09’09

12’09

03’10

06’10

09’10

It has improved

21.0

17.4

9.4

1.9

5.5

10.9

7.3

9.3

13.9

18.7

It has not changed

64.7

59.0

55.4

31.0

56.9

47.9

65.7

59.8

65.1

56.7

It has become worse

12.8

21.9

33.8

63.8

36.5

36.9

26.0

29.8

19.7

23.6

IFS*

8.2

–4.5

–21.4

–61.9

–31.1

–26.0

–18.7

–20.5

–5.8

–4.9

* Index of financial standing (the difference of positive and negative answers)

Table 2. Dynamics of answering the question: “How is the socio-economic situation in Belarus going to change within the next few years?”, %

Variant of answer

11’06

09’08

12’08

03’09

06’09

09’09

12’09

03’10

06’10

09’10

It is going to improve

42.5

34.0

14.2

13.7

28.3

33.0

34.7

29.3

24.7

25.5

It is not going to change

37.7

40.8

35.2

30.5

38.0

34.9

37.3

46.0

52.9

43.9

It is going to become worse

10.7

18.2

38.2

45.9

25.4

20.8

15.7

18.8

13.6

19.6

EI*

31.8

15.8

–24.0

–32.2

2.9

12.2

19.0

10.5

11.1

5.9

* Expectation index

Table 3. Dynamics of answering the question: “Is, in your opinion, the state of affairs in our country developing in the right or in the wrong direction as a whole?”, %

Variant of answer

06’06

09’08

12’08

03’09

06’09

09’09

12’09

03’10

06’10

09’10

In the right direction

56.9

53.4

45.3

40.0

47.9

53.3

47.2

49.5

49.5

51.1

In the wrong direction

31.0

30.0

34.0

34.9

33.6

31.0

32.0

35.6

33.6

31.7

DA/NA

12.1

16.6

20.7

25.1

18.5

15.7

20.8

14.9

16.9

17.2

PCI*

25.9

23.4

11.3

5.1

14.4

22.3

15.2

13.9

15.9

19.4

* Policy correctness index

A. Lukashenko’s electoral rating has visibly decreased in spite of the generous social payments and the doubled activity of his staff PR-experts: in June – 45.6%, in September – 39%. What was the cause of it? At first sight the decisive contribution was made by the TV series “The Godfather”: 10% of respondents indicated that having watched the film they began to treat its main character worse.

However, as it has been already mentioned above, the PCI increased in September (Table 3). It gives us ground to maintain that A. Lukashenko has personally won the public confrontation with Russia; that the policy pursued by him is supported by the majority of Belarusians, although the anxiety concerning people’s future has increased. Quite possibly, the price rise acted as the main “person” responsible for the rating decline. The rating statistics of the end of 2007, when in November and December the price for sunflower oil doubled, also speak well for it. Compare the following: September – 44.9%, December – 39.9%. Neither “wars”, nor series with the proper contents were registered at that time.

The data of Table 4 let us estimate the contribution of various socio-demographic groups into polarization of the financial standing changes assessment for the last three months. As it was to be expected, after the August pensions rise the main addition of positive assessments was made by respondents aged 60 and over (+10.1 points). Virtually no increase in negative assessments occurred in this group either. It became possible at the expense of reduction in the share of those whose financial standing did not change.

Table 4. Dynamics of answering the question: “How has your personal financial standing changed for the last three months?” depending on gender, age, education and trust in the president*, %

Characteristic

It has improved

It has become worse

06’10

09’10

06’10

09’10

Gender:
Male

15.3

17.5

21.5

25.8

Female

12.7

19.7

18.1

21.6

Age:
18-29

11.5

18.7

21.8

25.3

30-39

12.4

14.1

27.2

29.1

40-49

9.7

12.3

22.5

30.0

50-59

15.4

14.6

15.4

21.1

60 and older

19.5

29.6

12.2

13.9

Education:
Primary

22.1

29.7

10.6

15.6

Incomplete secondary

12.4

28.9

16.7

15.3

Secondary

12.6

17.2

21.9

24.4

Vocational

14.4

13.7

20.3

26.0

Higher

14.1

20.1

20.0

26.0

Trust in the president:
Trust

18.8

28.3

13.2

12.8

Do not trust

6.2

7.8

30.2

37.6

* The Table is read across

The age group of 40-49 year-olds made the largest contribution into the growth of negative assessments. The share of pensioners in this group is insignificant; however the opportunities for one’s career advancement are almost exhausted. Hence the heightened sensitiveness towards negative information follows. On the other hand, pensioners made the decisive contribution into the growth of positive assessments among those respondents who trust A. Lukashenko. It has to be admitted that his policy of targeted support of electoral groups proves to be quite efficient. Among the “trusting” ones the share of those whose financial standing became worse did not increase (to be more exact, of those who sense the worsening of their financial standing).

As for polarization of the EI, the main contribution into the increase of negative expectations was made by the respondents who do not trust the head of state: 25.7% – in June and 36.6% – in September. The apocalyptical vision of one’s future is not peculiar to their political opponents: 6.8% – in June and 7.4% – in September. Reacting to informational wars is the lot of educated people. Among the possessors of university diplomas the share of respondents who agree that the socio-economic situation in Belarus is going to become worse within the next year has grown by 12.7 points for the last three months: from 12.8% to 25.5% (with the average growth of the mentioned indicator equaling 6 percentage points).

Summing up let us mention that in spite of eventfulness (including the negative events, too) no disastrous decline of social indices has occurred for the last three months. The general social background is of course not so propitious for the authorities if we compare it with the one of 2006 (no one has abolished the world financial and economic crisis), however it is better than in 2001. There are sufficient material resources in the state “corn bins” to support social stability during the time left before the elections; and as far as the prospects for the forthcoming five years are concerned, the respondents will be told about them at the fourth All-Belarusian Assembly.