Diagnosis of Poles according to European Social Survey

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Urban and rural residents’ views on immigrants, LGBT people, climate and politics. The opinions were assembled by the European Social Survey (ESS).

Image of Poles

Four percent of Polish rural residents admitted that they could influence significantly the political situation in the country. Six percent of respondents saw an opportunity to speak out on government actions. And the majority had no party to go along with. Similar answers were given in cities.

This image came up from the latest report of the European Social Survey (ESS). The survey focused on politics and democracy as well as on attitudes to immigrants, LGBT people, and opinions on climate change. Researchers from the Institute of Philosophy and Sociology of the Polish Academy of Sciences interviewed more than two thousand Poles. Their goal was to diagnose Polish society. The most important areas of social life were brought to the fore. The same questions were addressed to residents of numerous European countries.

Opinions on citizens’ influence on politics

Politics was one of the topics of the survey. In rural areas, fifty-nine percent of people expressed no interest in politics; eight percent of respondents admitted that they had contacts with politicians from the central or local government, and fifteen percent of interviewees were socially active and worked as volunteers.

The survey showed that the rural residents’ awareness of their influence on politics was very scarce. Only four percent of the interviewees felt they could have some influence in this area, and only six percent saw a chance to speak out on political issues. The majority of respondents did not share positions of any political party.

Professor Andrzej Rychard, a sociologist from the Institute of Philosophy and Sociology of the Polish Academy of Sciences, admitted that the survey results had shown a very important ambiguity. Altogether with the growing interest of Poles in public life there was a tendency of  decreasing sense of influence on politics and public life. The above taken together, seemed to be the reaction of a rational society because the more people learn the more they perceive that they have no real influence. Professor argued that the increased interest in politics combined with the sense of lack of influence could create a risk of frustration and public discontent.

The attitudes towards politics of people living in cities and small towns were very similar. In cities only three percent of people felt their significant influence on the authorities.

Respondents’ opinions on immigrants

The European Social Survey registered the receptive attitude of Poles to immigrants. Seventy-seven percent of rural residents accepted the settlement of foreigners who belong to the same race and ethnic group in Poland. Caution or reluctance expressed twenty-three percent of interviewees.

Twenty-seven percent of respondents admitted the beneficial effect of newcomers on the economic situation in the country. A similar percentage of interviewees noted that foreigners made Poland a better place to live.

Professor Rychard from the Institute of Philosophy and Sociology stressed that the recognition of immigrants was undoubtedly influenced by the wave of refugees from war-torn Ukraine. He assumed that Ukrainians had assimilated in Polish society being good neighbors and often highly qualified workers, thus, increasing the level of tolerance and decreasing the caution to foreigners especially to those from a culturally similar background. 

Respondents from urban areas were even more supportive of foreigners. Ninety percent of subjects stated that people of the same race or ethnic group were to be allowed to settle in Poland. The percentage was reduced to seventy-seven for another race.

Feelings towards LGBT people in the family

Nineteen percent of rural respondents acknowledged that they would feel shame if there were a lesbian or gay person in their close family. Forty-nine percent of the interviewed saw no reason for such emotions towards people with a homosexual orientation, and thirty-two percent of respondents had no opinion.

More than half of rural respondents stated that LGBT people should have the right to make their lives in accordance with their beliefs, nineteen percent expressed their disapproval, and twenty-nine percent of the interviewed had no position on the issue.

Higher tolerance towards LGBT people was expressed by city residents. Seventy-two percent of respondents would not be ashamed of a homosexual person in the family.

Factors deteriorating climate

People were interviewed on their position to climate changes. More than half of the rural respondents thought that the shifts occurred both due to natural processes and human activities. Thirty-four percent of respondents blamed humans for climate deteriorating. The minority made the interviewees (eleven percent) who admitted that climate change was a natural process, while two percent of respondents expressed a strong belief that there had not been any climate changes  going on. 

Thirty-five percent of people in the countryside felt personally obligated to counter the process of climate deterioration. Respondents answered the question dealing with their attitude to the mentioned ecological problem: thirty present were very much aware and worried about the issue, fifty-three percent admitted that they were concerned to some extent, and seventeen percent saw no problem.

The survey showed that urban citizens expressed more concern about climate change: thus, forty-five percent of respondents coming from more urbanized part of Poland asserted that they cared a lot about the effects of environmental degradation.

What is curious is that older respondents were said to be more concerned about climate change than younger ones. Young people aged 15 to 24 years were less worried about the factors deteriorating environment. More than twenty percent of younger respondents and almost forty percent of older ones said that climate change was an issue that affected them greatly.

Dr. Michal Kotnarowski, a sociologist and political scientist, the national coordinator of the ESS, commented on the results of the survey saying that the data collected showed that contrary to popular opinion older people were more concerned about the environmental issues than younger respondents. The idea of high relevance of environmental issues for the young might have appeared due to do their high activeness in media space.

Survey in other countries

As far as the European Social Survey was carried out in more than 30 countries, we could compare answers of Polish respondents with those given in other European regions.

In Poland, fourteen percent of interviewees declared they would be ashamed to have a gay or lesbian in the family. The percentage of similar answers was lower in the Netherlands (2 percent) and Germany (7 percent). At the same time, it was found out that there would be a great confusion about homosexuals in the family in Hungary (24 percent) and the Czech Republic (20 percent).

However, attitudes to immigrants were similar. Sixty-five percent of us agreed that foreigners of different skin color or ethnicity should be allowed to settle in Poland. Seventy-six percent of the Dutch and seventy percent of Germans shared this opinion. Hungarians (16 percent) and the Czech (27 percent) had a completely different point of view on the issue.

About the European Social Survey

The survey is one of the largest social science projects in Europe. It aims at observing attitudes to key issues in particular countries as well as at capturing shifts in the systems of values. The project was initiated by the European Science Foundation.

Residents of thirty-two countries participated in the latest tenth edition of the ESS. The survey has been conducted by the international scientific consortium for two decades. In Poland, the survey has been carried out since its first edition in 2002 by the Institute of Philosophy and Sociology of the Polish Academy of Sciences.

Details can be found here: https://ess.ifispan.pl/

Source of information: Institute of Philosophy and Sociology PAS