GLOBSEC Trends 2022 is back with its 7th edition. How did the attitudes in Central and Eastern European (CEE) region change with the war in Ukraine?
GLOBSEC Trends 2022 provides insight into the public perceptions in 9 EU countries: Bulgaria, Czechia, Estonia, Hungary, Latvia, Lithuania, Poland, Romania and Slovakia. The invasion of Ukraine, including its unsettling brutality, has served as a reminder to Europe that peace is a rather fragile affair. The developments have been particularly disconcerting for Central and Eastern European countries that previously experienced both Russian occupation and aggression. The conflict, however, has also strengthened solidarity in the region and elicited a sense of relief that the countries are no longer “stuck” between different spheres of influence.
The polling data for this report, which was collected amid Russia’s ongoing atrocities in Ukraine, measured robust and rising support for the West and the Western model of governance. CEE societies broadly identify Russia as the aggressor and a threat to the security of both the region and the world. While a majority in the region are able to distinguish between right and wrong, there are some alarming gaps. This is particularly true in countries that have seen pervasive (pro-)Kremlin propaganda go unchallenged for years. The distorted view of certain segments of populations towards events in Ukraine, combined with potential economic hardship ahead, could leave these vulnerable groups as potential targets for populist and autocratic leaders. Cynical political figures, in this vein, may seek to exploit fear and frustration for their own political benefit.
What are the main findings for this year?
Central and Eastern Europeans:
1. feel part of the West
EU and NATO backing has increased slightly over the past year – 4 in 5 CEE respondents now want to be part of Western structures and perceive them as guarantors of security and territorial integrity.
2. see the US as more important
The perception that the US is a strategic partner has soared by 10 percentage points since 2021 – Washington is now viewed as a key ally in NATO by 3/4 of respondents in the CEE region.
3. consider Russia to be the aggressor
Russia is now considered a threat to national security by a majority in the region – underscoring a major shift from prior reports. The favourability ratings of Vladimir Putin similarly have declined to record lows.
4. approve of Volodymyr Zelensky
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky, perceived favourably by two-thirds of the region’s adult population, is four times more popular than Vladimir Putin.
5. disagree over Ukraine’s integration
CEE countries are split over whether Ukraine should become part of the EU and/or NATO or remain neutral.
6. prefer economic over military response
While there is broad support for sanctions and efforts to decrease the region’s energy dependence on Russia, a majority also oppose sending NATO troops to Ukraine.
7. lack awareness of China
Most CEE societies demonstrate minimal awareness concerning possible threats coming from China. In five countries, a fifth of the population could not indicate whether the Chinese regime could be a source of inspiration for their country or not.
8. are more satisfied with democracy
Satisfaction with how democracy works, slightly increased everywhere except Romania. Openness to autocratic leaders, however, remains strong.
9. still believe in conspiracy theories
Key conspiracy theories that undermine trust in democratic governance still resonate, finding support from around 30-50% of CEE respondents.
Explore the full report for more insights and practical recommendations.
The opinion polling was conducted in March in 9 countries of Central and Eastern Europe on the representative sample of 1000 respondents per country (altogether 9,000 respondents), in Bulgaria, Czechia, Hungary, Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Poland, Romania and Slovakia.