Public still very critical of old-age pension levels

Over four-fifths of the population (83 %) do not consider the level of old-age pensions in this country to be adequate. According to almost three-quarters of citizens (74 %), the average old-age pension fails to cover the basic needs of the elderly. Four-fifths of the population (81 %) do not think that the current pension system allows people to live in dignity in their old age. Over three-fifths of respondents (63 %) believe that the political leadership of the country underestimates the provision of social security to citizens. There have been no fundamental changes in public perception of this issue since the May 2015 survey.

This survey was conducted by the STEM non-profit institute (www.stem.cz) on a representative sample of the Czech population aged 18 and over from 13 to 21 June 2016. Respondents were selected using a quota sampling method, with some 1,061 people taking part in the survey.

Czech politicians have given relatively little attention to pension policy in recent years, and any consideration given to this issue has been rather careless and hit and miss and linked primarily to increasing current pension levels alone. No significant changes are actually taking place in the area of pension policy. It is not surprising, then, that Czech public opinion has been critical of the current pension system for a long time. Over four-fifths of citizens (83 %) consider the current pensions paid out to senior citizens to be inadequate. A three-quarters majority (74 %) believes that the average old-age pension is insufficient to cover the basic needs of pensioners. Furthermore, four-fifths of respondents (81 %) do not think that the current pension system enables people to spend their old age in a dignified manner.

Opinions on old-age pensions (data in %)

Source: STEM, Trends 6/2016, 1061 respondents

According to the STEM surveys conducted between 1998 and 2002, public opinion on old-age pensions for that period was relatively stable. During those years the majority of citizens were critical of pension levels and their inadequacy in terms of allowing older people to live in dignity. The public was divided into two camps on whether pensions were sufficient to cover basic everyday needs. Since 2003, however, public criticism has been escalating, and was particularly strong in the May 2008 survey. The subsequent improvement in public attitudes towards pension levels ended in 2011, with public satisfaction at its lowest in the November 2014 survey. Since then, surveys have found only a partial improvement in attitudes towards the adequacy of pensions and the issue of whether pensions, at their current level, cover the basic needs of pensioners.

“Do you think that old-age pensions in the Czech Republic are currently adequate?”
(sum of “definitely yes” + “somewhat yes” answers in %)
Source: STEM, Social Protection 2/1998, Trends 2001-2016

“In your opinion, is the average old-age pension adequate to cover pensioners’ basic needs?” (sum of “definitely yes” + “somewhat yes” answers in %)
Source: STEM, Social Protection 2/1998, Trends 2001-2016

 

“Do you think that the current pension system allows people to live in dignity in their old age?”
(sum of “definitely yes” + “somewhat yes” answers in %)
Source: STEM, Social Protection 2/1998, Trends 2002-2016

Statistical analysis shows that a somewhat greater proportion of younger people consider pensions to be adequate, but even among this group, this view is clearly in the minority. In terms of the other questions put to respondents, we did not find any significant age-related differences.

“Do you think that old-age pensions in the Czech Republic are currently adequate?”

Source: STEM, Trends 6/2016, 1061 respondents

However, respondents’ opinions on the pensions system differed considerably according to their political orientation. Communist party (KSČM) supporters are most critical. By contrast, a somewhat higher proportion of Christian Democrat (KDU-ČSL) supporters believe that old-age pensions are adequate, are sufficient to cover the basic needs of pensioners and that the current system enables people to live in dignity when they are older. On the issue of whether or not current pension rates are adequate to cover day-to-day needs, supporters of the centrist ANO party and conservative TOP 09 concur with Christian Democrat supporters.

Opinions on old-age pensions
By political party preference
(proportion of “definitely yes” + “somewhat yes” answers in %)
Source: STEM, Trends 6/2016, 1061 respondents

Note: Given their low representation in the group, figures for ODS, TOP 09 and KDU-ČSL supporters are only approximate.

ČSSD is the ruling Czech Socialist Democratic Party; ANO is a centrist party and one of the junior coalition partners; KDU-ČSL is the Christian Democrats and one of junior coalition partners; TOP 09 is a conservative opposition party; ODS is the liberal-conservative Civic Democratic Party, a right-wing opposition party; KSČM (Communist Party of Bohemia and Moravia).

To conclude, we will look once again at the findings related more generally to the issue of social protection policy. Over three-fifths of citizens (63 %) believe that the current political leadership underestimates the provision of social security (definitely yes: 26 %, somewhat yes: 27 %, somewhat no: 29 %, definitely no: 8 %). This opinion is currently held by somewhat fewer people than during the economic crisis, but nonetheless the majority of citizens still believe this to be the case.

“Do you think that the current political leadership underestimates the provision of social security to the population?”
(sum of “definitely yes” + “somewhat yes” answers in %)
Source: STEM, Trends 1993-2016

How do supporters of the various political parties rate the approach taken by the government to the issue of social protection? Communist Party (KSČM) are most critical, followed by Civic Democrat (ODS) supporters. By contrast, supporters of the opposition conservative TOP 09 party are least likely to believe that the current government underestimates the provision of social security. Supporters of the governing parties agree on this issue, although a slight majority of them are of the view that the political leadership is not focusing enough on social protection issues.

“Do you think that the current political leadership underestimates the provision of social security to the population?”
By political party preference (proportion of “definitely yes” + “somewhat yes” answers in %)
Source: STEM, Trends 6/2016, 1061 respondents

Note: Given their low representation in the group, figures for ODS, TOP 09 and KDU-ČSL supporters are only approximate.

ČSSD is the ruling Czech Socialist Democratic Party; ANO is centrist party and one of the junior coalition partners; KDU-ČSL is the Christian Democrats and one of junior coalition partners; TOP 09 is a conservative opposition party; ODS is the liberal-conservative Civic Democratic Party, a right-wing opposition party; KSČM (Communist Party of Bohemia and Moravia).


Public opinion on the possible settling of refugee families in towns and villages around the country

The Czech public is divided on whether settling two or three refugee families from abroad would lead to serious problems in the town or village in which they would take up permanent residence: approximately half the population (49 %) believes that this would cause serious problems; the other half (51 %), by contrast, does not anticipate any such problems. These opinions are closely linked to the size of respondents’ place of residence; the higher the population, the lower the proportion of people who would expect serious problems to arise as a result of the arrival of refugee families. A three-fifths majority of Czech citizens (61 %) believe that if hypothetically refugee families were to be settled permanently in their community, it would be better if family members tried as much as possible to get to know the locals and fit into the community.

This survey was conducted by the STEM non-profit institute (www.stem.cz) on a representative sample of the Czech population aged 18 and over from 4 to 13 May 2016. Respondents were selected using a quota sampling method, with some 1,292 people taking part in the survey.

In several of its surveys, STEM has already looked at the topic of refugees and Czech attitudes towards the migrant crisis in Europe. In its May survey, STEM focuses on the issue of refugees from a different angle. We have sought to take a topic presented by the media and transfer it to a context closer to everyday life, i.e. the local community and neighbourhood.

The responses to the first question in the survey show that public opinion is divided, with roughly half the population (49 %) indicating that they would have serious problems with a situation whereby two or three refugee families settled permanently in their town/village and the other half (51 %), by contrast, indicating they would not regard this to be a serious problem.

Source: STEM, Trends 2016/5, 1292 respondents

The less-educated, blue-collar workers, white-collar workers and people living in worse-off households made up a greater proportion of those who would have a serious problem with refugees living in their neighbourhood. As expected, this opinion is also more prevalent among people from smaller towns and villages where there are real “neighbourhoods” and the potential impact on life in the community would be greater compared with in towns or cities.

*Secondary School Leaving Certificate, equiv.
A Levels in the UK, High School Diploma in the US
Source: STEM, Trends 2016/5, 1292 respondents

Source: STEM, Trends 2016/5, 1292 respondents

Of the possible approaches that refugee families could take to life in Czech towns or villages, a three-fifths majority of Czech citizens (61 %) said it would suit them better if the new residents tried to become assimilated as much as possible.

Source: STEM, Trends 2016/5, 1292 respondents

In this case, the level of education of respondents again had a substantial impact on opinion. A significantly larger proportion of citizens with a lower level of education would welcome a situation whereby refugees lived more within their family units and kept to themselves. On this issue, the size of respondents’ place of residence had no clear-cut impact on attitudes, with the largest proportion of those in favour of refugees becoming assimilated in local communities being among residents of towns with a population of over 90,000 inhabitants (71 %). Nonetheless, only a slightly lower proportion of residents of towns with a population of 20,000 – 90,000 (63 %) were of the same opinion, as were inhabitants of the country’s smallest villages (of up to one thousand inhabitants) at 60 %.

*Secondary School Leaving Certificate, equiv.
A Levels in the UK, High School Diploma in the US
Source: STEM, Trends 2016/5, 1292 respondents

Source: STEM, Trends 2016/5, 1292 respondents

The vast majority of those who are not afraid that serious problems would arise if refugees settled in their communities would favour the refugees getting to know the locals and becoming assimilated in the community. There is no clear-cut opinion among the group who anticipate problems arising, although a slight majority are of the view that refugees should keep to themselves and live within their family units.

Source: STEM, Trends 2016/5, 1292 respondents

 


The majority of Czechs believe the state should not increase unemployment benefits

Over the long term a three-quarters majority of the population (76 %) has held the view that in order to tackle unemployment the state should provide only minimal benefits to force people to find work. A similar proportion of citizens (73 %) do not believe that current levels of unemployment and social benefits provide adequate incentive for unemployed people to look for work. Two-thirds of citizens (69 %) do not think that the state should increase unemployment benefits.

This survey was conducted by the STEM non-profit institute (www.stem.cz) on a representative sample of the Czech population aged 18 and over from 4 to 13 May 2016. Respondents were selected using a quota sampling method, with some 1,292 people taking part in the survey.

Since the beginning of the nineties STEM has been monitoring public opinion on state policy to tackle unemployment through the provision of social and unemployment benefits. Over the years, the majority of Czechs have been inclined to believe that the level of state benefits should provide sufficient incentive for the unemployed to seek work but that such benefits should not be set at a level which would lower the living standards of unemployed people too much.

However, do Czech citizens believe that unemployment and social benefits at their current level provide adequate incentive for people who are unemployed to seek work? According to a three-quarters majority of respondents (73 %), current levels of unemployment and social benefits do not provide such an incentive. The majority of people (69 %) also believe that the state should not increase unemployment benefits.

Source: STEM, Economic Forecast 1991-92, Trends 1993-2016

Source: STEM, Trendy 2016/5, 1292 respondents

According to the surveys conducted by STEM, in the years 2004 to 2007 roughly one quarter of citizens considered the level of benefits provided to unemployed individuals to be adequate incentive to look for a job. In 2008 – when Mirek Topolánek’s government was responsible for the policy to tackle unemployment – this proportion increased somewhat, to two-fifths of the population. This remained more or less stable also in the years that followed, with some variations. However, since 2013 the proportion of people who believe that current levels of unemployment and social benefits provide adequate incentive for the jobless to look for work has been decreasing, and it is currently at the same level as it was roughly ten years ago.

 

Source: STEM, Trends 2004-2016

In the period since 2009 the proportion of the public who agree that the state should increase unemployment benefits has remained relatively stable at just below the forty percent mark. Nonetheless, STEM’s current data indicates a substantial drop in the proportion of people who would be in favour of an increase in unemployment benefits. This development is therefore consistent with STEM’s other findings which reflect developments on the employment market and show that the public currently considers the problem of unemployment to be less acute than in the past.

Source: STEM, Trends 1999-2016

Older people, university graduates and skilled professionals are more likely to believe that current levels of unemployment benefits do not provide enough incentive to look for work and that the state should not increase unemployment benefits.

Source: STEM, Trendy 2016/5, 1292 respondents

*Secondary School Leaving Certificate, equiv. A Levels in the UK, High School Diploma in the US

 

Source: STEM, Trends 2016/5, 1292 respondents

Source: STEM, Trends 2016/5, 1292 respondents (674 employees)

Among those who have a strong fear of unemployment there is a significantly higher proportion who would welcome an increase in unemployment benefits by the state. However, unlike in the past, this is not even the majority opinion among this group.

Source: STEM, Trends 2016  /5, 1292 respondents


More people than before consider the unemployed as people who have no real interest in finding work

A clear majority of the public (70 %) believes that the state should guarantee employment for those who wish to work. Two-thirds of citizens (59 %) consider a certain level of unemployment to be a positive thing which leads to a greater respect for work. Over half the population (57 %) believes that the majority of people who are unemployed have no real interest in working, a significant increase since our last survey in 2014 (up 18 percentage points).

This survey was conducted by the STEM non-profit institute (www.stem.cz) on a representative sample of the Czech population aged 18 and over from 4 to 13 May 2016. Respondents were selected using a quota sampling method, with some 1,292 people taking part in the survey.

In the context of positive developments in employment in the Czech Republic and the decline in fear of unemployment among economically active citizens, it is interesting to take a look at current attitudes towards the unemployed and towards the role of the state with regard to the issue of unemployment.

A large majority of the Czech population (70 %) is inclined to believe that the state should take on an active role in tackling the problem of unemployment; in effect, they believe that the state should guarantee jobs. A third of respondents are firmly of this opinion. A roughly three-fifths majority of citizens (59 %) consider a certain level of unemployment to be a positive phenomenon which encourages people to take greater responsibility and increases respect for work. A similar proportion (57 %) believe that the majority of unemployed are people who are not interested in working.

Source: STEM, Trends 2016/5, 1292 respondents

STEM has been monitoring public attitudes towards unemployment and the unemployed for 23 years now. The surveys conducted over the years have shown that attitudes towards this issue have remained relatively consistent in recent years. Opinions on whether the state should be obliged to guarantee jobs for those who wish to work have remained most stable. In 1993 the vast majority of people (roughly 80 %) shared the opinion that a certain level of unemployment was a positive phenomenon. As unemployment increased, however, this proportion gradually decreased. Up until 2010 this proportion remained above the 60% mark, whereas in recent years it has been slightly under 60 percent.

The dominant attitude following the establishment of the independent Czech Republic and again during the economic boom years of 2007 and 2008 was that the unemployed were people who were not really interested in finding a job. From 2009 onwards this was the minority opinion (at roughly 40 %). However, the current survey indicates a substantial shift in opinion and – similar to in 1993 – a majority of citizens now believe that most of those who are unemployed are not really interested in finding work.

Source: STEM, Trends 1993-2016

The survey found that the over 60s (62 %), students (61 %), pensioners (62 %), and white-collar workers (61 %) are somewhat more inclined to believe that the majority of unemployed are not really interested in finding work. As we have already pointed out, the proportion of people who agree with this opinion is now significantly higher than for our last survey, conducted in May 2014. A comparable increase has been recorded across the various socio-demographic groups, the only exception being among blue-collar workers where the increase was less pronounced (only 7 percentage points).

University graduates and employees who are experts or specialists in their field are less inclined to believe that the state has the obligation to guarantee jobs (although, even in this category, a slight majority believe so: 57 % and 58 %, respectively). By contrast, university graduates are significantly more often inclined than those with a primary education or apprenticeship to believe that unemployment makes people value work more and is therefore a positive phenomenon.

Source: STEM, Trends 2016/5, 1292 respondents
*Secondary School Leaving Certificate, equiv.
A Levels in the UK, High School Diploma in the US

Attitudes towards unemployment and the unemployed are also influenced by political orientation. On one side of the political spectrum, left-wing citizens emphasise an obligation on the part of the state to guarantee jobs and are less likely to consider the unemployed as people who have no real interest in finding work and unemployment as a positive phenomenon. By contrast, right-wing citizens are of the opposite opinion.

Source: STEM, Trends 2016/5, 1292 respondents

 


Fear of unemployment continues to decline

Only slightly over half the economically active population (54 %) fears unemployment. A three-quarters majority of people of working age would be willing to work outside their area of qualification or expertise if faced with the prospect of losing their job (75 %) or, indeed, would even be prepared to accept a lower salary (72 %). By contrast, only two-fifths of people (41 %) would be willing to relocate for work to a different town or village in a different region. Compared with the 2014 survey, people’s willingness to work outside their area of expertise has significantly declined (by 14 percentage points), although a clear majority would still be willing to do so.

The survey cited here was conducted by the STEM non-profit institute (www.stem.cz) on a representative sample of the Czech population aged 18 and over from 4 to 13 May 2016. Respondents were selected using a quota sampling method, with some 1,292 people taking part in the survey.

Unemployment in the Czech Republic fell from 6.1 % in March to 5.7 % in April. With 414,960 people out of work, the unemployment rate is at its lowest level since January 2009. Unemployment levels decreased year-on-year by an entire percentage point; in April 2015 unemployment was at 6.7 %. According to the most recent Eurostat statistics from March, the Czech Republic has the lowest unemployment rate in the European Union. In this context, what are the current attitudes of Czech citizens of working age to unemployment?

According to the May STEM survey, just over half the population of working age (54 %) fear unemployment (pensioners are not included).

Source: STEM, Trends 5/2016, 951 respondents (excluding pensioners)

Since 2013, when fear of unemployment among people of working age had reached its peak, we have observed a very gradual decline in the proportion of those who fear losing their jobs. In the current survey we have seen a more significant drop in the level of fear of job loss, most likely as a result of the latest positive reports on employment. Indeed, current figures are at the same level as they were in the period prior to the beginning of the economic crisis in 2009.

Source: STEM, Trends 1993-2016

Women of working age (57 %) are somewhat more often inclined to fear loss of employment than men (50 %). The same is true for those with a lower level of education (see graph below), blue-collar workers (66 %), operational managers (63 %), private sector employees (57 %) and the under 30s (63 %).

Source: STEM, Trends 5/2016, 951 respondents (excluding pensioners)
*Secondary School Leaving Certificate, equiv. A Levels in the UK,
High School Diploma in the US

What would people be prepared to do if they were at risk of losing their job? The current survey shows that 75 % of economically active respondents are willing to work outside their area of qualification; 72 % of this group would even accept a lower salary, but only 41 % said that they would be prepared to move to a different region for work if they were at risk of losing their job.

Source: STEM, Trends 5/2016, 951 respondents (excluding pensioners)

The results of the current survey indicate the shifting attitudes towards a strategic solution to the risk of unemployment. Since 2013 there has been a gradual, albeit slight, decrease in the proportion of respondents who are willing to accept a lower salary. Although the proportion of those who are prepared to work outside their area of expertise has remained very stable in the long term, the current survey records a substantial drop (a decrease of 14 percentage points). According to the May survey, the willingness to relocate for work has remained at the same level as in previous years; i.e. workforce mobility remains low.

Source: STEM, Trends 2001-2016

The survey shows that people’s willingness to accept a lower salary due to fear of losing their job is relatively universal; it is largely similar across the various socio-demographic groups.

People’s willingness to work outside their area of expertise depends on their level of education, with those with apprenticeships most frequently prepared to work outside their area of qualification (81 %) and, by contrast, university graduates least often willing to do so (68 %).

As expected, the most significant differences among the different groups were in relation to people’s willingness to relocate for work. Moving to a town or village in a different region of the country is more tolerable for men (47 %) than for women (36 %). The survey found that young people under 30 are more prepared to relocate for work but that the willingness to move for a suitable position declined with increasing age (57 % of economically-active people aged 18 to 29, 39 % in the 30 to 44 age bracket, and 34 % of those aged 45 to 59).

Although it may be the case that people who fear unemployment are more prepared to work outside their area of expertise or for a lower salary than those who do not fear losing their job, their willingness, or rather their ability, to look for work farther away from home is limited. People’s willingness to move for work is roughly the same for those who fear unemployment and those who do not.

Source: STEM, Trends 5/2016, 951 respondents (excluding pensioners)


Willingness to grant asylum has declined; nonetheless, a majority would still grant asylum to refugees fleeing warzones

A two-thirds majority of Czech citizens (65 %) are in favour of the Czech Republic granting asylum to refugees fleeing war-torn countries. Roughly half the population (52 %) agrees that asylum should be granted to those fleeing political persecution. A minority of citizens (43 %) consider persecution on the grounds of religion or nationality to be a sufficient reason to be granted asylum. Only one-quarter of the population (24 %) is in favour of granting asylum to those fleeing a very poor economic situation in their country of origin. Compared with the 2005 survey, the proportion of those who agree that asylum should be granted for the reasons examined here has declined in all cases.

The survey cited here was conducted by the STEM non-profit institute (www.stem.cz) on a representative sample of the Czech population aged 18 and over from 16 to 23 March 2016. Respondents were selected using a quota sampling method, with some 1,050 people taking part in the survey.

As part of its series of surveys focusing on non-nationals living in our country, STEM also looks at the issue of granting asylum to refugees fleeing countries which are unsafe or in which the economic situation is poor. The TRENDS series of surveys also enables us to compare current opinions with the findings of surveys conducted on this topic in 2001 and 2005.

According to the most recent survey carried out in March 2016, an almost two-thirds majority (65 %) of Czechs agree that the Czech Republic should grant asylum to refugees from war-torn countries. Slightly over half of the population (52 %) consider political persecution to be a reason to grant asylum. Roughly two-fifths of the public are in favour of granting asylum on the grounds of persecution for reasons of religion (43 %) or nationality (42 %). Only one-quarter (24 %) of people are prepared to grant asylum to those fleeing a desperate economic situation in their country of origin.

Source: STEM, Trends 3/2016, 1050 respondents aged 18 +

Czech public opinion on granting asylum has changed since the last survey on this topic, carried out over ten years ago. There has been a decline in the proportion of people in favour of granting asylum to refugees in the case of all the reasons for seeking asylum examined in the survey. The most significant decline in the willingness of citizens to grant asylum was for those fleeing on the grounds of a poor economic situation (a fall of 35 percentage points) and for reasons of religion or nationality (a 32 % drop). Attitudes towards granting asylum to those fleeing war saw a relatively less significant decline (falling by 19 %).

Source: STEM, Trends 6/2001, 4/2005, 3/2016

Source: STEM, Trends 6/2001, 4/2005, 3/2016

The over-60s (36 %) are least often inclined to be in favour of granting asylum on the grounds of religion.

Attitudes towards granting asylum to those fleeing persecution for reasons of religion, nationality or race depends on the level of education of respondents. A substantially higher proportion of university graduates would grant refugees asylum on these grounds than is the case for other educational groups.

*Secondary School Leaving Certificate, equiv. A Levels in the UK, High School Diploma in the US
Source: STEM, Trends 3/2016, 1050 respondents aged 18 +

Political affiliation also has a significant impact on attitudes towards granting asylum to refugees. Apart from a desperate economic situation, right-wing voters are more often inclined to be in favour of granting asylum to refugees for the other reasons examined here.

Source: STEM, Trends 3/2016, 1050 respondents aged 18 +

 


European Union: one step forward, two steps back

Jan Hartl

Very few things provide a clearer picture than the ways in which our attitudes towards European integration and our membership in the EU have evolved over time. Let’s make a brief summary of developments to date. In doing so, we will draw on the wealth of data systematically gathered by STEM over the past twenty years.

Period before the referendum

In the short few years following November 1989 prior to the referendum, the regions of Bohemia and Moravia boasted strong pro-Western attitudes, a liberal perspective on the market economy and a positive outlook on the future. This is evident when we compare views and attitudes there to those of the citizens of Poland, Hungary and in particular Slovakia, whose population held substantially different opinions to the Czechs. At that time, the public liked to believe that of the central European regions, the Czech lands was in the most advantageous position and that it could continue to build on its democratic tradition, easily reignite the prosperity of the First Republic and once again become a developed western European society. In 1993 some 85% of Czech citizens said they were determined to join the European Community. Back then it was a distant goal, some kind of symbol of our Western affiliation – it was more an abstract idea, rather than a concrete notion. With the passing of time, the initial enthusiasm faded. Three years later, in 1996, some 63% of citizens still said they were resolved to endeavour, as far as possible, to become a member of the European Union. Indeed, 72% of the population expressed their wish to enter the EU as soon as possible. Moreover, 73% of citizens said they would vote “yes” in a referendum on accession to the EU.

A sizeable proportion of the population saw the European Union as a cash cow which, to a large extent, would ease the country’s path to economic prosperity. Nonetheless, the positive expectations were ambiguous. In April 1997 just under a mere 23% of Czech citizens said they were informed about what accession to the EU would mean for the country; only 43% said they had a rough idea of what would be demanded of us if we were to enter the union. At the same time, a minority of people were willing to contribute to prospective poorer members of the European Union.

In which areas of life did Czech citizens see accession to the European Union as providing hope for improvement? In the surveys conducted between 1999 and 2001, citizens most often cited greater opportunities for finding attractive employment and for young people to study abroad. A majority of people also expected improvements in other areas such as the environment, law and order reinforcement, upgrading the civil service and improving the activities of public offices, as well as providing greater financial aid to the regions and boosting exports. Roughly half the population expected an increase in standard of living following accession to the union. By contrast, in the social sphere, a majority of people did not expect to see an improvement in the development of culture and interpersonal relationships after entry to the EU.

However, there was no consensus on the economic benefits of EU membership. What may lie behind this is a fear of one-sided exploitation of the Czech economy, a deepening of social inequality and a weakening of social security. It is also worth noting that although Czech citizens believed that our standard of living would most likely increase after accession to the EU, they were of the opinion that this would not bring about greater happiness. By contrast, the positive expectations were, by and large, related to discipline, order and an improvement in the country’s political culture.

Nonetheless, the public believed that membership in the EU brought with it a certain risk, primarily a fear of immigrants from the east (73%), a rise in organised crime (66%), a decline in our traditional industry (66%), the crippling of agriculture (58%) and an increase in selfishness and rudeness in society (60%). On the basis of the data at hand, we could say that public expectations prior to our entry to the EU were contradictory and were by no means blinkered. The prevailing view was fairly critical, and this was directed not only at the Union but also at our own (in)competence. Overall, you could say that the general feeling was one of cautious optimism.

Therefore, in the period prior to the referendum, the citizens of the Czech Republic expected membership to have two types of impact on the country. The direct impact would be an improvement in the national economy and an increase in the standard of living, albeit at the expense of a weakening of our traditional industry and agriculture (the notion of a source of capital). The indirect impact involved the gradual introduction and adoption of societal norms prevalent in the developed Western countries. The STEM surveys found that the public believed it to be particularly necessary that, on one hand, the country make advancements in demanding and exercising rights and wiping out corruption and white-collar crime and, on the other hand, in improving the activities of the country’s political parties and strengthening democracy.

Period in the run up to the referendum

Although the situation before the referendum was complicated and full of contradictions, it was a period of relative calm, not characterised by any major shifts in mood. Surveys showed pro-European attitudes to be stronger and more focused than anti-European attitudes or the views of those who wished to remain outside the union. EU supporters were more active and looked forward to having the opportunity to express their opinion in a referendum, while opponents were unsure and passive and were therefore hesitant to participate in the referendum. All of the larger surveys conducted were, on the whole, accurate in predicting the election outcome – 77% in favour of accession. If the turnout at the June 2003 referendum had been higher (the actual turnout was 55%), the result would more than likely have been closer.

Following the success of the referendum, there was a sense of satisfaction, as if the issue of the European Union had been resolved. Key questions on the issue of a “social Europe” remained unanswered. Once again the dominant attitude was a narrow economic perception of the EU as a cash cow and a matter for bureaucrats somewhere in Brussels. Serious EU topics disappeared from the media and the EU was only mentioned occasionally, and often only in negative contexts. There was no scrutiny, commentary, analyses nor public education on the topic. Between 2003 and 2005 the proportion of people who listened with interest to programmes on the European Union on television or radio fell by ten percentage points. The proportion of citizens who held the opinion that there was adequate information in the media on the situation in the EU fell by 12 percentage points in this period. Only one-third of the public believed that they would find out about the important, substantive issues in the media if the topic was on EU matters. Similarly, only just under one-third of the population found the information on the European Union to be clear and intelligible. Moreover, since 2004 the topic of the EU had gradually been narrowed down to simply being about “drawing on European money”

Around the date of the Czech Republic’s official accession to the EU in May 2004, Czech citizens had already begun to view the future development of their standard of living with certain mistrust. Over two-thirds of citizens feared that the standard of living of their household would decrease after accession to the European Union (67 %). Fear of a decline in social security goes hand in hand with fear of a decrease in living standards, and people were afraid that after EU accession they would lose part of their existing social security (64%).

Reaching a consensus on the meaning of aspects of the European Constitution proved not so easy, and this was reflected in the fact that the questions the public were asking were different to the ones the politicians were answering. The inability to communicate European affairs in a manner which was intelligible, brief and to the point, coupled with the unsophisticated blaming of domestic difficulties on bureaucracy in Brussels became commonplace not only here, but in many other member states too. In our domestic context, this was accompanied by the embarrassment surrounding the adoption of the euro and significant Euroscepticism on the part of some of our politicians.

To summarise the findings, you could say that in the first few years after our accession to the EU, the prevalent attitude of the Czech population towards the EU was slightly critical while, at the same time, one of acceptance. Trust in the European Union institutions was at approximately 60 percentage points during this period. A closer look at the data indicates that ties to the EU were relatively weak among the population; there was more a sense of rational and pragmatic consideration, a wait-and-see approach, a fairly passive position. Support for the introduction of the euro was not high in the Czech Republic, but in January 2006 there was a narrow majority in favour (51%). Political representatives came in for criticism: according to the public, the Czech Republic behaved in a very guarded manner, showing little initiative. Attitudes to the government were becoming very critical with, in particular, corruption, embezzlement and the poor functioning of the judiciary and the civil service at the forefront.

From the financial crisis to the 2013 early elections

Public opinion suffered a significant setback when the winner of the 2006 elections, Mirek Topolánek’s Civic Democratic Party (ODS), was unable after several months to form a government. This was a signal for citizens that the well-established political parties were more focused on internal politics – dividing up and maintaining power – than directing their focus on dealing with the problems facing the population. The proportion of people who were satisfied with how democracy works in our country fell in the long term: in June 2007 it was at 40%, one year later at 34% and by the end of 2011 it stood at only 26%. At that time, the work of the government was consistently rated poorly – over 70% of citizens gave it a negative rating. The level of dissatisfaction among the public rose, the Civic Democratic Party lost support, with the effect that social democracy advanced. At the end of 2008 the government lost its parliamentary majority and there were serious discussions on the necessity of early elections.

This was the situation in the country in the run up to our European Union presidency. There was more written in the media about the European Union, articles of a positive nature. Moreover, politicians from all political spectrums spoke more favourably of the union. Politicians were united in their position that it was necessary to prove that they were capable of action and not to disgrace themselves internationally. The public’s attitude towards the EU significantly improved and confirmed indirectly the importance of the role played by mass communication in relation to EU affairs. From 2007 to 2009 the proportion of citizens who said they were satisfied with our membership in the EU rose from 52% to 63%.

During our presidency the government fell quite unexpectedly. New political groupings were also established, the conservative TOP 09 and populist Public Affairs (Věci veřejné), both of which were hugely successful in opposition against the well-established parties in the 2010 elections. The situation on the European scene also became complicated. Debt manoeuvring by the Greek government and the inability of the EU to react appropriately to the fraud also came to light. In 2009 the debt crisis expanded further, primarily among the southern EU member states. Uncertainty, helplessness, a lack of constructive leadership and of competent action, as well as fear regarding the future of the EU and the euro were also reflected in Czech public opinion. Since 2010, as a result of these events, as well as internal political events, the proportion of citizens who believed that the European Union was developing in the right direction fell from half the population to one quarter.

Logically, with developments in the Eurozone, the proportion of citizens in favour of the introduction of the euro in the Czech Republic also declined markedly. As part of its series of surveys over the years STEM found that just as recently as in January 2006 the proportion of those in favour of introducing the euro in the Czech Republic was 52%, in September 2010 this figure had already fallen to 30% and, two years later, in September 2012, support for the euro had already dropped to a mere 17%. According to the Eurobarometer (Flash Eurobarometer 349) study, this country is by far the most reserved of the new member states in terms of attitude towards the euro. In fact, of all the member states the Czechs rate the operation of the euro worst of all. Moreover, 26% of Czech citizens hold the opinion that the euro will never be introduced in the Czech Republic – this is many times the number of those recorded in other countries.

In the campaign in the run up to the elections to the European Parliament in 2009, the European Union was frequently portrayed as something distant and superfluous, something we could get by without. There was no media coverage of strong European issues, and therefore is it any wonder that the solution to the complicated decision on how to vote in the elections to the EP was, for the vast majority of people, simply to stay at home. Surveys conducted at the time clearly demonstrated that we are passive, like to stay at the perimeter of the action, and we are now a far cry from the tiger of central-European transformation we once stood for. Growing scepticism about being able to make our own choices further strengthened the attitude of resignation among the public.

“In your opinion, what is the Czech Republic’s international standing? Would you say that our country’s international status is strengthening or, on the contrary, is our status on the international stage weakening?”

Source: STEM, Trends1999-2011

Following the parliamentary elections in 2010, there was a significant deterioration in the public’s assessment of the majority of public opinion parameters monitored. This was the case not only in their assessment of the domestic situation, but also in terms of their relationship with the European Union. The year 2010 also saw the first scandal regarding the handling of grants from European funds. Nonetheless, the Czech public still believed that the European Union would help, perhaps even indirectly, to strengthen law and order in the country and improve its political culture. However, unlike in the past, they had abandoned the idea that the European Union would bring us prosperity and a higher standard of living. Despite objective economic indicators, subjective interpretation had the upper hand in this case. This interpretation reflected the public’s sense of anomie due to domestic events, the crippling of norms in society, the non-existence of the clear and binding rules of the ‘social game’, a sense of helplessness and the inability to influence public affairs. Corruption and the failure of the main political parties to govern the country properly became major social topics.

The public was sceptical that the European Union would be able to help us with our domestic difficulties, in particular those of an economic nature. This attitude was further strengthened by Eurosceptics who advocated an unequivocal anti-European viewpoint, using social networks, in particular. The fundamental argument put forward by Czech Eurosceptics was the supposed conflict between national interests and the interests of the EU. National interests, behind which were concealed short-term economic interests, were presented (their interpretation, their propaganda) as natural, enduring and superior to the nonsensical interests of “Brussels bureaucrats”. However, the data gathered on Czech public opinion does not support such an interpretation. Almost two-thirds of Czechs (65 % in 2009) disagreed with the opinion that the national interests of the Czech Republic were incompatible with the interests of the European Union. Combining public opinion on the conflict between national and EU interests with the public’s personal sense of belonging to Europe, we have developed a typology of citizens for 2009, as illustrated in the graph below.

Source: STEM, Trends 02/2009.

A substantial proportion of those who have a positive attitude towards the European Union are in the younger and middle-aged age group (up to 44 years), those who are well-off, the better educated and those with right-wing views. Similar answers were given to the questions on whether our citizens feel patriotic and whether they feel like Europeans. Time and again we have seen that those who feel patriotic also feel comfortable as Europeans.

The survey conducted prior to the early elections in September 2013 provides a detailed overview of the public’s assessment of the EU.

Source: STEM, Trends 9/2013

What stands out in the overview of positives and negatives is the markedly reserved attitude of the population towards economic progress. Pointing to the statistics we could undoubtedly demonstrate the benefits of EU membership, but people are more inclined to see the shortcomings rather than the advantages. The areas in which we expected to see significant benefits from membership when we first entered the EU, such as the development of political culture, the proper functioning of the judiciary and greater law and order, are now considered by citizens as a failure.

In January 2013 Miloš Zeman was elected president of the republic in direct elections. Throughout the presidential election campaign attitudes towards the EU were largely pro-European; the style of communication regarding the EU had noticeably changed. After Prime Minister Petr Nečas was forced to resign in June 2013 and a temporary caretaker government assumed office, there was a strengthening of pro-European orientation in Czech politics. More information on European affairs was provided in the media and this was relayed in a more constructive manner than before. After a long time, the attitude in the country towards the EU started to improve again. Attitudes were also more frequently pro-European when Bohuslav Sobotka’s new government was in office. This also became apparent in our relationship with the EU, but only temporarily.

Source: STEM, Trends 1994-2016

The current crossroads

During our EU presidency in 2009 a majority of the population felt we could play an active role in the EU and have our opinion heard. At the time, we could have used this impetus to explain the problems of European integration and point out the economic benefits of our membership. We missed that opportunity and today 70 % of our citizens attribute this to our passiveness.

Source: STEM, Trends 2006-2016

Last year Europe was hit by the migrant crisis. Both the media and political representatives failed to recognise in time how very serious this issue was. They flippantly, even pompously, generated fear among the public of unspecified security risks and the spread of terrorism in our country, as well as a threat to our European and national culture. A lack of realistic reflection, real knowledge, and helplessness in terms of the practical measures that could be taken, transformed public opinion in this country over a six-month period. Roughly three-quarters of the population experienced fear of an unknown risk and, under the strain, they were happy to find a culprit in the “incompetent” European Union and and the “unwise politics” of Angela Merkel. The refugees, who are not in this country, became our country’s greatest problem and our greatest potential risk. Logically, many politicians capitalised on the fact that emotions were running high. Hand in hand with an increasing fear of refugees, there was a dramatic decline in trust in the EU (as we already saw on chart No 4). Therefore, today we stand at a crossroads: we can succumb to a feeling of unspecified threat and open the door to a curtailment of our freedom and anti-European scepticism or, by contrast, we can look for a solution in cooperation with the Western countries of the European Union. The current data reflects the difficulty of this choice. On one hand, we are not going to give up prematurely. The following graph shows that the current situation could even mobilise supporters of European integration and strengthen the feeling of belonging to Europe.

Source: STEM, STEGA, Communication on European Affairs, 10/2005, STEM, Trends 2009-2016

On the other hand, it is important that we fully appreciate that in terms of our relationship with the EU this transformation is significant. While in 2009 twice as many people among those who felt like Europeans believed that there was no conflict between the interests of the union and national interests and that both interests can be compatible (see graph No 2), the situation today has transformed dramatically. Nowadays an entire fifty percent of those who consider themselves “Europeans” believe the national interests to be incompatible with the interests of the union!

Source: STEM, Trends 03/2016

The following graph shows how clearly-defined, definite opinions on the conflict between national and EU interests in particular have increased in recent years. The survey found that people with a lower level of education are somewhat more likely to believe that the interests of the EU are incompatible with the national interest. Differences between the educational groups are only minimal, however. There is no significant difference in opinion depending on age group. What is interesting is the finding that supporters of the Civic Democratic Party (ODS) consider national and EU interests to be the least incompatible.

Source: STEM, Trends 2009-2016

Let us now compare how we expected our membership in the European Union to benefit the country directly after the referendum with our current expectations for the near future.

Source: STEM, Trends 2005/12 and 2016/02

At first glance, we can see that current expectations of the European Union have declined in each of the areas monitored. In 2005 we most expected an increase in the quality of education for the younger generation and an improvement in the environment. Even today, these are the two issues on which our population is most fixated. There has been a radical decline in the expectation that we would see an improvement, be it as a direct or indirect influence of the European Union, in the functioning of the state: adherence to law and order, improvement of the work of state bodies and political stability. Indeed, it is on the very issue of the potential role of the European Union in the functioning of the state and political culture that supporters of the various right-wing parties fundamentally differ. For instance, 46% of TOP 09 supporters regard EU membership as a guarantee that law and order will be adhered to, whereas only 27% of ODS supporters believe so. The difference is even more pronounced in the case of an “improvement in the work of state bodies” (44% for TOP 09 and 20% for ODS supporters). It is also noteworthy that expectations among citizens in the social sphere were not high to start out, but they were disillusioned nevertheless.

The following graph clearly demonstrates the dramatic change in the mood of the population over the past ten years. In an effort to avoid an assessment of only partial aspects of our membership in the European Union, we formulated the question in such a way as to get a picture of general public attitudes to EU membership. Whereas ten years ago, an absolute majority of the population (72%) rated our membership in the EU positively, just under half of the population currently rate it favourably (48%). The proportion of citizens who consider membership in the EU as a definitely bad thing has tripled. The proportion of citizens who regard our membership in the EU to be a somewhat or definitely bad thing has risen to fifty percent.

Source: STEM, Trends 2006/05 and 2016/02

The current divide in public opinion on our membership in the European Union (48% to 52%), as shown in the above graph, clearly demonstrates the current relevance of our membership in the EU as a political issue. To provide a clearer picture, the following overview demonstrates the position taken by the different groups in our population on EU membership. It confirms that when it comes to serious political issues, men and women have very similar views. In terms of sociodemographic characteristics, there are clear differences between citizens depending on their level of education – the higher the level of education, the more positive the assessment of our membership in the EU. Younger people only have a marginally better attitude towards EU membership than older citizens. Village and city dwellers realise the advantages of our membership whereas, by contrast, residents of small towns are fairly cautious. As expected, at a regional level, Prague and the industrial north-western region bordering Germany come out on top, with the most favourable assessment, while the farthest away region of Moravia-Silesia is very sceptical towards the EU. If we take a look at political affiliation, the difference in attitudes between left-wing and right-wing citizens is notably smaller than we expected. And what is most likely to surprise readers is that the attitude of Civic Democratic Party (ODS) voters to our membership in the EU is positive, despite a series of partial objections.

Differences in opinion between groups
“Overall, do you consider the CR’s membership in the EU to be
a good thing or a bad thing?”

(proportion of “definitely good” and “somewhat good” answers in %)

Source: STEM, Trends 2016/02
* Secondary School Leaving Certificate, equiv.
A Levels in the UK, High School Diploma in the US
** Nomenclature of Territorial Units for Statistics

Notice: ČSSD is the ruling Czech Socialist Democratic Party; ANO is centrist party and one of the junior coalition partners; KSČM (Communist Party of Bohemia and Moravia); TOP 09 is a conservative opposition party; ODS is the liberal-conservative Civic Democratic Party, a right-wing opposition party; KDU-ČSL is the Christian Democrats and one of junior coalition partners.


No improvement in the public’s assessment of democracy and political parties

More than a third of Czech citizens (37 %) are satisfied with how democracy works in this country. An almost identical proportion of the population (38 %) agrees that the current political parties guarantee democratic politics. Current figures are somewhat higher than they were in 2011 and 2013 when the number of citizens who gave positive answers was very low. According to a two-thirds majority of citizens (69 %), the development of democracy is primarily the responsibility of capable and professional politicians. Half (50 %) of the population agrees that the success of democracy depends largely on the activities of ordinary citizens. These attitudes have not changed in recent years.

The survey cited here was conducted by the STEM non-profit institute (www.stem.cz) on a representative sample of the Czech population aged 18 and over from 16 to 23 March 2016. Respondents were selected using a quota sampling method, with some 1,050 people taking part in the survey.

Since the beginning of the nineties, STEM has been focusing on the attitudes of the population towards the quality of democracy in this country.

According to the current survey, over one-third (37 %) of the population is satisfied with the state of democracy in the Czech Republic. A similar proportion of citizens (38 %) believe that current political parties guarantee democratic politics.

Source: STEM, Trends 3/2016, 1050 respondents aged 18 +

We can see a similar trend in the population’s assessment of the way democracy works and in its perception of political parties as a guarantee of democracy. The period of relative satisfaction with the way democracy works (approximately 50 %) and the positive assessment of political parties as a guarantee of democracy in this country (roughly 60 %) ended around 1996-98 when the independent Czech state was faced its first crisis of a more serious nature. Since then there has been a gradual decline in satisfaction, suspended temporarily by slight increases in optimism periodically seen after the election of new political representatives in parliamentary elections (1998, 2002, 2006 and 2010). We recorded the least number of positive responses to date from 2011 until the early elections in 2013. This applied to both of the questions. During this period our surveys showed that roughly a quarter of citizens were satisfied with the way democracy worked and one-third agreed that the political parties of the time ensured democratic politics.

Following the elections in 2013, the level of satisfaction with the way democracy works saw a change for the better, as seen in the survey conducted April 2014. However, the most recent findings demonstrate a slight shift in opinion since the last survey: while satisfaction with the way democracy works has returned to its 2014 level after last year’s decline, public opinion on the democratic functioning of political parties has remained at the same level as last year.

Source: STEM, Trends 1993-2016

Source: STEM, Trends 1992-2016

Young people (43 % positive responses) and university graduates (47 %) tend to be more satisfied with the way democracy works. This is also true for right-wing voters (45 %) and supporters of TOP 09, ANO and the Christian Democrats (KDU-ČSL). Communist Party (KSČM) supporters are strongly critical of the state of democracy, as are – to a lesser extent – Civic Democrat (ODS) voters. University graduates (48 %) tend to be more favourable in their assessment of the current political parties than other educational groups. The largely negative attitude of Communist Party supporters, in particular, towards the current political parties once again sets them apart from those of other political affiliations.

Source: STEM, Trends 3/2016, 1050 respondents aged 18 +

Note: Given their low representation in the group, figures for KDU-ČSL, TOP 09 and ODS supporters are only approximate. ANO is a centrist party and one of the junior coalition partners; TOP 09 is a conservative opposition party; KDU-ČSL is the Christian Democrats and one of junior coalition partners; ČSSD is the ruling Czech Socialist Democratic Party; ODS is the liberal-conservative Civic Democratic Party, a right-wing opposition party; KSČM (Communist Party of Bohemia and Moravia).

In the March survey, STEM also focused on public opinion on what was required for the successful development of democracy in our country. According to 69 % of citizens, the development of democracy is primarily the responsibility of capable and professional politicians and half the population (50 %) agrees that the success of democracy depends largely on the activities of ordinary people.

Source: STEM, Trends 3/2016, 1050 respondents aged 18 +

STEM has been monitoring public attitudes towards the influence of professional politicians and ordinary citizens on the quality of democracy in this country since April 2013. The following graphs demonstrate that there have been no significant changes in public attitudes since the surveys began.

Source: STEM, Trends 2013-2016

Source: STEM, Trends 2013-2016

A slightly greater proportion of men (55 %) than women (46 %) more often agree that the success of democracy depends largely on the citizens of our country. This is also the case for younger people (18 to 29 years: 52 %; 30 to 44 years: 59 %; 45 to 59 years: 45 %; 60 years and over: 45 %).

It is interesting to note the connection between general satisfaction with democracy in this country and public attitudes towards the involvement of citizens in the development of democracy. The proportion of citizens who believe that the success of democracy depends primarily on the activities of ordinary people is substantially higher among those who are satisfied with how democracy works.

Source: STEM, Trends 3/2016, 1050 respondents aged 18 +


Czech citizens are now less accepting of foreign nationals than before

A quarter of Czech citizens (25 %) agree that every person who lives in this country should have the right to obtain Czech citizenship. The same proportion of the population believes that each ethnic group should be able to live according to its own traditions. These proportions are considerably lower than in previous surveys. Before the beginning of the refugee crisis in 2014, the percentage of citizens who agreed with the above opinions was 33 % and 46 %, respectively. The proportion of citizens who consider foreigners living in the Czech Republic to be too great a security risk is also on the increase (up from 60 % to 71 %). Somewhat fewer people than before (41 %) agree with the view that our citizens are not prejudiced or biased in their attitudes towards foreign nationals.

The survey cited here was conducted by the STEM non-profit institute (www.stem.cz) on a representative sample of the Czech population aged 18 and over from 16 to 23 March 2016. Respondents were selected using a quota sampling method, with some 1,050 people taking part in the survey.

Over the years, STEM has been monitoring the relationship between Czech citizens and people who are resident here but do not have Czech citizenship. STEM began conducting surveys on this subject ten years ago as part of its TRENDS series. This has enabled us to track the dynamics of opinion change with regard to the attitudes of Czech citizens towards non-nationals, primarily in connection with the wave of migration into Europe.

The current survey found that a three-quarters majority of Czechs do not agree that every person living in the Czech Republic should be entitled to obtain Czech citizenship, nor do they believe that each ethnic group should be able to live according to their owns traditions and customs. This is closely linked to the fact that a similarly high proportion of the population (71 %) considers foreign nationals living in our country to be too great a risk. A three-fifths majority of citizens also believe that the Czech public are prejudiced against foreign nationals.

Source: STEM, Trends 3/2016, 1050 respondents aged 18 +

Over the past two years, Czech attitudes towards foreign nationals have changed substantially. This is evidently linked to the refugee crisis. The most significant change has been in the proportion of citizens who believe that each ethnic group should be able to live according to its traditions and customs. Two years ago almost half the population agreed they should be; now this view is held only by a quarter of citizens (a decrease of 21 % in the proportion of affirmative answers). This shift in opinion is also apparent in attitudes towards the right of foreign nationals to obtain Czech citizenship, albeit to a lesser extent (a fall of 8 percentage points since 2014). The proportion of citizens who consider foreign nationals to be a greater security risk has also risen, up 11 % on 2014 figures. At the same time, there is public awareness of these changes in society, as reflected in the decrease in the proportion of people who agree with the statement that Czech citizens are not prejudiced against foreigners.

Source: STEM, Trends 2005-2016

However, it is important to add that although Czech public opinion shows a decrease in acceptance of foreigners, this does not indicate any dramatic rise in tensions, but rather that citizens are more wary of certain ethnicities (needless to say, this is linked to media coverage of the refugee crisis). Indeed, the data demonstrates that people with different opinions on whether each ethnic group should be able to live according to its own traditions and customs in no way differ in their attitudes towards, for instance, Americans, English, French and Germans or, for that matter, Russians, Ukrainians and Vietnamese. The survey found that the decrease in the number of people who accepted that ethnic groups should be able to live according to their own traditions only applied to attitudes towards Arabs, Turks, Syrians, Afghans, Egyptians and Chechens.

Opinions on the rights of foreigners living in this country and their position in society are very similar across the various socio-demographic groups of the population. Public perception of the attitudes of Czech citizens towards foreigners is largely universal. What’s more, differences in opinions are also largely insignificant across socio-demographic groups in terms of whether foreigners should be able to obtain Czech citizenship and whether ethnic minorities should be able to live according to their distinct cultural practices. In terms of the latter, the only category where certain differences are evident is ‘differences by age’, with the over 60s being least tolerant in this respect.

Source: STEM, Trends 3/2016, 1050 respondents aged 18 +

When asked whether foreign nationals living here pose too serious a risk, those with a lower level of education were more likely to think so.

Source: STEM, Trends 3/2016, 1050 respondents aged 18 +
*Secondary School Leaving Certificate, equiv.
A Levels in the UK, High School Diploma in the US

In general terms, it is important to note that the level of change in attitudes towards foreign nationals has been similar across all sociodemographic groups.

Political preferences do not play any fundamental role in the opinions analysed in this report either. The only significant difference was recorded in responses to the statement that foreigners posed a security risk. Supporters of the Communist Party (KSČM), the Christian Democrats (KDU-ČSL) and the centrist ANO movement more frequently regarded foreigners as a great risk whereas, by contrast, supporters of the conservative TOP 09 were significantly less likely to do so. On this issue, is also interesting to compare the results of this survey with the one conducted two years ago (viz. graph below). The greatest increase in the proportion of people who agreed with the below statement was among ANO supporters.

Source: STEM, Trends 3/2014, 3/2016
Note: KSČM (Communist Party of Bohemia and Moravia);
KDU-ČSL is the Christian Democrats and also one of junior coalition partners;
ČSSD is the ruling Czech Socialist Democratic Party; ANO is centrist party and one of the junior coalition partners;
ODS is the liberal-conservative Civic Democratic Party, a right-wing opposition party;
TOP 09, a conservative opposition party


Proportion of people who believe that tensions are high between Czechs and foreigners has risen substantially

A two-thirds majority of citizens (67 %) believe that tensions between Czechs and foreigners are very or relatively high. This proportion is significantly higher than in previous years. A three-fifths majority perceive strong conflicts between company management and employees (62 %) and between rich and poor (61 %). Slightly over half of the population (55 %) believes that there are strong conflicts between people of different political opinions. People less frequently perceive conflicts between the young and old (38 %) and, even less so, between urban and rural areas (27 %). The findings for these two groups remain unchanged, (with the exception of tensions between Czechs and foreigners, mentioned above).

The survey cited here was conducted by the STEM non-profit institute (www.stem.cz) on a representative sample of the Czech population aged 18 and over from 16 to 23 March 2016. Respondents were selected using a quota sampling method, with some 1,050 people taking part in the survey.

The existence of conflicts and tensions between social groups is inherent in society and is a prerequisite for its development. In certain periods and situations such tensions can escalate and lead to conflict. When such a situation arises, the catalyst can be economic or political change in society, but it can also be some development on a wider, European scale. Therefore, given the impact of the current refugee crisis on Czech society, among other factors, now is an interesting time to focus our attention in this survey on how Czech citizens perceive the existence of conflicts between social groups in this country.

Source: STEM, Trends 3/2016, 1050 respondents aged 18 +

A two-thirds majority of citizens believe that there are strong conflicts between Czechs and foreigners in this country. This proportion points to a significant change in public opinion – in previous years the Czech population was divided into two equal camps, with half of the population believing that there were strong or relatively strong conflicts between Czechs and foreigners and the other half believing, by contrast, that such conflicts were not very strong or that there was little conflict. We can therefore see how the situation in Europe in connection with the refugee crisis and the terrorist attacks on European cities also influences public opinion in our country. The impact of these two factors is evident not only in public perceptions of conflicts between Czechs and foreigners, but also in a lower acceptance of foreign ethnicities in our society.

A three-fifths majority of citizens also perceive conflict in the socio-economic and socio- professional spheres – on one hand, among company management and employees, on the other, between rich and poor. Slightly over half of the population perceives strong conflicts between people of different political opinions (55 %). Citizens believe somewhat less frequently that there are strong conflicts between the young and old (38 %) and – of the options given – they least frequently perceive conflict between urban and rural areas (27 %).

Apart from the above-mentioned change in attitudes regarding tension between Czechs and foreigners, there have been no substantial changes in the level of conflict between the different groups since our last survey conducted three years ago. A comparison with the data from previous years merely points to a trend which has seen a slight decrease in the proportion of people who consider there to be strong conflicts between the rich and poor.

Source: STEM, Trends 5/2011, 4/2012, 4/2013, 3/2016
Note: The 2011 survey did not include the public’s views on conflict between Czechs and foreigners.

Younger people, the less-educated and left-wing citizens are slightly more often inclined to believe that there are strong conflicts between Czechs and foreigners. That said, the proportion of those who described the level of conflict as strong has increased to a similar extent across all socio-demographic groups in society.

Source: STEM, Trends 3/2016, 1050 respondents aged 18 +
*Secondary School Leaving Certificate, equiv. A Levels in the UK,
High School Diploma in the US

Perceptions of conflict between social groups are relatively universal, and therefore there is no fundamental difference in how it is perceived by members of the various social groups in society. The survey found, however, that there are certain differences in the extent to which such conflicts are perceived depending on the socio-demographic, socio-economic and socio-professional characteristics of the respondents. The more negative the subjective assessment of their household financial situation provided by respondents, the more likely they were to perceive conflicts between rich and poor. This by no means implies that the majority of people who are financially well off does not perceive strong conflicts between the rich and poor – this opinion is also most widely held among this group.

Source: STEM, Trends 3/2016, 1050 respondents aged 18 +

The unemployed, a group which is generally categorically critical of developments in society, most often perceive conflicts between management and employees to be strong. The survey found that white-collar workers also more frequently believe there to be conflicts between management and employees. By contrast, experts and those in management positions less frequently perceive conflict between management and employees, but nonetheless, over half of this group perceive strong conflicts between the two groups.

Source: STEM, Trends 3/2016, 1050 respondents aged 18 +
(Note: The answers provided by the economically inactive are not included in the graph. Given their low representation in the survey, figures for the unemployed and those in management positions are only approximate).

People who are 60 years and over perceive conflicts between old and young people somewhat more often than younger citizens – almost half of this group regard them as strong. Younger age groups are considerably less likely to perceive such conflict.

Source: STEM, Trends 3/2016, 1050 respondents aged 18 +

Political affiliation itself does not have any significant impact on how respondents perceive conflict between people of different political opinions.

Residents of the smallest towns and villages more often believe that there are strong conflicts between urban and rural areas, while residents of towns with a population of 5,000 to 20,000 inhabitants are less likely to perceive conflicts.

Source: STEM, Trends 3/2016, 1050 respondents aged 18 +