Opinion polls: stable pessimism and growing presidents popularity
On March 29th, Independent Institute for Socio-Economic and Political Studies published March opinion polls results in Belarus. 1513 Belarusians were interviewed, statistical error is not more than 3%.
President Lukashenko’s rating started growing slowly amid preserved dissatisfaction with the quality of life in the society. The prevailing attitudes towards the authorities’ main strategic project - economic modernization - remain pessimistic, and a high level of mistrust determines the population’s negative attitude to open political protests.
The polls recorded a slight drop in the economic well-being index of Belarusians in the Q1 2013, which could be explained by 8% drop in average salaries in early 2013 amid sharp 11% increase in wages in December 2012.
In particular, “economic pessimism” has increased: those who noted deterioration of their financial situation increased from 26.7% to 28.7%. Conversely, the “economic optimists’” share has decreased from 17.4% in December to 13.3% in March. Compared with 2010 (the last presidential election year), 36.7% of the respondents said their life quality had deteriorated, 48.4% saw no change, and 12.2% reported an improvement.
A similar pessimism is relevant regarding the President Lukashenko’s statement in late 2012 about Belarus’ economic modernization. One-third believes in effective use of modernization funds, 28.1% believe that these funds will be stolen. At the same time, only 35.4% believe in technological breakthrough in Belarus’ economy in the next 10 years, and over 40% doubt it.
However, against this negative background President Lukashenko managed to slightly improve his popularity. Firstly, the confidence rating has increased: share of those trusting the president has increased from 39.1% in December 2012 to 43.4% in March 2013, and the share of disloyal decreased from 49.1% to 43.2%. Secondly, Lukashenko’s electoral rating improved from 31.5% in December to 33.4% in March. Lukashenko’s average electoral rating between elections is around 40-42%.
Willingness of Belarusians to organize and participate in open protests against the state policy is still low. In particular, the level of mutual distrust in Belarus remains high - 70% believe they should be very cautious in relationships with other people. Prior to the 2010 presidential elections the proportion was 72.2%.
Mutual distrust’s high levels atomize the society and determine Belarusians’ negative attitude to the traditional “agents of change”: 60.9% do not trust the opposition parties against trusting 13.1%. Opposition leaders’ electoral ratings do not exceed 5.1% (Nyaklyaeu), 2.8% (Sannikov and Milinkevich). Finally, 75.9% of respondents say that they are not ready to increase their participation in politics.
The Belarusian authorities regard the Catholic conference as yet another international event to promote Minsk as a global negotiating platform. Minsk’s proposal to organise a meeting between the Roman-Catholic Church and the Russian Orthodox Church is rather an image-making undertaking than a serious intention. However, the authorities could somewhat extend the opportunities for the Roman-Catholic Church in Belarus due to developing contacts with the Catholic world.
Minsk is attempting to lay out a mosaic from various international religious, political and sportive events to shape a positive image of Belarus for promoting the Helsinki 2.0 idea.
Belarus’ invitation to the head of the Holy See for a meeting with the Patriarch of the Russian Orthodox Church should be regarded as a continuation of her foreign policy efforts in shaping Minsk’s peacekeeping image and enhancing Belarus’ international weight. The Belarusian authorities are aware that their initiative is unlikely to find supporters among the leadership of the Russian Orthodox Church in Moscow. In Russia, isolationist sentiments prevail.
In addition, for domestic audiences, the authorities make up for the lack of tangible economic growth with demonstrations of growth in Minsk’s authority at international level through providing a platform for religious, sportive and other dialogues.