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Confidence Rising in EU Candidate States


(Washington, DC--March 4, 2002) A new survey of attitudes in the ten countries applying for European Union membership in Central and Eastern Europe finds that confidence is rising in regards to both democratic governance and the future benefit of free-market economics. Richard Rose, who has been surveying attitudes in Central and Eastern Europe since 1991, offered this first glimpse by a US audience at the results of his latest "New Europe Barometer" during a recent briefing at RFE/RL's offices in Washington.

Rose, the director of the Center for the Study of Public Policy at the University of Strathclyde in Glasgow, Scotland, said that the results of his latest round of over 10,000 interviews, conducted in October 2001, indicate that confidence in democracy continues to grow in all ten EU candidate countries, while a hard core of about 20 percent of residents continues to lament the fall of authoritarianism but has lost hope for its return. Many in these countries, however, hope for the creation of unity governments or rise of strong leaders that could ease the pain of what has been a stressful decade of transition from communist dictatorship to democratic pluralism.

In the realm of economics, Rose noted that quite a bit of optimism for the future now exists in these societies that have endured the early costs of giving up their previous command system, but are only now beginning to reap the benefits of the newly-adopted free market system. While only one quarter of the people in these countries feel that they earn enough income to get by, an average of 91 percent of homes have at least one color television and 41 percent have VCR's, an indication that people do have money available for discretionary purchases.

Official corruption is perceived as the biggest problem facing the region. However, it is not seen as an insurmountable obstacle to most residents, who told interviewers that they tend to fall back on patience and faith that they will eventually succeed or on the "not very modern" use of personal connections to overcome delays in service by government officials.

Rose said that the results of this latest "New Europe Barometer" survey will be published early this spring. More details on the survey are available online at www.cspp.strath.ac.uk.
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