IISEPS News – ISSN 1822-5535 (Printing), ISSN 1822-5543 (ONLINE),
N 1 (63), 2012




The crisis is not an obstacle to hopes
A “tilting doll”: dynamics of A. Lukashenko’s popularity rating
Tacit polarization
Ideal citizens of a nonideal state
The majority still does not hear anything
Victory as a uniting symbol of split society
Once again about the disabled
Wind from the East
Twenty years later
A sociological portrait of supporters of the civil campaign “Our House” and its leade

Some results of the opinion poll conducted in March-2012


Alexander Feduta, Ph.D., political observer
“Civil society in Belarus: the strongest survives”


Sociology: crisis of confidence

Oleg Manaev is 60!


Dear readers!


In the current issue of the analytic bulletin “IISEPS News” we offer to your attention materials reflecting the most important results of the Institute research in the first quarter of 2012.
“Economic feeling” of Belarusians continues to stabilize: although the number of those whose financial standing has improved for the last three months is still much less than the number of those whose financial standing has become worse, the ratio of these indices is much better than it used to be in December, to say nothing about September. The number of those who think that Belarusian economy is in crisis has decreased appreciably. This stabilization leads to a visible rise in “socio-economic optimism”: the number of those who expect worsening of the socio-economic situation in Belarus within the next few years has decreased by 20% for six months. At the same time the optimism has a rather cautious character: less than 35% of respondents believe A. Lukashenko’s promise that “the pay level of working people that had existed before the crisis would be restored within a year or a year and a half”.
Slow but obvious stabilization of the Belarusians’ “economic feeling” was followed by stabilization of their attitude to the president. Thus, the number of those who consider him the main person responsible for the present crisis in the country has decreased by 12%. Today the greatest number of respondents pin their hopes for a way out of the crisis exactly on him. The “scale-up trend” has told upon the rating of the president in the most obvious manner: in September 2011 it sank to 20.5% from 53% in December 2010, then it grew to 24.9% in December 2011 and today it constitutes 34.5%. At that the change is being observed along all the indices. That is why assessment of the “general state of things in the country” becomes more and more positive: if in September 68.5% believed it was developing “in the wrong direction”, then today 52.5% of respondents adhere to this opinion (“in the right direction” – 17% and 35.3% respectively).
As it has been already mentioned more than once, in spite of crises and “adventures of the rating”, protest potential in Belarusian society remains virtually immutable for many years, and lately it has been decreasing rather than growing. Thus the number of those who consider themselves in opposition to the present authorities has decreased by 5% for half a year. 24.6% are ready to participate in politics more actively (“definitely/to some extent yes”), and 73.1% – “more likely/definitely no”. If we compare the protest potential with the one of twenty years ago, the trend turns out to be obviously “decreasing”: according to the data of the survey held in April 1992, 29.4% of respondents participated in meetings and 8.1% – in strikes; today – 16.2% and 1.7% respectively. Elections still remain the most real means of expressing one’s opinion and influencing authorities; approximately 10% treat the idea of boycotting the forthcoming autumn parliamentary election positively. An alternative as represented by opposition still remains “beyond the horizon” for the absolute majority of voters: 17% trust opposition political parties, 61.3% do not trust them and ratings of the most well-known opposition leaders do not exceed 6-7%.
On the other hand, stabilization of the “economic feeling” and the president’s rating that is being observed against the modest protest potential does not mean that everything is “resuming its normal course” after the crisis. Our opinion polls have already shown that Belarusians worry more and more about the unfair and even unlawful regard for the people on the part of authorities. Today more people feel unprotected from the possible arbitrary rule on the part of authorities than protected from them (51.1% vs. 45.5%). When answering an open-end question “Who, in your opinion, most of all breaches human rights in Belarus?” most respondents (35%) said “authorities” and “law-enforcement agencies” (11.3%). Negative experience in communicating with authorities inevitably “pushes out” into the sphere of politics even those who are far away from them. Thus answering the question about the attitude to the release of people convicted for participation in the manifestation after the election of 2010, most respondents (44.5%) said “these people are not guilty of anything, they should be released”. The number of Belarusians who agree that the death penalty should be abolished in the country has grown to 49.7% from 36.8% in December 2009 (the number of those who are against its abolition has decreased from 54.6% to 40.8%).
Stabilization of the “economic feeling” also told upon the foreign-policy orientations of Belarusians. If the ratio of people ready to choose integration with Russia or joining the European Union at a hypothetical referendum made up 41.5% vs. 42% in September, then today it is 47% vs. 37.3%. Even people not interested in politics know thanks to whose help economic stabilization has ensued. However, the number of respondents who assessed positively extending of the EU and the USA sanctions against “Belarusian state officials who are held responsible for breaching democracy and human rights”, has grown during the year from 17.5% to 24%. If we add to it the number of those who are indifferent to them (37%), it is doubtful whether the attempts of authorities “to raise the people against sanctions” will succeed.
As usual, for those readers who are more interested in our figures than in assessments we afford ground for analyzing the research results on their own by means of counting up in terms of the main socio-demographic characteristics.
The “Open Forum” rubric presents an interview with Alexander Feduta, a well-known writer of political essays and public figure, who shares his ideas about the problems and prospects of development of Belarusian civil society.
As an exception our “Bookshelf” rubric presents to the readers an unusual text – a controversy between the well-known Russian experts Georgy Satarov and Lev Gudkov on pages of “Novaya Gazeta”. We have done it because it deals with an extremely important problem that has been disturbing Belarusians for a long time and which became particularly pressing after the presidential election of 2010: about the role of sociology in reflecting and forming public opinion.
All comments and feedbacks are as usual welcome!