Opinion polls: stable pessimism and growing presidents popularity

April 22, 2016 18:28

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.

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The Belarusian authorities have launched a discussion on the moratorium or abolition of the death penalty under the pressure of Belarusian human rights activists and international community. Apparently, the authorities are interested in monitoring public sentiments and response to the possible abolition of the capital punishment. The introduction of a moratorium on the death penalty would depend on the dynamics in Belarusian-European relations, efforts of the civil society organisations and Western capitals.

In Grodno last week, the possibility of abolishing the death penalty in Belarus or introducing a moratorium was discussed.

The Belarusian authorities are likely to continue to support the death penalty in Belarus. During his rule, President Lukashenka pardoned only one person, and courts sentenced to death more than 400 people since the early 1990s. Over the past year, Belarusian courts sentenced to death several persons and one person was executed.

There are no recent independent polls about people’s attitude about the death penalty in Belarus. Apparently, this issue is not a priority for the population. In many ways, public opinion about the abolition of the death penalty would depend on the tone of the state-owned media reports.

That said, the Belarusian Orthodox Church and the Roman-Catholic Church stand for the abolition of the capital punishment, however their efforts in this regard only limit to public statements about their stance. Simultaneously, the authorities could have influenced public opinion about the death penalty through a focused media campaign in the state media. As they did, for example, with the nuclear power plant construction in Astravets. Initially unpopular project of the NPP construction was broadly promoted in the state media, and eventually, according to independent pollsters, was accepted by most population.