(1.502 persons aged 18 and over were interviewed; margin of error doesn’t exceed 0.03)

1. The unstable character of “economic well-being” of Belarusians, revealed in the fall after spring and summer stabilization, became even more evident in the fourth quarter:
a. The ratio of those whose financial position improved over the past three months, to those whose position worsened, went down by nearly 6% – from 11.6% vs. 21.6% in September to 12.6% vs. 28.4% in December, even the number of those who said that their “position has not changed ” decreased.
b. Despite the fact that the real income of population grew up a little (average income per family member increased from $ 310 to $ 325 during the quarter), the number of Belarusians who consider the economy in crisis increased by 11.2% (in September 57.4% thought so, today – 68.6%, the opposite opinion was shared by 32.4%, today – by 22.2 % of respondents). The level of optimism in their expectations for the future decreased even more significantly: in September 28.1% of respondents believed that “the socio-economic situation in Belarus within the next few years will worsen”, today 35.9% of respondents give this answer, while the number of optimists decreased from 17.5 % to 12.5%. According to 38.6% of respondents “for Belarus the last year was more difficult than the previous one” and only 10.1% said that the year was “easier”.
c. Personal experience leads more and more people to understanding the essence of the “Belarusian economic model”. Thus, according to 28.7%, “without the help of Russia there would be no progress in the Belarusian economy”, and 34.1% of respondents considered that “there is no progress in the Belarusian economy” on the whole, only 30. 0% agreed that “the progress of the Belarusian economy is explained by internal reasons; Russian aid is an important but not a decisive factor”. Many people understand how this “model” influences the labor relations. Thus, to the question: ” During a recent study of the labor market and labor relations in Belarus, one young man said: “The employer is trying to cheat the employee, and the employee is trying to cheat the employer. This is a nature law.” Do you agree with these words?” half of the respondents answered affirmatively (while 42% disagreed). Therefore, almost 60% of respondents believe that “it is necessary to carry out market-oriented reforms in Belarus” (27.8% do not agree with that).
d. As a result, just like during the crisis year 2011, the number of those who consider that “in general the state of things in our country is developing in the right direction” decreases more and more in comparison with those who give the opposite answer – in September the ratio was 39.1% vs. 46.7%, today – 31.9% vs. 54.1%.

2. The worsening of the “economic well-being” of Belarusians inevitably affected their attitude to the government:
a. There is a considerable decrease in public confidence in almost all government institutions: in September the army is trusted by 52.8%, the courts – by 40.8% , the state media – by 38.1% , the KGB – by 37.2% , the General Prosecutor’s office – by 37.8 %, the government – by 35%, the police – by 37.4% the Federation of Trade-Unions – by 34.1% , the National Assembly – by 33.1% , the local executive committees – by 30.5%; in December the numbers are as follows: 44.1% , 34.9% , 31.6% , 33.9% , 34.5%, 29.4%, 34.9%, 30%, 31.5%, 28.6% respectively. While in September 39.1% of respondents believed that it was the government to blame for the current economic crisis, and 17.2% thought that it was the Parliament, today respectively 42% and 19.6% of respondents think so.
b. It is even more important that, just like after the social and economic crisis of 2011, these moods begin to be transferred to the head of state. Practically all of recent A. Lukashenko’s important statements concerning economic and social situation in the country caused disagreement among the majority of the population. Thus, evaluating his statement that “the accelerated modernization of enterprises in 2013 is the pledge of strengthening of the Belarusian statehood and growth of people’s well-being”, 59% of respondents told that “the major part of the plan for modernization of enterprises in 2013 has actually failed” (25.4% adhere to the opposite point of view). 61.3% disagreed with his slogan “If you are going to run all day long from one exchange office to another and buy foreign currency, you yourself will lead to the weakening of the national currency” (34.7% agreed with him). To his offer “to charge each Belarusian citizen going abroad a fee of $100” 64.7% of respondents reacted negatively (only 14.1% were positive about it). With his statement that “there is no single budget ruble” in the new Palace of Independence being built in Minsk disagreed 60% (21.9% agreed). The initiative to introduce a tax on the unemployed and the state duty for the permission for a vehicle to participate in traffic was approved only by 22.5% of respondents (and not approved by 60.5% of them).
c. The growing disagreement with the socio-economic policy of the president begins to extend on the attitude towards him. For example, evaluating what is the “political strategy of the country leaders headed by President Alexander Lukashenko” 36% of respondents answered that it is “to remain in power and to control the situation in the country as long as possible”, 25.3% think that it means “to maintain public order and political stability”, 22.6% – “to improve progressively the quality of life of citizens” and 22.5% think that there is “no strategy at all”. For the first time since December 2011 the number of respondents who believe that after A. Lukashenko’s resignation from the post of the president life in Belarus will improve, exceeded the number of those who share the opposite opinion – 25.2% vs. 21.5% (in December 2012 it was 24.5% vs. 25.9%).
d. For the first time this year the number of those who do not trust the president significantly exceeded the number of those who trust him – 47.5% vs. 37.7% (in March the ratio was 43.2% vs. 43.4%, in June – 40.6% vs. 48.9%, in September – 36.7% vs. 46.7%). But the main thing is that the electoral rating of A. Lukashenko noticeably declines for the first time since March 2012 – in June 2012 29.7% of respondents were ready to vote for him, in December – 31.5%, in March 2013 – 33.4% , in June – 37.3%, in September – 42.6%, and today again only 34.8%. This rating is also confirmed by the answers to a closed question, according to which 32.6% of respondents are ready to vote for the incumbent president.
e. However, it must be kept in mind that this survey was conducted before the allocation of a 2-milliard credit, signing of the gas contract for 2014 and other preferences granted recently to Belarus by Russia. It is quite probable that after “patching the holes” in the budget with their help, Belarusian authorities will manage to stabilize the situation again for some time.

3. How much does the worsening of “economic well-being” and Belarusians’ attitude towards the government increase their readiness for changes, including support for the opposition?
a. On the one hand, the number of those who considers themselves in opposition to the present power increased considerably – if in September such answer was given by 14.2% of respondents, today the share is 18.9% (in December, 2012 the share was 21.3%). On the other hand the growth of national dissatisfaction still does not turn into the support of opposition. Thus, the ratio of those who trust and do not trust to oppositional political parties remain almost invariable – 15.8% vs. 63.4% (in September the ratio was 15.3% vs. 62.8%). Answering the already mentioned closed question: “If there was a presidential election today, for which candidate would you vote?” only 13.9% of respondents told “for the representative of opposition”, and the major part of respondents chose the answer “for any other candidate”, i.e. neither for the power, nor for the opposition.
b. Electoral ratings of oppositional leaders don’t grow or even decrease (according to an open question) – 3.2% are ready to vote today for A. Sannikov (in September it was 3.1%), for A. Lebedko – 0.7% (1.4%), for V. Rimashevsky – 0.3% (0.6%). A noticeable rating increase is observed only for the leader of the civil campaign “Tell the truth” V. Neklyaev: if in September 5.2% of respondents were ready to vote for him, today the share is 7.1%. Practically all the votes of those who are disappointed in A. Lukashenko “went” to the share of those who had difficulties in answering this question or didn’t answer it at all – if in September this share was of 31.9%, today it is of 37.8%.
c. The reasons for this situation were mentioned in IISEPS publications more than once: it is the infinite pressure of the authorities upon all dissentients, the tradition of “a powerful hand” lying deep in the history and culture, and many other things. But one of the most important reasons lies not in “objective circumstances”, but in the opposition itself. For example, 77.6% of respondents disagreed with the much-talked-of statement of Y. Belenky, one of the heads of the Conservative Christian Party of the Belarusian People’s Front: “If you speak Russian, you are in the occupational army, you shoot at your own nation” (only15% agreed). Belarusians estimate almost in the same way the endless debates of opposition about participation or nonparticipation in elections: over 60% of respondents consider as a wrong step the intention of a part of opposition to nominate the candidates on the upcoming local elections at first, and then to withdraw them before the voting (18.1% called it a wise step).

4. We should dwell upon the attitude towards the forthcoming elections to local Soviets, because some of the opposition structures are going to use them in order to “face the people” and to enhance their role in the socio-political process:
a. Despite the obvious demotion of local Soviets in the socio-political process, over 55% of respondents believe that they influence their lives to a certain extent (about 40% said that they had “no influence”), one-third of them know who is the member of the local Soviet of their district, and more than a quarter believe that ” their powers should be extended”.
b. 44% of respondents are going to vote on the elections in March, 2014 (39.1% are not going, and about 17% had difficulties or didn’t answer this question). Almost 44% of respondents said that they had voted on the elections in April, 2010, the same share of them did not vote (and about 12% don’t remember). The main reasons of those who are not going to vote are the disbelief in the role of local Soviets (“they do not decide anything as authorities”) – 23.3%, and in the integrity of these elections – 20.3%.
c. The fact that only 30.2% are going to vote today for candidates supporting A. Lukashenko, while 21.9% are going to vote for A. Lukashenko’s opponents and 34.4% – for “other candidates”, shows the potential possibilities for the opposition. In comparison with April, 2010 the readiness to vote for alternative candidates increased obviously – the ratio of these figures was 34.6% vs. 10% vs. 25.3% then. Among the answers to the question: “What organization/campaign candidate are you ready to vote for on the local elections?” more votes were given to the civil campaign “Tell the Truth / The Civil Contract” (9.9%), the movement “For Freedom” (6.7%) and the public association “Belaya Rus” (6.6%).

5. As for the foreign policy orientations of Belarusians apparently there is a gradual “warming” in the relation to Europe and a “cold snap” in the relation to Russia:
a. If a referendum on the integration of Belarus and Russia was held today, 23.9% of respondents would vote “for” it and 51.4% – “against” (in September the ratio was 27.6% vs. 46.9%). In a referendum on joining the European Union 35.9 % of respondents would vote “for” and 34.6% – against (37.8% vs. 37.5% in September), and in a hypothetical choice between integration with Russia and joining the European Union 36.6% of respondents would choose the first option and 44.6% – the second (in June the ratio was 35.6% vs. 42.4%).
b. Taking into account the deep cultural and historical communion of the majority of Belarusians with Russia and the limited experience of interaction with the European culture, this process does not seem obvious and requires deeper studies. Perhaps this is related to the way the Belarusian state propaganda presents the bilateral relations and the most important events in the neighboring country in recent years. Thus, evaluating the arrest of the Russian company Uralkali CEO V. Baumgertner, who was accused of harming the Belarusian company Belaruskali, almost 43% of respondents consider it a fair, lawful measure (25.2% share the opposite opinion). The share of those, who believe that the “potash conflict” arose due to the fault of the Russian side, is twice as much as of those who blame the Belarusian side. Almost 59% of respondents consider improbable or completely exclude the possibility of ethnic clashes in Belarus similar to those that have happened recently in Biryulevo district in Moscow (38.5% find it possible or inevitable), and 39% regard negatively the invitation to Russian people to come to Belarus for a permanent residence – “there shouldn’t be a lot of newcomers” (23.8% are positive, considering that Belarus needs “working hands”). The “cold snap” in the relation to Russia takes place in spite of the fact that the majority of the population understands economic benefits of the cooperation with the eastern neighbor. Russia took the second place among the forces on which respondents set their hopes for getting Belarus out of crisis: 36.8% rely on the president, 27.8% – on Russia, 25.7% – on businessmen (in September the figures were 34.1%, 24% and 28.8% respectively).
c. At the same time, the EU initiatives aimed on rapprochement with Belarus are being perceived more positively by many Belarusians. For example, evaluating the results of the recent summit of the Eastern Partnership in Vilnius, where “Moldova and Georgia signed agreements on joining the free-trade zone with the EU and Belarus remained aside from the process because of the problems with democracy and human rights”, the majority of respondents (44.5%) said that “our country has to change its policy and approach the EU as well”, only 21.7% do not agree with this (26.6% were indifferent to the matter). Evaluating the recent statement by the Polish ambassador in Belarus that his country “is ready not only to reduce the cost, but to completely cancel visas for Belarusians, and from now on the solution to this question depends only on the Belarusian authorities, who have to sign a special agreement with the EU”, 54.5% supported this proposal (16.8% did not support, 24.6 % were indifferent). All this confirms the IISEPS conclusion that the geopolitical choice for the majority of Belarusians is a multilevel and multicomponent process, determined by the current policy, the fundamental values and the real opportunities.