Level of public attention to annual messages of A. Lukashenko remains almost unchanged (Graph 1). Even turbulent events in March 2014 (“Crimeaisours”) didn’t change anything. They didn’t increase the share of those who want to know official evaluations of current events. This indifference might be related to the fact that majority of Belarusians were in captivity of Russian propaganda and thus were not interested in local interpretations of Ukrainian events.
Graph 1 allows us to evaluate Belarusians’ interest to political information depending on socio-demographic characteristics. The most apolitical are the representatives of the younger age group (18-29 years old). Only in this group level of awareness turned out to be lower than average – and substantially lower: 46.6% vs. 61%. Apolitical character of younger generation formed in the post-Soviet times doesn’t really surprise anyone anymore.
In the next age group this index amounted to 61.8%. The list was naturally topped by retired people (60 years old and older) – 69.1%.
There are a lot of people with low level of education among retired people. That is why Belarusians with primary education were second to people with university diplomas with a very small gap of 2.8 points: 68.8% vs.71.6%. It should be noted that such “equality” in politically charged questions is very rare.
And the fact that this question is indeed politically charged is confirmed by the dependence between the distribution of answers and respondents’ attitude to A. Lukashenko. It is easy to guess that his supporters “won” over his opponents: 67.6% vs. 56.3%.
Answers to the question of Table 1 are sorted according to the general level of agreement of respondents with the statements A. Lukashenko made during the statement, i.e. they are sorted by the first column.
Table 1. Distribution of answers to the question: “How do you relate to the following statements, which A. Lukashenko made during the message?” depending on the level of trust to the head of state, %
Variant of answer
Attitude to A. Lukashenko
Don’t trust
Economy is the guarantor of Belarusian independence, the pledge of peace and the foundation of future
We don’t need confrontation inside of our country. That is why we need to hold discussions with everyone
Development of small and medium business is the basis of prospect of economy and of stability of the state
There are only two countries (Belarus and Russia), that still piously revere the Great Victory
External factors are the reason of difficult situation in Belarusian economy
Russians are our people, and we are their people. We are brothers
Internal and external situation around Belarus need active ideological work
In case of aggravation of the situation half a million of Belarusians might be called to active duty. This is enough to resist any aggressive ideas
Belarusian political system proved its efficiency; its distinguished feature is direct sovereignty of the people
Food prices are very low in Belarus
The first place is taken by the statement on economy as the guarantor of independence of Belarus and the foundation of the future. The head of state has recently made repeated statements on this topic, and this should be regarded as a circumstantial evidence of the depth of economic crisis. Let us remind you: 72% of Belarusians think that economy is in crisis. This fact probably explains the high level of consent among both supporters and opponents of A. Lukashenko.
Now let’s look at the end of the table. Only 16.3% of respondents (5.7% among A. Lukashenko’s opponents) agreed with his statement on low food prices. This is what happens when you judge life looking at it from the window of the Palace of Independence!
Another two statements of the head of state received more than a half of votes in their support. Majority of Belarusians don’t want a confrontation in the country. High level of agreement with this statement is obviously stimulated by the events in Ukraine. Much more surprising is the level of agreement with leading input of small and medium business in the prospect of economy and of stability of the state. It should be noted that recently power has ripped its hat to small and medium businesses more than once, but there is still no serious support. It should be emphasized that “coefficient of split” in society (ratio of answers of supporters and opponents of A. Lukashenko) turned out to be the lowest for this statement – 1:1.
Maximal coefficient of split (6.2) was registered in relation to the statement on efficiency of Belarusian political system and its distinguished feature – direct sovereignty of the people. For other statements of the head of state coefficient of split didn’t exceed 2.
One of central topics of Message-2014 was fighting against corruption, which is confirmed by the number of entries of words starting with corrupt – approximately 30 times. A year has passed, and popularity of these words dropped by the factor of 10! That is why when we were compiling Table 1 we couldn’t find a suitable statement on corruption. Nevertheless, there are no doubts that this topic is still important. Table 2 allows us to compare A. Lukashenko’s success in fighting “this evil” with success of his Russian colleague.
Table 2. Distribution of answers to the question: “Which statement about corruption in Belarus do you agree with?”, %
Variant of answer
A. Lukashenko (V. Putin) will succeed in fighting against corruption after a serious purge of high-ranked officials and after introduction of more serious penalties for such crimes
A. Lukashenko (V. Putin) will fight against corruption, but it is not likely that he will succeed, as corruption in Belarus (Russia) is ineradicable>
It is difficult for A. Lukashenko (V. Putin) to fight against corruption as he depends on corrupted officials himself
A. Lukashenko (V. Putin) won’t really fight against corruption, because he is interested in it in one or another way
* According to Levada-Center data
We deliberately included results of two Russian surveys. They allow us to evaluate the influence of “Crimeaisours” on public opinion’s perception of efficiency of the head of state in a question which doesn’t directly relate to events in Ukraine. Unfortunately, this question wasn’t asked in Belarus before March 2014.
In April 2013 only 20% of Russians were optimistic about V. Putin’s ability to succeed in fighting corruption. In May 2015 the share of optimists was multiplied by 1.5! At the same time, the share of those who think that Russian President is interested in corruption was divided by 2. As a result, today V. Putin is more convincing in the role of implacable fighter of corruption than A. Lukashenko.
Table 2 demonstrates how subjective are evaluation of public opinion, how dependent they are on factors, which have no direct relation to specific questions.
Belarusians’ evaluations of A. Lukashenko’s statements, made during Message-2015, allow us to make a conclusion that the head of state gradually loses his ability to proceed “based on life”. As a result his efforts on keeping stability in Belarus at any price are transforming into a source of risk, a source of future perturbations.