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What Bugs Us

Surveys say: unemployment, uncertainty, immigrants, politicians, and corruption. by Barbara Frye 21 March 2013

According to a new study, most Poles want their government to give them jobs, free health care, and access to preschool. Only one-third believe that a free-market economy is better than a socialist planned economy.

 

But they don’t want to return to communism. That’s according to a poll conducted by the CBOS agency for the Leon Kozminski Academy, a private university in Warsaw.

 

Krzysztof Zagorski, a sociologist at Kozminski who commissioned the study, said Poles want the state to provide some security but have little nostalgia for communism. “We do not want empty shelves, the economy of permanent shortages, humiliation when applying for a passport, arrests for publicly expressing [our] views, …”

 

A shopkeeper in Ekaterinburg yells at a boy who had just kicked a ball into her kiosk. Photo by Peretz Partensky/flickr.

 

Commenting in the Rzeczpospolita newspaper, Mark Dietl, an economist with the Sobieski Institute think tank, said the results are more about Poles’ frustration with government inefficiency and neglect. Poles rate the quality of public services quite low, and, therefore, demand that many should be free. “Very often we feel that we simply overpay,” he told the newspaper.

 

Others analysts cited Polish workers’ unrealistic attitudes about job security and the inordinate effect of political decisions on the country’s job market, since many major industries remain in the hands of the state.

 

Some results, as reported by Rzeczpospolita:

 

  • 85 percent of respondents believe the government should provide jobs for people

 

  • 85 percent expect the government to provide free health care

 

  • More than 61 percent would prefer to work for the government over the private sector

 

  • 82 percent believe the government should own power companies

 

  • 73 percent believe the government should own the country’s railways

 

  • 77 percent believe the government should own the country’s mines

 

  • 61 percent believe the government should own most banks

 

In Ukraine, home of perhaps the world’s most pugilistic parliament, opinions of the country’s politicians are steadily souring. According to a poll released 18 March by the Razumkov Center think tank, the level of support for parliament – defined as full support or support “for certain actions” – is around 39 percent, down a few points from October to December 2012. Its disapproval ratings rose from 47 percent to 55 percent – and that’s before the most recent fisticuffs.

 

Meanwhile, President Viktor Yanukovych’s disapproval rating inched from about 52 percent to 56 percent, while his approval rating hovers around 40 percent.

 

The most popular politician is Vitaly Klitschko, the leader of the Ukrainian Democratic Union for Reform party who, unlike his colleagues in parliament, actually boxes for a living. He enjoys the full or qualified support of about 57 percent of those polled and 38 percent disapproval.

 

As for imprisoned opposition leader Yulia Tymoshenko, her negatives are high – 58 percent, compared with 33 percent support.

 

Finally, in the “I don’t care if he’s dead, I still want to impeach Nixon” category, former President Viktor Yuschchenko’s disapproval rating sits at a lofty 82 percent. But 10 percent of his countrymen still approve of him.

 

In Russia, a poll conducted in mid-February by the independent Levada Center asked people what they worried about. Over the years, inflation has owned the top spot, followed by poverty. Other trends are less obvious but are there nonetheless. Although most of the categories see some ups and downs – concerns about unemployment, for instance, spiked during the economic crisis – a couple of categories have rather steadily inched upward in Russians’ consciousness: corruption and immigration. Note that concerns about restrictions on civil liberties consistently scrape the bottom, ahead of only “other” and “difficult to answer.”

 

Which of the following problems of our society worry you the most, and [which do] you consider the most acute?

 

2006 

2007

 2008 

2009 

2010 

2011 

2012 

2013

Price increases

71

70

81

75

71

81

72

68

Poverty, poverty [among the]
majority of the population

55

52

50

42

51

59

53

52

Corruption, bribery

23

25

23

23

28

31

37

39

Sharp stratification between rich and poor,
inequitable distribution of income

32

32

34

28

29

31

36

35

The rise in unemployment

36

33

27

57

47

40

36

35

Crisis of morality, culture, ethics

26

21

30

24

28

29

31

30

The crisis in the economy, a decline in production in industry and agriculture

31

31

31

48

36

30

33

29

Inaccessibility of many types of medical
services

30

32

33

26

27

25

27

28

Growth of payments for, unavailability of
Education

28

29

26

21

16

18

18

24

Increase in drug addiction

25

28

26

19

26

24

30

22

The influx of immigrants, migrants

11

11

8

9

10

10

15

17

Environmental degradation

20

25

23

14

21

20

20

16

Increase in the number of criminal offenses

29

26

23

19

20

18

17

16

Dominance, arbitrariness of officials

10

10

9

8

14

16

15

16

State failure

14

12

8

9

11

10

11

10

Rudeness, cruelty of police

8

9

6

7

12

9

9

9

The rise of nationalism, the deterioration in
International Relations

8

8

6

6

7

9

9

8

The threat of bombings and other terrorist
acts in the place where you live

12

6

7

4

6

16

9

8

The inability [to determine]
the truth in court

5

6

5

5

6

8

7

8

Terrorist attacks in the North Caucasus

6

3

3

3

5

9

3

5

Conflicts between different
branches of government at various levels

4

2

2

3

2

3

3

5

The growth of AIDS

7

7

7

6

5

3

5

5

Delays in the payment of wages,
pensions, benefits, etc.

6

3

3

10

7

4

4

4

Restriction of civil rights and democratic freedoms (freedom of speech, press, movement, etc.)

2

1

1

2

3

3

5

4

Other

2

1

2

2

2

3

2

2

Difficult to answer

1

2

2

1

2

6

1

1

Prepared by Oleg Savelyev, the Levada Center

 

Barbara Frye is TOL's managing editor.
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