The respondents were asked a question concerning their trust in various societal and state institutions. This trust is a major indicator of the health of society and understanding between the government and people. The responses were the following (Table 1).

Table 1. Trust for important state and public institutions (%)

People have the most trust in schools, science, church, president and the military. It is interesting that among the major societal and government institutions, which enjoy high credit, spiritual institutes dominate over political and military organizations. It is amazing that independent think tanks are featured in this first group, far ahead of state-run research centers. Their rating among young people is highest, although 50% of respondents know nothing of their activities or found difficulty answering the question. However, among those who have information about independent think tanks, twice as many people trust in them than mistrust them. The credit to think tanks is higher than the trust to other free structures, including independent media and trade unions probably because people think they are not engaged in politics and rely on objective scholarly facts rather than biased political and ideological preferences.

A thing, which was an exception in the rating of trust to societal and state institutes among the respondents at large, became a rule in the youth rating. Most young people said they trusted independent institutions only, including independent think tanks, non-state media and the church. At the same time, the president, the military, army, government, National Assembly and many other state organizations had more opponents than supporters and got negative trust ratings. So, the second characteristic feature of the youth rating is that many more of them are pessimistic about the major state institutes, comparing to respondents at large. 28.8% of respondents mistrusted the president, 38.6% – local authorities and 44.9% police. In the youth ratings, the corresponding figures are 44.9%, 46.9% and 53.8%.

How does the trust or mistrust in authorities affect the opinions concerning the choice of scenarios to influence them? Table 2 offers the answer. Notably, the respondents were divided into three groups: Belarusian people at large, young Belarusians and the president’s opponents.

Table 2. How can the regime in Belarus may be most efficiently influenced? (%)

As it is seen from the table, people tend to prefer peaceful means of influencing the authorities. Elections occupy the first place in the rating. And although young people offered less credit to the regime, the distribution of answers for this group was none too different from the most popular answers among respondents at large. However, the distribution of answers offered by the president’s opponents was almost reverse: 25% of them believe that the most efficient ways to influence the regime are strikes and armed struggle. These people not only mistrust in the president, who is a major power institute in every country, but also think that harsh measures are needed to make the authorities listen to them. Table 3 shows whether people are ready to influence the authorities and by what means.

Table 3. What do you think about participation in public events to express your views? (%)

No more than 7% of respondents took part in each form of public politics, except the elections. It is worthy of mention, that slightly more than one third of respondents said they participated in elections and referenda, although according to the official statistics 60-70% of eligible voters do. It seems that the difference was caused by the psychological context of the question: not everyone, who took part in elections thought he was thereby publicly expressing his or her opinion.

It deserves consideration, that young people are generally more passive than Belarusians at large, but more of them are ready to act. The president’s opponents are most active and show the most readiness for action. It is understood that not everyone, who says that he is ready for violent moves, will really participate in them. Such an answer is merely an indicator of discontent and disappointment in the regime.

We might suggest that young people mistrust state and society institutes because they are oriented on their own youth organizations. There are over 70 such organizations in Belarus, and they are aimed at encouraging young people to actively participate in state affairs. However, the results of the poll run counter to this suggestion.

According to Table 4, 80% of young people or more know nothing of the existing youth organizations or do not care. At the same time, the indexes representing organizations are low but nevertheless positive, which suggests that young people tend to like youth organizations rather than dislike them. However, the youth is not really involved in their activities. Where does the paradox originate? According to leaders of and activists in youth organizations, who were polled by IISEPS earlier (see Nadezhda Yefimova’s article), one of the reasons why young people like their organizations but are not involved in their activities is because youth associations have limited access to mass media and are deprived of a chance to inform people of their actions and advertise themselves. This hampers communication between youth organizations and their potential members, not allowing young people to make their choice. Youths’ indifference can also be attributed to the fact that most of them are aware of the little role and little influence of youth organizations in the society. This is indicated by the answers of leaders of and activists in youth organizations, 55.6% of whom think they cannot participate in important decision-making on a national level through their organizations.

Table 4. Young people’s opinions of the leading youth organizations (%)

* The relation rate is calculated similarly to the trust rating

The youth has little trust in official state structures but is not involved in the activities of the existing youth organizations. It opted out of the framework suggested by the society.