(1.502 persons were interviewed aged 18 and over, margin of error doesn’t exceed 0.03)
In the first quarter of this year “economic well-being” of Belarusians became more complex in comparison with simple decrease of the previous year:
– thus, he ratio of those whose financial position improved over the past three months, to those whose position worsened, continues to go down: in December it was 12.6% vs. 28.4%, in March it became 10.1% vs. 25.2%. The real income of population started to go down after a small rise of the previous year: the average income per one family member went down from $ 325 to $ 312 in the first quarter of this year, that is why 42.4% of respondents qualified their financial position as “poverty/lower than average”, and only 6% answered “higher than average/high level”;
– at the same time the number of Belarusians who think that country’s economy is in crisis went down by 14% (in December 68.6% shared this opinion, while 54.6% share this opinion today; the opposite opinion was shared by 22.2% in December and 34.5% today). Level of optimism in their expectations for future increased as well: in December 35.9% of respondents believed that “the socio-economic situation in Belarus will worsen within the next few years “, today 26.1% of respondents give this answer, while the number of optimists increased from 12.5 % to 24%. But this optimism is not very convincing in practice: for example, while assessing the way their financial income will change in the near future comparatively to prices, 62.3% of respondents said, that “financial income will grow slower than prices”, 27.7% said that “financial income will grow as fast as prices” and only 6.7% said that “financial income will grow faster than prices”;
– while Belarusians don’t understand economic theory very well, millions of them come to the idea of market economy system by practical considerations: 41.1% of respondents would like to work in a privately-owned enterprise (40.2% would prefer a state-owned enterprise), 51.3% of respondents consider private property more effective economically (only 37.7% think so about national property), 71% of respondents consider that “state should not limit the amount of individual income of citizens” (21.6% share the opposite opinion), and in general 38.3% consider capitalism to be a better regime for Belarus (39.9% are for socialism).
Stabilization of “economic well-being” made its effect upon attitude of Belarusians to the state power:
– the number of those who trust the President once again exceeded the number of those who don’t: the ratio in December was 37.7% vs. 47.%, the same ratio today equals 45.9% vs. 44.1%; electoral rating of the President grew from 34.8% to 39.8%;
– at the same time there are more and more, who understand, that head of state cannot infinitely shift the blame for numerous failures in socio-economic and socio-political development of the country to other shoulders. Thus, the question about A. Lukashenko’s ability to increase the efficacy of national enterprises’ work by toughening the discipline of managers of all levels was answered positively by 45.9% of respondents and negatively by 43% of them. While assessing what happens when power remains in the same hands for many years, 24.5% of respondents said that it leads to “stagnation and lagging behind other countries”, 21.6% said that it leads to “growth of iniquity, corruption and malversation” (though, according to a quarter of respondents “it provides stability and order in the country”, another quarter thinks that “it’s not important who is in power, the most important is that laws should be observed”);
– that is why, despite another increase of the head of state’s rating, the number of those, who consider that “in general the state of things in our country is developing in the wrong direction” still exceeds the number of those who share the opposite opinion – 46.2% vs. 40.2%; 55.1% of respondents think that “a change of current situation in the country is more important” than maintaining it (36.5%). When answering the question “if a significant improvement of life of Belarusian people is possible under the present leadership of the country and their policy”, 43.8% of respondents said that it was “impossible” (47.1% think it’s “possible”). If 53.2% of respondents “knew a person who could successfully compete with A. Lukashenko in the next presidential elections”, they would vote for him, while 34.5% of respondents would still vote for A. Lukashenko.
Readiness for changes of Belarusians is still concealed in nature, most of them avoid active forms of support to opposition:
– the number of those who consider themselves in opposition to the present power decreased once again: while in December 18.9% of respondents gave that answer, today only 16.6% think so (in December 2012 the number equaled to 21.3%). But 22.9% of respondents are ready to participate in acts of protests against the worsening of financial position if there will be any in their towns or regions. If people are not contented with the power, they can change it “only by means of elections” (according to 39.3% of respondents), “by means of elections and protests, but only peaceful ones” (40.5%), “by all means” (15.6%). It is not unlikely that these moods explain the popularity of the idea of “democratic referendum” on the main problems that need salvation: 49% of respondents expressed readiness to support it – this is an unprecedented result for oppositional initiatives;
– despite the fact that the idea of a single opposition candidate in the presidential elections of 2015 is supported by 40.9% of respondents (14.1% do not support the idea and a third of respondents consider it unimportant), only 14.9% of respondents trust opposition parties, while 66.3% do not trust them (in December the ratio was 15.8% vs. 63.4%), and total electoral rating of a dozen of opposition parties’ leaders hardly exceeds 20% (V. Neklyaev still has the highest rating of 7.1%).
Elections to local Councils were the main political event of the first quarter of the year. The power uses the results of these elections to demonstrate their “unity with the people”, while – opposition uses them to criticize political regime and to boost its role in social life:
– according to the survey, 57% of electors took part in the vote. This figure is by 7.6% smaller than the same figure in April 2010 and by 20.4% smaller than the figure given by the CEC. 18.9% voted in advance (32% according to the CEC), 37.9% voted on March 23. Only 4.2% said that someone pushed them to vote for a specific candidate (4.1% in 2010);
– 22.2% of voters voted for candidates supporting A. Lukashenko (it’s 10% less than in 2010), 10.2% voted for candidates opposing A. Lukashenko (9.4% in 2010), 8.7% voted for other candidates (10.7% in 2010) and 5.6% voted against all candidates (5.9% in 2010), 10.2% didn’t want to answer (11.1% in 2010). About 9% of voters voted for candidates representing opposition parties and organizations (according to the CEC only 1.6% of those candidates were elected), 6.1% voted for candidates from “Belaya Rus”. However, only 32.4% of respondents know the results of the elections (42.1% in 2010). According to 17.7% of respondents, the candidate they voted for became a deputy, and 11.4% give the opposite answer (24.2% vs. 17% in 2010);
– according to 49.3% of respondents the results of the local elections are credible, while 28.5% think they are not (52.6% vs. 27.3% in 2010). One of the reasons for the little credibility of the elections is the lack of equal conditions for all candidates (20.8% of respondents share this opinion, while 45.1% don’t). In particular, according to 27.7% of respondents, the powers supported one of the candidates in their region. That is why 25.5% of respondents agree with the declarations of opposition and independent monitor groups that there were numerous infractions of laws and free-will of elections committees, while 46.4% of respondents do not agree with this (23.8% vs. 49.7% in 2010).
As for the foreign policy orientations of Belarusians the tendency to a “warming” in the relation to Europe and a “cold snap” in the relation to Russia, observed during the last years, is changing to an opposite one:
– if a referendum on the integration of Belarus and Russia was held today, 29.3% of respondents would vote “for” it and 47.7% – “against” (in December the ratio was 23.9% vs. 51.4%). In a referendum on joining the European Union 30.2% of respondents would vote “for” and 44.3% – “against” (35.9% vs. 34.6% in December), and in a hypothetical choice between integration with Russia and joining the European Union 51.5% of respondents would choose the first option and 32.9% – the second (in December the ratio was 36.4% vs. 44.6%). This “geopolitical reverse” can be observed in close and distant objectives. Thus, only 8.6% of respondents were favorable to “the appeals of certain politicians from Belarus and the West not to hold the world hockey championship in Belarus in May 2014 if human rights abuse won’t stop till then”, while 47.9% of respondents were negative about that (39.3% stay indifferent); 63.8% of respondents consider that in 10 years Belarus will become closer to Russia and only 19.2% think that Belarus will become closer to the EU;
– by the look of things the main reason for this “reverse” in regards of foreign and domestic policy is the influence of events in Ukraine. Almost 90% of Belarusians were following the political conflict which led to the overthrow of Ukraine’s President Victor Yanukovich (35.4% were following it every day and 53.5% were doing it from time to time). 36.9% of respondents assess the turbulent events in Ukraine as “a subjective process caused by political technologies from the West and by power’s weakness”, 36.8% think that it was “an objective process caused by people’s dissatisfaction of power’s policy” (in March 2005, when the first “orange revolution” was assessed, the ratio was 47% vs. 45.6%). In January, before the first blood on Maydan, 20.7% of respondents evaluated the protest positively, 39% negatively (33.9% were indifferent), 16.9% perceived those protests as a revolution and 34.4% – as chaos and mess; in the end of March 27.7% of respondents considered the overthrow of President V. Yanukovich as “a just retribution for bloodletting” and 54.7% considered it as “an uprising and a power grab”;
– after the first “orange revolution” 22.4% of respondents considered a similar progression of events possible in Belarus, while 61.2% considered it impossible; today the ratio is 12.6% vs. 76.7%. The question “Would you like events, similar to those happening in Ukraine, happen in Belarus?” was answered positively only by 3.6% of respondents; 23% answered “yes, but without violence”, and 70% answered negatively. In this conflict opposition and Euromaydan have sympathies of 21% of respondents, powers and V. Yanukovich have sympathies of 16.1% of respondents, and 56.2% do not sympathize to anyone. At the same time, “if similar events happen in Belarus today”, 15.5% are ready to actively participate on the side of Belarusian “Maydan”, 10.7% on the side of the power, and 65.3% wouldn’t participate at all. According to 36.4% of respondents further course of events in Ukraine will lead to “a new power and stabilization of the situation”, while 34.9% think that it will lead to a disintegration of Ukraine and 17.3% think that it will lead to a civil war. It is important to pay careful attention to the answers to the last question of the “Ukrainian part”: “Is a better future worth of people’s blood?”: 78% said “no” and only 14.1% said “yes”. This mindset, deeply implanted into the history and culture of an “average Belarusian”, and not just aggressive propaganda, probably explains the dynamics of public opinion during the last months.