IISEPS News, N 3 (29), 2003



Strengthening Role of Independent Social Research and Experts’ Networks in Belarus:
Results of the public opinion polls

Open Forum:
Anatoly Lebedko
“Five Plus” – Is There an Alternative?

Prof. Oleg Manaev, Ph. D., IISEPS
“A Guide to Understanding Polls”


Dear readers!


The next issue of the analytical bulletin “IISEPS News” offers to your attention materials reflecting the most interesting results of the Institute’s studies in the third quarter of 2003.
The analytics published represent the results of the public opinion poll conducted in September and are supplemented with the results of opinion poll among the elite conducted concurrently. We as usual cover a wide range of problems related to socio-economic and political development of Belarus as well as the situation in the country with regard to all-European context and, particularly, Russia-Belarus relations. According to the results of the latest polls, most of the Belarusians (55.7%) take still in the positive the idea of Russia-Belarus Union that would ensure close political and economic ties but would not encroach upon Belarus’ sovereignty (only 18.5% support the idea of incorporating into one state). It is noteworthy that motivation of pro-Russian public opinion patently changes: most citizens support the idea of the Union not just out of “fraternal unity” or nostalgic reminiscences but because, in their opinion, “Russia has achieved greater progress in building a democratic state and a civil society, and people live better there.” At the same time pro-European opinions have been steadily expanding in the society: if the Belarusians had to choose between integration with Russia and joining the European Union, 36.1% would vote for EU. And those stand-points will obviously expand even more as most respondents expect improvement of living in the neighboring countries after the latter join the EU. We consider that these fundamental changes in mass consciousness constrict the opportunity of playing political games in both Eastern and Western direction.
Yet more crucial tendencies are presently found in attitudes of the Belarusians to country’s internal problems. The opinion poll has revealed that despite various efforts of the Belarusian authorities – from introduction of a single state ideology and replacement of high-ranking officials to new repressions against the civil society and actual reconsideration of integration pattern with Russia – support to the current course by society has been slowly but steadily going down, even though A. Lukashenko’s personal rating has increased by 5% over the past months. The public opinion disagrees with the official opinion in all essential issues of country’s development – from introduction of a single state ideology to privatization of most large enterprises. Those discrepancies turn especially sharp in estimations of particular events that have taken place recently: closure of the National Lyceum, ousting of NTV correspondent, etc. However, the most striking result of our research is undoubtedly the conclusion that longing for changes, expectation of an alternative and readiness to accept it turn a dominating political attitude of the Belarusians. With such a strong aiming at changes, a minor sign answering that aim will breed “chain information reaction” that will sweep any barrier. Quite illustrative in this respect are revolutionary answers to the question “If you had to choose a new president of Belarus from the following list of politicians, who would you vote for?”: 34.6% – for A. Lukashenko, 17.9% – for V. Frolov and 9% – for another candidate. The analysis shows that ratings become a powerful factor of political mobilization. This means that importance of the professionally gathered information increases multifold. Due to this reason we, as usual, offer not just analytics to our readers but “bare data” as well – essential trends and findings with regard to basic social-demographic groups.
This time our “Open Forum” is given to UCP Chairman Anatoly Lebedko. He analyses the problems and the perspectives that excite all those who are presently concerned in changes – consolidation of democratic forces in Belarus.
There’s a just published in Bratislava brochure on our “Bookshelf” on conducting and using public opinion polls in politics, especially during election campaigns. The edition has been drafted by an international team of experts who took an active part in post-communist transformation of Central and Eastern European countries and we believe their experience can be of considerable value to Belarus.
We hope that the current issue of our bulletin will be interesting and helpful to you and your colleagues. All comments and requests are welcome!