People believe that the Czech economy is doing better

Half of Czech citizens (48 %) believe that the Czech economy is the same as it was one year ago, whereas almost two-fifths (37 %) think that it has improved. Compared to the last survey in 2014, there has been an obvious increase (of 25 %) in the proportion of respondents who positively rated Czech economic development. In terms of the economic outlook for next year, half of the population (50 %) expect the situation to remain the same, over one-quarter (27 %) expect an improvement, with, by contrast, just under a quarter (23 %) expecting a worsening of the economic situation. An over three-fifths majority of respondents (62 %) stated that there had been no change in their household’s financial situation over the past year. The difference is minimal between the proportion of people who reported an improvement in their personal financial situation and those who said it had deteriorated (19 % and 21 % respectively). Opinions are similarly divided on change in household finances in the coming year.

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.

Since 1993 STEM has been continually monitoring how Czech citizens perceive the development of the Czech economy and the financial situation of their own household. The institute has also been asking respondents what trends they expect in the coming 12 months. Negative assessments, both retrospective and prospective, which were characteristic of the period following the 2008 economic crisis, are now a thing of the past. The 2014 survey already demonstrates a change in public attitudes. The current results indicate strongly positive assessments, in particular of Czech economic development during the past year.

Almost two-fifths of citizens believe that the economic situation in the Czech Republic has improved over the past year. Half of respondents are inclined to think that the economic situation has remained the same. The proportion of citizens who believe that the situation has deteriorated is in the minority (15 %). While assessing their own household finances, a clear majority of respondents stated that it had “remained the same” (62 %). There is no substantial difference between the proportion of people who believe their situation has improved and those who consider their situation to have deteriorated.

Source: STEM, Trends 2016/2, 1014 respondents

In the years since 1993, when STEM started conducting its surveys, there have been visible decreases followed by subsequent increases in the proportion of positive views on the overall economic situation in the Czech Republic. The economic crises of 1997 and 2008 are particularly obvious (the proportion of respondents who believed that the economy had improved or remained the same fell by 45 % from March 2008 to March 2009). Following a significant rise in the proportion of positive assessments of the Czech economy in 2014 (of 28 %), the current data indicates yet another substantial increase (of 20 %).

According to the series of STEM surveys, the assessment of household finances has remained more stable over the years, although from 2009 onwards the impact of the economic crisis was also evident in respondents’ subjective perception of their household financial situation, as assessed retrospectively. As with the overall economic situation, we have recorded a gradual rise in positive assessments of household finances, right up to a historical high of 85 %.

Source: STEM, Trends 1993-2016

We have provided specific data on the most recent changes (viz. graphs below) in the overall development of the economic situation in the Czech Republic, together with respondents’ personal financial situation, as assessed retrospectively by the public. In terms of their assessment on the general economic situation, first of all in 2014 there is a rise in cautious responses, i.e. that the situation had not changed (increase of 20 %); two years later people were already “more radical” and there was a rise in the proportion of those who considered their financial situation to be somewhat better (in fact, an increase of 25 %). The proportion of those who believe that their situation has remained unchanged is the same, however. Overall, these figures represent a total 55 % decline in negative assessments since 2013. Therefore, the development of economic indicators for the Czech economy and the way in which they are presented in the media are also reflected in public opinion.

A fall in the proportion of negative assessments of household finances is also clearly evident, (a decrease of 29 % since 2013), as is a gradual increase in the proportion of those who consider their financial situation to be stable (an increase of 20 % since 2013), as perceived retrospectively by respondents.

Source: STEM, Trends 2013-2016

Source: STEM, Trends 2013-2016

Citizens who are better educated and better off financially more frequently have a positive perspective on the state of the Czech economy and their household finances in the past. However, the significant rise in positive assessments of the Czech economy over the past 12 months has not only been among university graduates and those with a secondary school education; this trend has also been recorded among people with apprenticeships. Those with a primary school education only are more likely to believe that there has been no change in the overall economic situation.

1

What is interesting is that the most substantial decrease in respondents who felt that their household financial situation had deteriorated was recorded among the over 60s, a group of people who are traditionally fairly negative in their assessment of their financial situation.

2Prospects for the future

As regards the outlook for the Czech economy in the coming 12 months, half the population do not expect any significant changes. More than a quarter expect an improvement in the Czech Republic’s economic situation, with a slightly lower proportion predicting a deterioration. The division of opinions on the outlook for household finances in the future is similar to respondents’ perspectives of household finances, assessed retrospectively – the most widely-held opinion is that household finances will remain the same (held by a nearly two-thirds majority of respondents).

Source: STEM, Trends 2016/2, 1014 respondents

Over the years the surveys conducted by STEM have indicated a gradual increase in optimism about the future of the Czech economy and household finances. The proportion of respondents who are optimistic about the future prospects for their household finances is at a historical high (similar to their retrospective viewpoint).

Source: STEM, Trends 1993-2016

The figures in the following graph illustrate the positive results of the survey which indicate that the Czech population is relatively optimistic, even about the future. The proportion of people who are pessimistic about the Czech Republic’s future economic outlook has decreased by 9 %, while the proportion of those who are pessimistic about what lies ahead in terms of their own household financial situation has fallen by 14 %.

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

If we combine the answers with regard to the expected development of the Czech economy and household finances, we can divide the population into four groups:

  • “optimists”: those who expect an improvement in both the Czech economy and in their household finances or an improvement in one of the areas and a neutral development in the other
  • “realists”: those who either expect the situation to remain unchanged in both cases or expect an improvement in the one of the areas and a deterioration in the other
  • “moderate pessimists”: those who predict a deterioration in one of the areas and stagnation in the other
  • and “pessimists”: those who anticipate a decline in the Czech economy and in their household finances.

At first glance, the typology developed since 2011 indicates an obvious decline in the “pessimists” group and an increase in the number of “optimists” and “realists”.

Source: STEM, Trends 2011-2016

 


Division of Roles in the Czech Family

More than half the Czech population (58 %) is opposed to a traditional division of roles in the family, with the man as the breadwinner and the woman looking after the home and family. For a long time now, the public has been divided into two almost equal camps on whether looking after the home can be just as fulfilling as being in the workplace. According to a slight majority of citizens (53 %), a mother’s role in raising children is no more important than that of a father. The proportion of citizens who disagree with a mother’s dominant role in children’s upbringing is currently markedly higher than for previous surveys.

The STEM Trends survey cited here was conducted on a representative sample of the Czech population aged 18 and over from 19 to 29 May 2015. Respondents were selected using a quota sampling method, with some 1,065 people taking part in the survey. Issued on 2. 7. 2015

In the May STEM survey, we asked citizens several questions with regard to their opinions on marriage, the family and the role of men and women in the family. Over twenty years of the TRENDS series of surveys, we have been able to monitor whether or not society has seen a shift in opinion on these issues.

Even in the mid-nineties, Czech society was still divided on traditional gender stereotypes, which defined the man’s role as family breadwinner and the woman’s role as looking after the home and family. A majority of just over half the population agreed with this stereotype, with almost half disagreeing. The current survey indicates a shift in Czech attitudes away from this stereotype, with the majority of the population rejecting this traditional perception. Nevertheless, two-fifths of Czech citizens still agree with a traditional division of gender roles.

 

Source: STEM, Trends 1996/9, 2000/5, 2015/5

When we examine the differences between the various sociodemographic groups, there is a noticeable shift in the opinions of certain groups over time. Specifically, while the attitudes of women have almost remained unchanged, there has been a shift in men’s opinions on the subject (in the past, the majority of women already rejected the traditional gender-role stereotypes).


 

114Source: STEM, Trends 2000/5, 2015/5

The latest survey also found a similarly significant shift in opinion among the group with a primary school education. In 2000, some 61 % of this group was inclined to think that men should be out earning money whereas women should stay at home to look after the household. This figure stood at only 45 % in 2015. Whereas there are no substantial differences in opinion according to age, it is evident that while in 2000, opinions on the roles of men and women in the home varied significantly by age, nowadays the generational gap is narrowing on gender role attitudes.

Source: STEM, Trends 2000/5, 2015/5

Czech public opinion regarding the value of work in the home has consistently remained equivocal. Czech citizens are split down the middle on the issue, with half believing that staying at home on a continuous basis is just as valuable as having a job in the workplace and the other half disagreeing with this opinion. This differentiation in opinion among the Czech population has been stable long term; the 1996 STEM survey held twenty years ago came up with the same results as the 2000 and 2011 surveys.

Source: STEM, Trends 1996/9, 2000/5, 2011/4, 2015/5

The view that looking after the home and family on a continuous basis can be just as enjoyable and fulfilling as going out to work is held by more than half of people over 60 years of age (56 %), people with a primary school education only (54 %) and those with apprenticeships (53 %).

Let us now focus on the attitudes of the Czech public towards the role of men and women in children’s upbringing. While fifteen years ago the majority of Czechs were of the opinion that mothers are more important in children’s upbringing than fathers, today less than half the population holds this view. There is no significant difference in the views of men and women or in the opinions of people in difference age groups. Only the less educated are more often inclined to believe that mothers are more important in children’s upbringing than fathers compared with the population as a whole (people with a primary school education: 56 %, those with an apprenticeship: 50 %, those with their ‘maturita’ (equiv. A Level in the UK, High School Diploma in the US): 43 %, university graduates: 41 %).

Source: STEM, Trends 1996, 2000, 2015

Changes in the division of gender roles in the family are also evident if we compare the responses given to the question regarding who in the family does/did most of the childcare. In the mid-90s, a two-thirds majority of respondents who have children said that it was mostly the woman who looked after the children. According to the current survey, this proportion is significantly lower, and indeed a slight majority of respondents said that both the man and the woman shared the childcare responsibilities equally.

Source: STEM, Trends 1996, 2000, 2015

Changes in attitudes towards parental responsibilities are again more pronounced for men than for women. In 2000 almost two-thirds of men indicated that the woman did most of the childcare in their family. In the current survey this proportion has fallen by 19 %. For the same period there was a 10 % decline in the proportion of women who indicated that the woman did most of the childcare.

Source: STEM, Trends 2000/5, 2015/5

As with men, the attitudes of people with a lower level of education have undergone a similarly significant change. Over half of those with a primary education and those with apprenticeships indicated in the most recent survey that both parents do an equal amount of the childcare (as opposed to one third in 2000). Of the different age groups, the greatest shift in attitudes was recorded among the middle aged (those aged 30 to 59 years).

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

Source: STEM, Trends 2000/5, 2015/5

Source: STEM, Trends 2000/5, 2015/5


An Increasing Number of Czechs Consider NATO Membership More Important for the Country Than EU Membership

Half of the Czech population (50 %) considers the country’s membership of the European Union and its membership of the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation to be equally important. Among those who differentiate between the two institutions, those who consider NATO membership to be more important (34 %) clearly outnumber those who favour EU membership (16 %). More than a two-thirds majority of Czech citizens (69 %) supports the Czech Republic’s membership in NATO, with one-fifth disapproving (22 %) and one-tenth choosing to give an evasive answer (9 %).

The STEM survey cited here was conducted on a representative sample of the Czech population aged 18 and over from 18 to 28 September 2015. Respondents were selected using a quota sampling method, with some 925 people taking part in the survey. Information from STEM trends survey 9/2015. Issued on 9. 11. 2015

In an atmosphere of increasing population dissatisfaction with the country’s membership in the European Union and the prevailing sense of a threat from migrants, it is interesting to take a look also at the public’s attitude to the military institution of which we are a member – the North Atlantic Alliance.

In the period before the Czech Republic’s accession to the EU and NATO and after the country’s accession to NATO (1998), the number of people who considered joining the European Union to be more important than joining the North Atlantic Alliance was greater. In 2011, in addition to the almost fifty percent of the population who considered membership in the two institutions to be equally important, support for NATO and the EU had evened out. In 2012 the proportion of citizens who favoured NATO was higher. The current survey has further amplified this difference. The proportion of citizens who consider membership in NATO to be of greater importance is double (34 %) the number of people who favour EU membership (16 %). Nonetheless, the number of citizens who consider membership in both institutions to be of equal importance has remained consistent at fifty percent.

 

Source: STEM, Trends 1996-2015 (prior to entry to the EU and NATO, the word “accession” was used in the question

As expected, public attitudes towards Czech membership in the EU and NATO vary depending on attitudes towards the country’s European Union membership itself. The vast majority of citizens who are satisfied with Czech membership in the EU believe that membership in the two institutions are of equal importance, and within this grouping there is a similar proportion of people who are only pro- NATO or only pro- EU. Those who are somewhat dissatisfied with EU membership are representative of the population as a whole. The vast majority of people who are very dissatisfied with our membership in the EU consider membership in NATO to be of greater importance, while one-third of those who consider membership in the two institutions to be of equal importance are in this group.

“In your opinion, what is currently more important for our country – membership in the European Union or membership in NATO?”
According to satisfaction with Czech membership in the EU

Source: STEM, Trends 09/2015, 925 respondents, aged 18 +

The fact that an over two-thirds majority of Czech citizens support the country’s membership in NATO demonstrates our strong attachment to this institution. Only one-fifth of the adult population is currently against membership in NATO, with one tenth avoiding giving a definitive answer.

“Are you in favour of the Czech Republic’s membership in NATO?”

Source: STEM, Trends 09/2015, 925 respondents, aged 18 +

The STEM surveys conducted over the years since the Czech Republic’s accession to NATO, show that NATO has consistently enjoyed the support of the majority of the population, surpassing 70 % in 2000 (for the purposes of a time comparison, we have left out evasive answers such as “I don’t know”, “I can’t judge”). In subsequent years, the level of approval for membership in NATO has remained relatively stable, at in and around 70 %. The only deviation was in 2009 when, during the Czech EU Presidency, there was an increase in pro-European sentiment among the population which also impacted positively on support for NATO. The current survey again demonstrates that a three-quarters majority of the population supports Czech membership in NATO (excluding “I don’t know” answers).

Source: STEM, Trends 1998-2015 (people who answered “I don’t know” were excluded from the data up to and including 2002 and 2015/9)

Younger people and the better educated are more likely to be in favour of membership in NATO. Nonetheless, the majority of citizens over 60 and those with only a primary school education also support NATO membership, although less so than respondents in the other age groups and education categories.

Membership in NATO also enjoys majority support across the political spectrum, regardless of parliamentary political party affiliation, with the obvious exception of Communist Party (KSČM) sympathisers who can be divided into two groups of almost equal size.

“Are you in favour of membership of the Czech Republic in NATO?”
By age

Source: STEM, Trends 09/2015, 925 respondents, aged 18+

“Are you in favour of membership of the Czech Republic in NATO?”
By education

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

Source: STEM, Trends 09/2015, 925 respondents, aged 18+

“Are you in favour of membership of the Czech Republic in NATO?”
According to political party preferences

Source: STEM, Trends 09/2015, 925 respondents, aged 18+


Note:

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


 

It is interesting how the opinions of Communist Party supporters on the North Atlantic Alliance affect their attitudes when comparing Czech membership in NATO to membership in the EU: Communist party supporters are the only grouping who favour membership in the EU over membership in NATO, while at the same time this grouping has the lowest number of individuals who believe that membership in the two institutions is of equal importance.

“In your opinion, what is currently more important for our country – membership in the European Union or membership in NATO?”
According to political party preferences

Source: STEM, Trends 09/2015, 925 respondents, aged 18 +

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

 


Proportion of Citizens Dissatisfied with the Czech Republic’s European Union Membership on the Increase

A three-fifths majority of the Czech public (61 %) is dissatisfied with the Czech Republic’s membership in the European Union. Hypothetically, if a referendum on joining the European Union was held here again, 38 % of citizens would vote in favour, while 62 % would vote against. The results of the current survey indicate the lowest level of support for the union ever recorded in the many STEM surveys conducted over the years. Furthermore, a three-fifths majority of the population (58 %) currently have negative feelings towards membership in the European Union (feelings of considerable fear or moderate concern).

The STEM survey cited here was conducted on a representative sample of the Czech population aged 18 and over from 18 to 28 September 2015. Respondents were selected using a quota sampling method, with some 925 people taking part in the survey. Information  from the STEM Trends survey 9/2015. Issued on 23. 10. 2015

As part of our regular monitoring of Czech public opinion on the issue of Czech membership in the European Union, STEM focused on the satisfaction of Czech citizens with EU membership. The September survey found that two-fifths (39 %) of citizens are satisfied with our membership in the EU. Thus, a feeling of dissatisfaction prevails among a three-fifths majority of the Czech population.

 

“Are you personally satisfied overall with our membership in the European Union?”

Source: STEM, Trends 09/2015, 925 respondents aged 18 +

The STEM surveys, which track the development of population satisfaction with membership in the European Union in the years following the Czech Republic’s EU accession, show a gradual decline over the years in satisfaction levels with the union. This trend was interrupted with the Czech Presidency in 2009 which led to a significant reinforcement of positive feelings. Subsequently, however, the level of satisfaction started to decline once again, falling below the 50 % mark.

This year the Czech population’s level of dissatisfaction with European Union membership has risen even further, an increase which can most likely be attributed to the union’s internal problems and to the complicated process of finding a solution to the current influx of migrants to Europe. Czech citizens’ fear of refugees undoubtedly has a negative impact on the country’s relationship with the European Union, which demands solidarity among its member states in resolving the refugee crisis.

“Are you personally satisfied overall with our membership in the European Union?”

(proportion of “definitely yes” + “most likely yes” answers in %)

Sources: STEM, European Constitution, 2/2005, STEGA, Communication on European Affairs, 10/2005 – 6/2006, STEM, Trends 2006 – 2015

Since the Czech Republic’s accession to the European Union in 2004, STEM has been exploring the hypothetical question of what would the outcome of a referendum on joining the EU be if held again. In the beginning the vast majority of Czech citizens hypothetically supported joining the union, but this majority gradually decreased until, in the spring of 2011, the proportion of votes for and against evened out entirely. Over the course of the following year, the number of respondents in favour of joining continued to fall even further.

Following a period of relative stability from 2012 to 2014, the current survey shows the lowest level ever of hypothetical votes in favour of joining the European Union in the timeline covered by STEM at 38 % of the population. The following graph shows how in particular the proportion of those absolutely against the union, i.e. those who would definitely cast a ‘no’ vote, has increased since the previous survey in spring 2014.


“If a referendum on joining the European Union was held again today, would you vote in favour?”

Source: STEM, Trends 2005 – 2015


“If a referendum on joining the European Union was held again today, would you vote in favour?”

(proportion of “definitely yes” + “most likely yes” answers in %)

The low proportion of supporters of our membership in the European Union corresponds with the current low level of satisfaction with the country’s membership in the union. Specifically, this means that over half of respondents (55 %) are dissatisfied with our membership in the union and would vote no in a referendum on joining the EU if it were held again. One third of citizens (33 %) hold the opposite view, that is, they are clearly pro-union. One tenth of respondents (12 %) provide contradictory answers.

On the subject of our membership in the European Union, we asked respondents an additional question designed to gauge their attitudes on an emotional level. The results confirmed the current negative mood of the majority of the Czech public in their attitude towards the European Union. Negative feelings clearly prevail. In connection with our EU membership, almost one third of respondents expresses significant fears and expects the situation to deteriorate. A further one third feels moderately concerned. By contrast, the total number of citizens who expressed positive feelings towards the union (mild optimism and anticipation of a better future) was a mere one third of the population. One tenth was neutral, expressing indifference and a lack of interest. It appears that the period of confidence in the union which we documented ten years ago is well and truly over.


 

“Which of the following statements best expresses your overall personal feelings with regard to Czech membership in the European Union?”

Source: STEM, Trends 09/2015, Trends 07/2005

The connection between the current attitudes of the Czech public towards the European Union and the handling of finding a resolution to the problems related to the influx of migrants can be illustrated in the following graph. It is evident from the graph that those who are afraid of refugees in particular have a negative attitude towards the European Union (65 % of this group are considerably afraid or slightly concerned compared with 39 % of the group who are not afraid of refugees).

 

“Which of the following statements best expresses your overall personal feelings with regard to Czech membership in the European Union?”

Differences between people according to their answers to the question: “are you personally afraid of the refugees who could obtain asylum in the Czech Republic?”

Source: STEM, Trends 09/2015, 925 respondents, aged 18 +


Attitudes towards our membership in the European Union largely vary according to the age, education, financial security, political orientation and party affiliation of respondents. Younger people tend more frequently to be pro-European (47 % of the under 30s are satisfied with membership in the union), as do university graduates and those who are more financially secure. However, a decrease in satisfaction with our European Union membership is evident among all sociodemographic groups, most significantly, however, among secondary school and university graduates and the over 45s.

“Are you personally satisfied overall with our membership in the European Union?”

By education (the proportion of “definitely yes” + “somewhat yes” answers in %)

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

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

In terms of political orientation, those to the right of the political spectrum, specifically TOP 09, Civic Democrat (ODS) and Christian Democrat (KDU-ČSL) supporters have a more positive attitude towards the EU. By contrast, left-wing citizens, and primarily Communist Party (KSČM) voters, are characteristically anti-European. An important finding is the considerable decline in satisfaction with EU membership among citizens who have traditionally had a more positive attitude towards the union, that is, this decline is has occurred more among the right-wing and centrist population than among left-wing voters.

“Are you personally satisfied overall with our membership in the European Union?”

By political orientation (the proportion of “definitely yes” + “somewhat yes” answers in %)

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

By party preferences (the proportion of “definitely yes” + “somewhat yes” answers in %)

Source: STEM, Trends 09/2015, 925 respondents, aged 18 +

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

*Note:

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


What do Czechs perceive as a threat to society?

Within the context of current developments in Europe, Czech citizens are becoming increasingly concerned about Islamic fundamentalism, the situation in the Middle East and the influx of migrants in particular. According to the public, both terrorism and international organized crime represent stable risks. The rise in concern over the threat of politics in Russia, documented in May, was not confirmed in the September survey.

The STEM survey cited here was conducted on a representative sample of the Czech population aged 18 and over from 18 to 28 September 2015. Respondents were selected using a quota sampling method, with some 925 people taking part in the survey. Information from STEM Trends Survey 9/2015. Issued on 15. 10. 2015

In the September survey STEM asked citizens to rank ten selected threats that could pose a danger to the country. The public was asked to rank their concerns on a scale of one to nine where one indicated “no threat” and nine indicated a “very significant threat.” The results of the September survey can be compared with the results of a similar survey carried out in May of this year.

Islamic fundamentalism is perceived as a significant threat for most citizens. Indeed three-fifths of the population (59 %) gave it the maximum rating on a scale of one to nine. A total of 85 % of citizens considered it a significant threat, ranking it 7, 8 or 9. This proportion is slightly higher than in the May survey (by 3 percentage points).

Furthermore, the number of people who perceive the influx of refugees as a significant threat was up from 71 % in the May survey to 76 % in September. The fear of migrants thus represents the second highest perceived risk. A similarly high proportion of citizens feel threatened by terrorism and international organized crime, but these perceived threats have not gained in magnitude since May.

However, concerns over the development of the situation in the Middle East rose (up from 59 % to 65 %).

In May we pointed to a significant change in the rating of Russia as a security risk compared with previous surveys. The proportion of people who perceived the politics of Russia as a significant threat to their country in May had more than doubled compared with 2011. This change is clearly linked to Russian policy towards Ukraine and the general sense of threat from Russia. However, in the September survey the proportion of citizens who regarded the politics of Russia as a significant threat decreased (from 59 % to 43 %). Now more people consider poverty in developing countries as a significant threat to our country (49 %). The politics of Russia is now considered a significant threat by almost the same proportion of the population as the politics of the United States. At the same time there has been a slight increase in the perceived threat of US foreign policy since the May survey.

The reason for the decline in concern over Russian foreign policy can be attributed to the diminishing amount of information on the situation in Ukraine. The public has therefore become accustomed to reading about it as less significant issue. Furthermore, there has been an escalation of security risks in other hotspots which has manifested itself in an increase in concern over migrants, Islamic fundamentalism and developments in the Middle East. Indeed, the September STEM survey found that more than half of Czech citizens consider the influx of refugees to be currently the most important problem facing their country.

 

Comparison of the ratings of threats to our country – March 2011, May 2015 and September 2015

(Comparison of the proportion of 7, 8 and 9 answers on a scale of 1-9, where 1= “no threat” and 9= “a very significant threat”)

Source: STEM, Trends 2011/3, 2015/5, 2015/9

How great is the threat to our country? – September 2015

(Rating on a scale of 1-9, where 1= “no threat” and 9= “a very significant threat”)

Source: STEM, Trends 9/2015, 925 respondents

In general, the over-60s are somewhat more sensitive to the various security risks facing our country, but these differences are not significant. Differences in terms of age group are for the most part fairly insignificant, even if you allow for the differences in ratings compared with the May survey (see graph below).

Comparison of the ratings for the influx of refugees as a threat to our country by age

(Proportion of 7, 8 or 9 answers in % on a scale of 1-9, where 1= “no threat” and 9= “a very significant threat”)

Source: STEM, Trends 2015/5, 2015/9

Likewise, the level of fear of the politics of Russia also depends on respondents’ age: older respondents are more likely to consider Russia a significant threat to the country than the under-30s. The most significant decline in the level of fear of the politics of Russia is also for this age group (a decline of 21 %).

Comparison of the ratings for the politics of Russia as a threat to our country by age

(Proportion of 7, 8 or 9 answers in % on a scale of 1-9, where 1= “no threat” and 9= “a very significant threat”)

Source: STEM, Trends 2015/5, 2015/9

The political affiliation of respondents largely affects how they rate security risks. Those to the right of the political spectrum mostly rate the risk of the threats named in the survey as less serious than those to the left or center of the spectrum. Furthermore, for the most part, the level of fear of right-wing citizens has not increased since May (see graph).

Comparison of the ratings for the influx of refugees as a threat to our country by political affiliation

(proportion of 7, 8 or 9 answers in % on a scale of 1-9, where 1 = “no threat”, 9 = “a very significant threat”)

Source: STEM, Trend 2015/5, 2015/9

An exception to the above correlation is the public’s perception of the threat of politics in Russia which, on the contrary, is more frequently perceived as a significant threat by right-wing individuals. Despite the fact that the level of fear of the politics of Russia has fallen across the political spectrum, the politically-intensified differences between left and right remain.

 

Comparison of the ratings for the foreign policy of Russia as a threat to our country by political affiliation

(proportion of 7, 8 or 9 answers in % on a scale of 1-9, where 1 = “no threat”, 9 = “a very significant threat”)

Source: STEM, Trend 2015/5, 2015/9

In light of the strong media coverage of the refugee crisis, we examined whether respondents’ perceptions of security risks differ depending on the television channels they watch, specifically the news. The survey found that privately owned channels TV Nova and FTV Prima viewers perceive the threat of the influx of refugees and that of terrorism as a significant threat slightly more frequently than the national broadcaster Czech Television (ČT) viewers and those who do not watch the news at all (ČT is the national broadcaster, TV NOVA and FTV Prima are privately-owned channels).

How the influx of refugees is rated as a threat to our country according to which main evening news programmes are most frequently watched by respondents

Source: STEM, Trends 2015/9, 925 respondents

In general people who do not watch the news at all perceive the other security risks on the list as less serious. In terms of television channel preference, there were no significant differences between the fear perceptions of respondents.

How the situation in the Middle East is rated as a threat to our country according to which main evening news programmes are most frequently watched by respondents

Source: STEM, Trends 2015/9, 925 respondents


 


Czech attitudes towards Western European countries, especially Germany, are deteriorating

Czech citizens have the best relationship with Slovakia, with 86 % of the population giving Slovakia a ‘one’ or a ‘two’ on a scale of one to five, with one being the most positive rating. Austria (72 %), the Netherlands (71 %), Sweden, France and the United Kingdom (all at 70 %) also received high ratings from the vast majority of the public. When compared to a previous survey carried out in 2013, the attitude of Czech citizens to the majority of western European countries has deteriorated, most evidently in the case of Germany. Ukraine (24 %), China (25 %), Russia (30 %), Serbia (31 %) and the newly included Turkey (15 %) fared the worst in the ratings.

The STEM survey cited here was carried out on a representative sample of the Czech population aged 18 years and over from 3 to 11 December 2015. Respondents were selected using a quota sampling method, with 1,014 people taking part in the survey. Information from STEM Trends survey 12/2015.

Since 1994 STEM has been regularly monitoring the attitudes of our citizens towards certain countries in Europe and the world powers. The December 2015 survey indicated a significant shift in the attitudes of the Czech public to certain countries when compared to a previous survey carried out in 2013. This shift is most likely linked to the current situation in Europe and to the refugee crisis.

First, let us sum up the current results. Respondents were asked to rate their relationship with the various countries on a scale of one to five, with one being the most positive. Slovakia clearly rated the highest, with 86 % of respondents rating the country at one or two. Citizens also gave Austria, the Netherlands, Sweden, France and the United Kingdom positive ratings, with roughly 70 % of citizens giving them a one or a two. More than half of respondents surveyed also favorably rated Croatia, Denmark, Italy, Belgium, Hungary, Japan and Slovenia. Roughly fifty percent of the population rated their relationship with Poland and Germany favourably, giving them scores of one and two. Turkey fared the worst, receiving the most ‘bad’ marks (Turkey was included for the first time in this survey). Few positive ratings were also given to the United States, Serbia, Russia, China and Ukraine.

When compared to the 2013 survey, there has been a significant drop in positive ratings, primarily in the case of Czech attitudes towards Germany (represented by a downward slide on an imaginary country popularity chart). This change likely reflects the attitudes of Czech citizens towards Germany’s migrant policy and skepticism by the Czech public as to whether Germany can manage to handle the refugee crisis. However, as reflected in the chart, the situation in Europe has also affected the public’s relationship with other western European countries, with countries such as Belgium, Denmark and Sweden, in particular, experiencing a fall in positive ratings when compared to the previous study. The Netherlands, France and the United Kingdom were also rated less favourably, but not significantly. Besides a worsening of their relationship with European countries, the Czech public’s attitude towards the United States has also deteriorated.

By contrast, there has been an improvement in the public’s relationship with Hungary, Poland and Slovakia. China also received a slightly better rating, although it still remains among those countries with the lowest ratings.

When comparing the recent survey to that carried out in 2013, it is also worth noting that Russia’s proportion of positive ratings has remained unchanged.

 

Country popularity chart

“I’m going to read you the names of various countries and, using the school grading system, I’d like you to rate your relationship with them on a scale of one (most favourable) to five (least favourable).”

Rating in % (school grades: one = best relationship, five = worst relationship)

Source: STEM, Trends 2015/12, 1014 respondents

Country popularity comparison from 2013 and 2015

“I’m going to read you the names of various countries and, using the school grading system, I’d like you to rate your relationship with them on a scale of one (most favourable) to five (least favourable).”

Proportion of 1 + 2 grades in % (school grades: one = best relationship, five = worst relationship)

Source: STEM, Trends 2013/10, 2015/12

The following graph, which plots the attitudes of Czech citizens towards Germany, France, the United Kingdom and the United States for a period of over twenty years, clearly shows a dramatic deterioration in the ratings of these countries in the latest survey, most notably in the case of Germany. This drop in ratings is similar to that experienced in 2004 when our accession to the European Union generated widespread public discourse on defending the national interest (at that time US policy in the Middle East, and in Iraq in particular, certainly had an impact on attitudes towards the United States).

 

Development in the ratings of the selected countries (1994-2015)

(Ratings using the school grading system: one = best relationship, five = worst relationship; proportion of 1 + 2 grades in %)

Source: STEM, Trends 1994-2015

Let us focus now in greater detail on the development of the population’s relationship with Germany. The analysis shows that in comparison with 2013, attitudes towards Germany have worsened among the university-educated population in particular. Whereas, in the past, attitudes towards Germany were strongly linked to level of educational attainment, attitudes are now almost identical for respondents in all educational categories. With respect to age, there was a drop in positive ratings for Germany in all the age categories, with the least significant drop recorded among respondents aged 45-59.

 

Differences in attitudes towards Germany by education (2013 and 2015)

(Proportion of 1+2 grades in %)

Source: STEM, Trends 2015/12, 1014 respondents

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

Differences in attitudes towards Germany by age (2013 and 2015)

(Proportion of 1+2 grades in %)

Source: STEM, Trends 2015/12, 1014 respondents


Fear of refugees – what lies behind it

There is a widespread fear of refugees among the Czech population which runs through all sections of society. It would be a big mistake, however, for this fear of refugees to be seen in isolation. The predominant issue is rather a fear of the spread of Islam in this country, a fear of an escalation in Islamic fundamentalism and its link to terrorism and organised crime. The current irrational, emotion-based and unstructured fear of this whole set of risks is weakening our anchoring in the European Union and also calls into question the results of the country’s post-November 1989 development.

The STEM survey cited here was carried out on a representative sample of the Czech population aged 18 and up from 18 to 28 September 2015. Respondents were selected using a quota sampling method, with some 925 people taking part in the survey.

In the September survey, STEM focused in greater detail on the perception of the refugee crisis and attempted to analyse the thematic areas linked to the fear of refugees. At present roughly two-thirds of the population have a fear of refugees. However, Czechs consider the spread of Islam in this country to present an even greater threat, with over eighty percent of the population fearing the spread of Islam.

Fear of Refugees and Islam

Source: STEM, Trends 09/2015, 925 respondents, aged 18 +

As expected, the fear of refugees and the fear of the spread of Islam are related to the age and education of the respondents: older people and the less educated expressed greater levels of fear. These differences are not so significant but are apparent nonetheless.

A fear of the spread of Islam in particular pervades the different groups in our society. The large majority of Czech citizens express a fear of Islam, irrespective of age and educational attainment.

Comparison of fear of refugees and of Islam by age group

(total percentage „definitely yes“ + „more likely yes“)

Source: STEM, Trends 09/2015, 925 respondents, aged 18 +

Comparison of fear of refugees and of Islam by education

(total percentage „definitely yes“ + „more likely yes“)

Source: STEM, Trends 09/2015, 925 respondents, aged 18 +

If we combine the two types of fear, this serves the basis for a simple typology. Some 30% of the Czech public have a very intense fear of Islam and of refugees. A further roughly one third of the population has significant concerns, but this is not actual fear. Almost one-fifth fears the spread of Islam but does not make an unequivocal connection between Islam and the influx of refugees. Only roughly one fifth of the population fears neither refugees nor the spread of Islam in the Czech Republic.

Typology of the fear of refugees and the spread of Islam in the Czech Republic

Source: STEM, Trends 09/2015, 925 respondents, aged 18 +

A deeper analysis of the different fears of the Czech population, published in its basic form by our institute on 15 October 2015, indicates that for many people the fear of refugees is a mere substitute for the fear of terrorism, international organised crime and Islamic fundamentalism. This is illustrated in the chart below which is based on correlations between and the size of the factor scores. All four factors are closely linked in people’s minds. A fear of the influx of refugees is distinctly less pronounced than that of the other factors.

Fear Structure Chart

Source: STEM, Trends 09/2015, 925 respondents, aged 18 +

Merely fear-mongering about refugees on the part of politicians and in the media, as witnessed by us in the recent past, evidently fails to capture the core of the issue. The data suggests that a targeted communications campaign aimed at clarifying the refugee problem should begin with the interconnection of Islamic fundamentalism with terrorism and organised crime.

Looking at the data, we cannot help but feel that the refugee crisis is being used as a tool between rivals on the domestic political scene. While the fear of Islam is universal and permeates all political camps, the fear of refugees is concentrated among the centre-left which represents the largest group of potential voters. This group does not have such fixed attitudes and opinions and can be influenced easily.

Comparison of fear of refugees according to political affiliation

(total percentage „definitely yes“ + „more likely yes“)

Source: STEM, Trends 09/2015, 925 respondents, aged 18 +

The current irrational, emotion-based and unstructured fear of the whole set of risks outlined above is a serious societal phenomenon. The data clearly indicates that in the consciousness of the people this fear weakens our anchoring in the European Union, calls into question the results of the country’s post-November 1989 development and also indirectly our trust in the democratic system. Overcoming this fear will be complicated and is undoubtedly a task which will demand a long-term plan of action. This requires weakening emotions through factual information and patient argumentation. It also demands an understanding of the sources of the problems and the possible tools and strategies which could be implemented in finding solutions to these problems.


Are we interested in how the EU works?

“Do you want to know how the European Union actually works? Are you interested in its activities and the problems it faces?”

„Zajímá Vás, jak vlastně Evropská unie funguje, jaké jsou její činnosti a problémy?“

Source: STEM, Trends 1999-2003, aged 18+; STEGA, Communication on European Affairs, 10/2005 – 6/2006, STEM, Trends 11/2006, 1/2009, 1/2010


Public opinion on the adoption of the euro

“Do you personally support the adoption of the euro in the Czech Republic?”

The date for adopting the euro is a matter of economic and political choice. Although the Czech Republic is committed to adopting the currency, public support is not strong enough, at least for the time being.

 

Source: STEM, Trends 2005-2015