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 +


What attitudes do Czech citizens have towards various nationalities and ethnic groups?

Czech citizens have a very good long-term relationship with Slovaks. This is also true of their relationship with the English, French, Americans and Germans. STEM surveys have revealed year after year a continuous and gradual improvement in the attitudes of Czech citizens towards Vietnamese, Russian and Chinese nationals. Czechs are less receptive to Afghans, Chechens, the Roma, Syrians and Arabs in general.

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 Czech attitudes towards foreigners in its regular surveys. It has been examining tolerance and acceptance of the various nationalities and ethnic groups living in the Czech Republic through the population’s willingness to have them as neighbours.

Slovaks are traditionally rated the highest by the Czech population, with 93 % of respondents having no problem with them. More than three-quarters of the public would have no problem having English (82 %), French (79 %) or American (78 %) neighbours. A slightly lower proportion of individuals would have no problem with German neighbours (73 %), and a roughly two-thirds majority of citizens would also have no reservations about having Jews (66 %) and Croatians (63 %) as neighbours. The group of nationalities accepted by Czechs has remained stable in recent years. This finding is interesting in the context of Czech attitudes towards Western European countries. In our December 2015 survey, we observed a significant drop in positive ratings for Germany, France and the United Kingdom. Nonetheless, no such fall in ratings was measured in terms of Czech attitudes towards the inhabitants of these countries. This illustrates the differentiation between attitudes towards citizens of a particular country and towards the country itself.

Over half the population would be very amenable to having Volyn and Kazakh Czechs (54 %) or Vietnamese (52 %) as neighbours. Half the population (50 %) would have no reservations about having Russian neighbours, and over two-fifths of the public would have no problem having Serbian (46 %), Chinese (45 %), Indian (42 %) or Ukrainian (41 %) neighbours.

This is the first time that Egyptians, Turks and Syrians were included in the survey. A third of respondents would have no problem with Egyptian neighbours (33 %). Turks and Syrians, and people commonly referred to as Arabs, as well as Chechens and Afghans, are ranked among the least accepted nationalities/ethnicities.

Another group that Czech citizens would least want as neighbours is the Roma. According to the STEM surveys conducted since 1994, the Czech public has a bad long-term relationship with the Roma minority. According to the current survey, only 15 % of Czech citizens would have no problem having Roma neighbours, almost one-quarter would find it unpleasant, one-quarter would find it difficult and over one-third (35 %) would find such a living situation totally unacceptable.

Source: STEM, Trends 3/2016, 1050 respondents

As mentioned above, Czech public opinion on the highest rated nationalities (Slovaks, English, French, Americans, Germans, etc.) has remained largely unchanged since last year’s survey. Czech attitudes towards Russian, Vietnamese and Chinese nationals have only moderately improved, which is in keeping with the trend of the past number of years.

The first graph below illustrates in detail the gradual improvement in the attitudes of the Czech population towards the Vietnamese and Chinese. For illustration purposes, the graph also demonstrates the development of Czech attitudes towards Arabs, which is very gradually deteriorating. The second graph shows how – when compared with Czech attitudes towards Americans and Germans which have remained consistent over the years – there has been a gradual improvement in attitudes towards Russians in recent years.

Source: STEM, Trends 2000-2016

Source: STEM, Trends 2000-2016

 

Source: STEM, Trends 3/2014, 3/2015, 3/2016

Czech attitudes to the different nationalities are significantly influenced by level of education. University graduates are more likely to have a positive attitude towards Jews, Vietnamese, Chinese, Croatians, Serbians, Germans, Syrians, Russians and other nationalities (see graph below).

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

Differences by age are not as pronounced. The only substantial difference in opinion is in relation to attitudes towards Americans and Germans. The over 60s have a slightly worse attitude towards these nationalities than those in younger age categories, primarily the under 30s (84 % of citizens aged 18 to 29 would have no problem having American neighbours and 79 % would have no problem with German neighbours; for the over 60s, the proportions are 74 % and 68 %, respectively).


A third of Czech citizens say they believe in God

A third of Czech citizens (33 %) say they believe in God, a slightly lower proportion of the population than in the nineties. However, far fewer (8 %) attend church regularly (at least once a month). The exception is Christmas time when even some people who are not religious go to church. Indeed going to church is regarded as a Christmas tradition by over one third of Czech citizens (36 %).

The STEM survey cited here was conducted on a representative sample of the Czech population aged 18 and over from 3 to 11 December 2015. Respondents were selected using a quota sampling method, with some 1,014 people taking part in the survey.

In the December survey, STEM traditionally asks Czech citizens whether they believe in God. The current survey found that exactly one-third of the population believes in God (33 %). In the years since STEM started conducting its surveys there has been a moderate decline in the proportion of people who are religious (in 1995 some 39 % of respondents said they believed in God). Since 2011 we have found the proportion of those who definitely do not believe in God to be somewhat higher (now 41 %).

One-third of respondents said they had a religious family upbringing. This proportion is also somewhat lower than it was in the mid-nineties. In fact, since 2009 there has been a slight decline in the number of people proclaiming to be from religious families.

Source: STEM, Trends 12/2015, 1014 respondents aged 18+

Source: STEM, Trends 1995-2015

 

There is a very strong link between religious faith and coming from a religious family, although this connection is by no means absolute. One-quarter of citizens believe in God and also come from a religious family, yet one-tenth believe in God, although their family has no relationship with religion. On the other hand, one-tenth of respondents do not believe in God, even though they come from religious families.

The proportion of people who believe in God is substantially higher among women (37 %) than among men (29 %), the over-60s (41 %) and people from the Moravian regions (45 %), compared to 26 % of those from the Bohemian regions.

Source: STEM, Trends 12/2015, 1014 respondents aged 18+

The proportion of citizens who practice their religion is much lower than the proportion of those who believe in God. Just under one-tenth of the population attends church regularly, at least once a month, with another tenth going to church several times a year.

Source: STEM, Trends 1994-2015

In its pre-Christmas December survey, STEM also asked people whether going to church was one of their Christmas traditions. More than one-third of respondents (36 %) said that church attendance was one of their Christmas traditions, a somewhat lower percentage than in previous surveys (for instance in 1995 some 45 % of respondents answered in the affirmative).

Source: STEM, Trends12/2015, 1014 respondents aged 18+

The majority of people who attend church at Christmas believe in God, but going to church at Christmas is also a tradition for more than one-quarter of families who only somewhat believe in God and even for some who are definitely not religious whatsoever.

 

Source: STEM, Trends 12/2015, 1014 respondents aged 18 +


SOCIETY’S REPORT CARD FOR 2015

The optimism which was brought about by changes on the political landscape after the 2013 early parliamentary elections is waning. This has manifested itself in a slight decline in public satisfaction with day-to-day politics. The work of the prime minister, parliament and government was rated somewhat lower than in the previous survey. Nonetheless, the prime minister’s work and government activities were among the more favourably rated areas of life in Czech society. By contrast, the president’s approval ratings have gone up significantly, with almost half the population giving him top grades (a one or two) in the latest survey for his work in office. This puts public satisfaction with the president’s work and that of the local and municipal authorities ahead of the other highest rated areas by a large margin. The areas which have been consistently rated poorly over the years are, in particular, the results of privatisation, the standard of living of the elderly and young families, the activities of political parties and honesty in doing business.

The survey cited here was conducted by the STEM non-profit institute on a representative sample of the Czech population aged 18 and over from 11 to 19 January 2016. Respondents were selected using a quota sampling method, with some 1,015 people taking part in the survey.

Every year in January STEM asks citizens to write up a school report for the previous year. They are asked to rate the various areas of life in Czech society using the school grading system, i.e. to give grades on a scale of one to five, with one being the best grade and five being the worst.

Again, we will look at 2015 from two perspectives. An overview of the report card shows the current ranking of problems in our society, while a long-term comparison of the current situation with results from previous years gives an indication of major trends in development.

1. Ranking of society’s problems

The municipal authorities consistently score the highest, with roughly half the population rating their work with a score of one or two. The work of the president has the second highest rating which represents a significant change compared with last year. We will return to this later. People are also relatively satisfied with the quality of the health care services, the work of the regional authorities, the prime minister’s work, opportunities for self-realisation and the provision of civil liberties.

The environment, the work of the government, protection of citizens’ safety, education, the effectiveness of administrative services at public offices and the development of democracy also received relatively high ratings in the survey.

As is the case every year, privatisation fares the worst in terms of public satisfaction (almost 70 % of citizens give privatisation a four or five). Nonetheless, this rating does not really reflect the events of the past year, but dates way back. A high proportion of the population is also dissatisfied with the standard of living of the elderly (three-fifths of respondents gave this a score of four or five). Honesty in doing business, the standard of living of young families, the opportunity to influence public affairs and the activities of political parties also all received a low average grade (roughly 3.5).

2. Development trends

Compared with the 2014 ratings, there are no substantial changes in the public’s assessment of the majority of areas. For instance, ratings are almost identical to last year for protection of citizens’ safety, the work of the regional, town and local authorities, the quality of health care services, the environment and standard of living of young families. Nevertheless, there are a number of exceptions which relate primarily to the area of politics.

Source: STEM, Trends 1/2016, 1015 respondents

The most significant changes were seen in the ratings of the president’s work. In January 2015 the president’s ratings were relatively contradictory, with almost a third of the population giving him a grade one or two and, at the opposite end of the scale, over two-fifths giving him a grade four or five. This meant that with an average grade of 3.3, the president’s work in 2014 was ranked among those areas with average satisfaction ratings. In the current survey, however, the proportion of people who gave the president a one or two for his work in 2015 increased substantially, bringing the president’s average grade up to 2.7 and putting him second place overall on the population satisfaction chart. This is in keeping with STEM’s other findings, according to which slightly over half the population (53 %) expressed their trust in President Miloš Zeman in December 2015, compared with 42 % in January 2015.

Source: STEM, Trends 2014–2016
*Note: 1 = excellent; 2 = commendable; 3 = good; 4 = sufficient; 5 = insufficient.
Equivalent to A, B, C, D and E in the British system and A, B, C, D and F in the US system.

Although satisfaction with the president’s work has increased across all socio-demographic groups, the increase was lowest among university graduates. This group is evidently less likely now to give the president a positive approval rating than one year ago (in last year’s survey the differences between the different education categories were not so apparent).

*Secondary School Leaving Certificate,
equiv. A Levels in the UK, High School Diploma in the US
Source: STEM, Trends 2015/1, 2016/1

From a long-term perspective, the current level of satisfaction with President Miloš Zeman’s work is at a similar level to President Václav Klaus’s approval rating during his second term of office (leaving aside the historical low at the end of Klaus’s mandate as a repercussion of the controversial amnesty he granted before leaving office).

The gradual improvement recorded in the parliament’s approval ratings last year following the 2013 early elections has now petered out.

Source: STEM, Trends 2001-2016
(the survey is carried out in January each year, and respondents rate the previous year)
Note: 1 = excellent; 2 = commendable; 3 = good; 4 = sufficient; 5 = insufficient.
Equivalent to A, B, C, D and E in the British system and A, B, C, D and F in the US system.

As is the case with the parliament and other areas of day-to-day politics, the survey finds some slight disillusionment among the public which usually sets in when post-election optimism begins to diminish. Nonetheless, while government approval ratings and satisfaction with the domestic political situation has only slightly deteriorated since last January, the drop in the prime minister’s average grades has been more pronounced. However, satisfaction with the prime minister’s performance is still among the more highly rated areas of life in Czech society.

Source: STEM, Trends 2001-2016
(the survey is carried out in January each year, and respondents rate the previous year)
Note: 1 = excellent; 2 = commendable; 3 = good; 4 = sufficient; 5 = insufficient.
Equivalent to A, B, C, D and E in the British system and A, B, C, D and F in the US system.

Source: STEM, Trends 2001-2016
(the survey is carried out in January each year, and respondents rate the previous year)

Compared with the 2014 ratings, we can also observe a moderate increase in ratings in terms of public satisfaction with being able to secure their rights through the judicial system and with the area of social security. Satisfaction with privatization also improved slightly, although this area unequivocally remains the most negatively rated area.

Source: STEM, Trends 2001-2016
(the survey is carried out in January each year, and respondents rate the previous year)

Source: STEM, Trends 2001-2016
(the survey is carried out in January each year, and respondents rate the previous year)

The graph illustrates a moderate decline in positive ratings for future prospects. This decline, along with a decrease in satisfaction with day-to-day politics, indicates a definitive level of concern about the future by a section of the population.


World leaders through the lens of Czech public opinion

The world is undergoing significant change, and with it the perception of world figures and leaders. It may come as a surprise that in the secular society of the Czech Republic Pope Francis has masterfully come out on top, enjoying the highest ratings across all sections of the population. We can observe disillusionment with representatives of the Western European powers and growing sympathy for our neighbours. The European Union is of peripheral interest to the Czech public.

The STEM survey cited here was conducted on a representative sample of the Czech population aged 18 and over from 3 to 11 December 2015. Respondents were selected using a quota sampling method, with some 1,014 people taking part in the survey.

In its December 2015 survey, in addition to looking at the Czech population’s attitudes towards various countries, STEM also focused on the public’s rating of foreign political figures, presidents and prime ministers of selected countries, the presidents of the European Commission and the heads of the Catholic Church. The graph below plots the findings.

 

Source: STEM, Trends 2015/12, 1,014 respondents

Pope Francis

Three-quarters of the population have a positive opinion of Pope Francis, making him the highest rated international figure among Czech citizens. This favourable opinion is shared across the board, and to a similar extent, by the different socio-demographic groups. Pope Francis was also positively rated in our previous survey. In comparison with his predecessor Benedict XVI, Pope Francis’s standing is significantly higher in the eyes of the Czech population (Benedict XVI was rated favourably by 52 % of citizens in 2009).

Leaders of Western European powers and Russia

A two-thirds majority of respondents rated British Prime Minister David Cameron positively in the December survey. Presidents Barack Obama and François Hollande were both rated favourably by roughly half the population. Russian President Vladimir Putin and German Chancellor Angel Merkel received predominantly negative ratings. If we follow the popularity ratings of leading world figures, we can see that there has been a substantial drop in popularity in the cases of B. Obama and, in particular, A. Merkel, with V. Putin’s position remaining relatively stable.

How do the different groups in our population rate key political figures? President Obama, for instance, is rated more favourably by women than by men (57 % and 52 % favourable ratings, respectively). By contrast, the opposite is true for the Russian head of state and here the differences are more pronounced. Almost half of the male population rate Putin positively (46 %), whereas only just under one third of women do so (29 %).

In the case of US President B. Obama, the over 60s are split down the middle in their opinion of him. In contrast, President Obama received predominantly favourable ratings among younger respondents (18-29 years: 60 %, 30-44 years: 57 %, 45-59 years: 56 %, 60 +: 47 %).

There are no substantial differences in respondents’ views of the two world power leaders according to level of education attainment, apart from the fact that university graduates are somewhat more critical towards V. Putin than people with a lower level of education.

In the case of the German chancellor’s ratings, no significant differences were recorded among the different population groups. In the previous survey conducted in October 2013, Angela Merkel was the star of western politics. She received favourable ratings from the better-educated in particular. The current survey shows a dramatic deterioration in her ratings which is evidently connected to the refugee crisis. The German chancellor’s ratings are currently almost identical for all educational categories which means that her popularity has decreased the most among the better educated sections of the population.

*Secondary School Leaving Certificate, equiv. A Levels in the UK,
High School Diploma in the US
Source: STEM, Trends 2013/10, 2015/12

Citizens’ political preferences significantly influence their opinions of the heads of state of Russia, the US and Germany. As expected, Communist Party (KSČM) supporters are much more receptive to Vladimir Putin – and on the contrary, much more critical of Barack Obama – than supporters of the other parliamentary parties. Christian Democrat (KDU-ČSL) and TOP 09 supporters rate Angela Merkel more positively.

Source: STEM, Trends 2015/12, 1,014 respondents aged 18+
(Given their low representation in the group, figures for KDU-ČSL, TOP 09 and ODS supporters are only approximate).

Eastern neighbours

Robert Fico enjoys a high level of popularity among our citizens. It has been apparent time and again that we have a distinctly positive attitude towards Slovakia and its political representatives. The fact that some sections of society do not actually know who some political figures are is reflected in the differences between various socio-demographic groups. Generally speaking, women, the less-educated and the under 30s are not overly interested in foreign politics. For instance, whereas 25 % of men do not know Hungarian Prime Minister V. Orbán, he is unknown by 41 % of women, 47 % of respondents under 30 years of age and 44 % of citizens with a primary education only.

The proportion of people who have a positive opinion of the Slovak and Hungarian prime ministers is somewhat higher among the over 60s. By contrast, university graduates are more critical of R. Fico and V. Orbán, although a majority of this group also rates them favourably.

*Secondary School Leaving Certificate, equiv. A Levels in the UK,
High School Diploma in the US
Source: STEM, Trends 2015/12, 1,014 respondents aged 18+

The following graph illustrates the prime ministers of Slovakia and Hungary’s ratings according to respondents’ political affiliation. Eastern European prime ministers have the approval of Communist Party (KSČM) supporters in particular. Nonetheless, in addition to his positive ratings from Communist Party supporters, the Slovak prime minister also enjoys high ratings from Social Democrats (ČSSD) and ANO (a centrist party and junior coalition partner) supporters.

Source: STEM, Trends 2015/12, 1,014 respondents aged 18+
(Given their low representation in the group, figures for KDU-ČSL, TOP 09 and ODS supporters are only approximate).

European Union representative

President of the European Commission Jean-Claude Juncker’s rating is unique in that a large proportion of respondents do not know him at all (41 %). The majority of those who do know him have rated him unfavourably (16 % positive opinions vs. 43 % negative). It is noteworthy that the October 2013 survey found that just under a quarter of respondents had never heard of Juncker’s predecessor José Manuel Barroso and the majority of those who had heard of him rated him positively (48 %).

NOTE:

  1. ČSSD is the ruling Czech Socialist Democratic Party;
  2. ANO is centrist party and one of the junior collation partners;
  3. KDU-ČSL is the Christian Democrat party and one of junior coalition partners;
  4. TOP 09, a conservative party, and
  5. the liberal-conservative Civic Democrat Party (ODS) are the right-wing opposition parties;
  6. KSČM (Communist Party of Bohemia and Moravia).

Trust in the European Parliament has significantly declined since last year

Slightly over half of Czech citizens (55 %) have trust in the UN and a similar proportion trusts NATO (52 %). However, while trust in NATO is relatively stable, we have recorded a decline in trust in the UN (by 8 % since 2015). Trust in the European Union institutions is even lower and, of the institutions in this overview, the EU institutions are among those with the lowest trust rating: some 29 % of citizens trust the European Union and 24 % trust the European Parliament. These are the lowest levels ever recorded for both institutions in STEM surveys over the years.

The survey cited here was conducted by the STEM non-profit institute on a representative sample of the Czech population aged 18 and over from 9 to 16 February 2016. Respondents were selected using a quota sampling method, with some 1,014 people taking part in the survey.

STEM’s regular surveys focus on the trustworthiness of Czech and international institutions. Over half of Czech citizens trust the United Nations. The Czech population has a similar level of trust in NATO. Only just under one-third of Czech citizens trust the European Union, with trust in the European Parliament even lower, albeit slightly. Compared with the other institutions examined in the survey, European institutions are among those with the lowest trust rating.

Source: STEM, Trends 2016/2, 1014 respondents

Since 2005, when we added the UN to the survey, trust in this institution has remained high, at roughly 70 %. After a decline in 2011, the institution’s trust rating has remained relatively stable at around 65 %. However, in the current survey we have recorded a visible decrease in trust in the UN. Is it connected with the ongoing stalemate of the crisis in Syria which UN did not succeed to address properly?

Czech citizens’ trust in NATO has been relatively stable over the long term, at in and around fifty percent.

The STEM series of surveys has been regularly monitoring the way in which Czech citizens’ trust in the European Union has developed since 1994. Trust in the EU fluctuated for a long time between 50 and 60 %, with a peak in trust recorded at the beginning of the Czech Presidency in 2009. This peak was probably inspired by the conviction the country had a say within EU. Since then, however, there has been a decline in trust in the EU among Czech citizens, with the exception of a short-term increase in 2013 in the proportion of citizens who trusted the institution. The current level of public trust in the EU is at its lowest level ever recorded in STEM surveys.

In the more than ten years of STEM surveys, trust in the European Parliament has taken a similar trajectory to that of citizens’ trust in the European Union in general. Again, a rise in trust in the European Parliament at the beginning of 2009 was followed by a gradual decline, down to 30% in 2012. After a short-term moderate improvement in 2013 at a time of elections, trust in the European Parliament is again currently at a new historical minimum.

Source: STEM, Trends 1994-2016

Let us now focus in greater detail on trust in the European Union. There is little difference in the level of trust in the EU among respondents of different ages and education. In terms of political preferences, TOP 09 supporters trust the European Union most. A higher than average level of trust in the EU was also recorded among ANO movement and Christian Democrats (KDU-ČSL) supporters. Since 2015 trust in the union saw its most significant drop among ODS supporters. The decline in trust in the EU was markedly lower among respondents of other political affiliations (from 5 to 9 %).

Source: STEM, Trends 3/2015, 2/2016

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

Abbreviations

  1. ČSSD is the ruling Czech Socialist Democratic Party; Group of the Progressive Alliance of Socialists and Democrats in the European Parliament
  2. ANO is centrist party and one of the junior coalition partners, Group of the Alliance of Liberals and Democrats for Europe;
  3. KDU-ČSL is the Christian Democrats and also one of junior coalition partners; Group of the European People’s Party (Christian Democrats)
  4. ODS, the liberal-conservative Civic Democratic Party, is a right-wing opposition party; European Conservatives and Reformists Group
  5. TOP 09, a conservative opposition party; Group of the European People’s Party (Christian Democrats)
  6. KSČM Communist Party, Confederal Group of the European United Left – Nordic Green Left

Proportion of people who trust the Government, Parliament and Senate has marginally declined compared with last year

Of the country’s political institutions, the Office of the President enjoys the greatest level of trust among citizens, with almost two-thirds of the population (63 %) trusting the president. Compared with the survey conducted one year ago, trust in the president has increased (by 8 %). Two-fifths of the public say they trust cabinet members (40 %), while trust in the Chamber of Deputies is at 36 % and trust in the Senate at 33 %. These figures indicate a modest decline in the proportion of people who trust these institutions.

The survey cited here was conducted by the STEM non-profit institute on a representative sample of the Czech population aged 18 and over from 9 to 16 February 2016. Respondents were selected using a quota sampling method, with some 1,014 people taking part in the survey.

Over the years since the nineties, STEM has been monitoring the extent to which people trust the different institutions that have an impact on life in the Czech Republic. The following survey looks at public trust in political institutions.

Almost two-thirds of respondents in the February STEM survey expressed their trust in the President of the Republic. Two-fifths of the public trust Czech government ministers, with trust in the Chamber of Deputies just marginally lower. The Senate enjoys the trust of one-third of citizens.

Source: STEM, Trends 2016/2, 1014 respondents

Following early elections in October 2013, both the Chamber of Deputies and the government enjoyed the trust of almost half the population. However, the spring of last year had already seen a decline in the relatively high level of trust experienced in the wake of the elections. This is similar to what has happened in the past in the case of former governments and Chambers of Deputies during the course of their terms of office. The current decrease is by no means dramatic, however.

This decline in public trust in the government and Chamber of Deputies is mirrored in the Senate’s trust rating, which has also fallen from the high levels recorded in previous surveys.

Source: STEM, Trends 2005-2016

As expected, supporters of the governing parties (ČSSD, ANO and KDU-ČSL) are more likely to trust cabinet members. Nonetheless, it is interesting to note that of this group, the survey found that Social Democrats (ČSSD) supporters trusted the government the least. Furthermore, the most significant drop in trust since September 2014 was also recorded among Social Democrats. The question is whether this is an expression of ČSSD supporters’ mistrust in the government as a whole or simply one of dissatisfaction with the Social Democrats’ coalition partners.

A roughly two-thirds majority of Civic Democrats (ODS) supporters do not trust current government ministers. Indeed, almost three-quarters of TOP 09 and Communist Party (KSČM) supporters mistrust the government, while the decline in trust in the government since last year was particularly pronounced among Communist Party supporters.

Source: STEM, Trends 9/2014, 3/2015, 2/2016
Note: Given their low representation in the group, figures for KDU-ČSL, TOP 09 and ODS supporters are only approximate.

Christian Democrats KDU-ČSL supporters trust the Chamber of Deputies and the Senate the most, while Communist Party supporters trust the two institutions the least. Supporters of the governing coalition parties, the ANO movement and the Social Democrats (ČSSD), also more frequently trust the Chamber of Deputies. In terms of trust in the Senate there are no significant differences among ANO, ČSSD, ODS and TOP 09 supporters.

Source: STEM, Trends9/2014, 3/2015, 2/2016
Note: Given their low representation in the group, figures for KDU-ČSL, TOP 09 and ODS supporters are only approximate.

Since Miloš Zeman took office, trust in the president has been fluctuating between 50 and 60 %. President Zeman is therefore considered to be less trustworthy than his predecessor Václav Klaus provided we overlook the final drop in trust in Václav Klaus at the end of his mandate.

Moreover, we should take note of the different way of election. Václav Klaus was elected by the Parliament. As far as Miloš Zeman is concerned, he was elected in direct popular election.

Source: STEM, Trends 2003-2016

University graduates are considerably less likely to trust the president (53 %). To complete the picture it is worth mentioning that university graduates are more likely to trust the Chamber of Deputies and the Senate than are those with a lower level of education. However, level of education has no bearing on the level of trust in the government.

The president has the highest trust rating among Communist Party (KSČM) supporters whose stance has remained relatively stable over time. There is also an above-average level of trust in the president among Social Democrats (ČSSD) and ANO movement supporters, with trust levels varying over time, however. While trust in the president has declined among ČSSD supporters, there has been a significant rise in trust among ANO supporters since the March 2015 survey. It is interesting to note the changes in terms of trust in the president among Christian Democrats (KDU-ČSL) supporters, with the high level recorded in September 2014 falling in spring 2015. The current increase in trust still remains below the average level for the population as a whole.

Trust in the president remains consistently low among ODS supporters, while TOP 09 voters’ trust in the president has been gradually declining.

Source: STEM, Trends 9/2014, 3/2015, 2/2016

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

Abbreviations

  1. ČSSD is the ruling Czech Socialist Democratic Party; Group of the Progressive Alliance of Socialists and Democrats in the European Parliament
  2. ANO is centrist party and one of the junior coalition partners, Group of the Alliance of Liberals and Democrats for Europe;
  3. KDU-ČSL is the Christian Democrats and also one of junior coalition partners; Group of the European People’s Party (Christian Democrats)
  4. ODS, the liberal-conservative Civic Democratic Party, is a right-wing opposition party; European Conservatives and Reformists Group
  5. TOP 09, a conservative opposition party; Group of the European People’s Party (Christian Democrats)
  6. KSČM Communist Party, Confederal Group of the European United Left – Nordic Green Left

Subjective assessment of household financial situation improves

One-third of Czech citizens (32 %) currently consider their family to be ‘poor’, of which just under one tenth (7 %) is quite certain. We have observed a slight decline in the sense of poverty since 2015. Half of the population (51 %) indicated that they are managing to save, the highest percentage to date since STEM began conducting its surveys. Over two-fifths of citizens (44 %) said that they can easily get by on their household income. Once again this figure represents a historical high.

Since the beginning of the nineties, STEM has been monitoring the way in which Czech citizens subjectively assess their household’s financial situation. In the most recent survey conducted in mid-February, one-third of citizens described their family as ‘poor’. The proportion of those who answered “definitely yes” gives a more realistic indication of the degree of poverty in the country. The “somewhat yes” answers are more an indication of a subjective sense of material deprivation.

Source: STEM, Trends 2/2016, 1014 respondents aged 18+

In March 2015 there was already evidence of a slight decline in the proportion of those who considered their family to be poor. The present survey reaffirms this decline. The current figures are close to those from the mid-nineties, which are the lowest ever recorded. A decline in the sense of poverty is definitely closely linked to satisfaction with the overall development of the Czech economy monitored in the data, as is last year’s more positive assessment of the financial situation of households.

Source: STEM, Trends 1993-2016

People with a primary school education (49 %) and the unemployed (56 %) describe their family as ‘poor” considerably more often than other groups of the population, as do those with apprenticeships (38 %) and pensioners (35 %), but to a lesser extent. Divorced respondents are also more likely to consider their family to be poor (49 %), as are one-member families
(44 %). The proportion of people who consider their family to be poor is somewhat higher among the citizens of the Moravian-Silesian and Olomouc regions.

*Marurita: equiv. A Level in the UK, High School Diploma in the US

Source: STEM, Trends 2/2016, 1014 respondents aged 18+

Source: STEM, Trends 2/2016, 1014 respondents aged 18+

As expected, an analysis of the data shows that the sense of poverty experienced depends on the family’s financial situation. Nevertheless, it is interesting that over one-third of people with total assets of up to CZK 300,000 do not consider their family to be poor. By contrast, almost one-fifth of those who estimated their assets to be in excess of CZK 2 million, consider themselves to be poor. These figures confirm the subjective perception of poverty.

Source: STEM, Trends 2/2016, 1014 respondents aged 18+

Another key indicator of the economic situation of households in the Czech Republic is the responses given in relation to the ability to save for the future. In the February survey the total number of respondents could almost be divided into two equal groups, with half managing to save part of their income, and the other half stating that they were unable to do so. Given that in the past the large majority of the population was unable to save, this can be seen as a very positive development. Indeed, the number of savers is at its highest level recorded to date.

Source: STEM, Trends 1993-2016

STEM has another unique series of surveys which illustrates household financial management since 1990. The following graph illustrates that the greatest strain on the economy came immediately after price deregulation, i.e. at the beginning of the nineties. The second strain on the economy came at the end of the nineties (1997-98) following the independent state’s first economic problems of a more serious nature which, to exacerbate matters, was accompanied by a political crisis. The economic crisis in the wake of 2008 was not so evident in the assessment of household income. The present data shows a substantial decline (of 7 %) in the proportion of respondents who said that they found it “very difficult” or “difficult” to make ends meet on their household income. This figure currently stands at 18 %, the lowest proportion to date. At the same time, there has been a significant increase since 2013 in the proportion of people who find it easy to get by on their household income.

Source: STEM, Economical expectations 1990-1992, Trends 1993-2016

Source: STEM, Trends 2/2016, 1014 respondents aged 18+