GLOBSEC: Voices of Central and Eastern Europe – Perceptions of democracy & governance in 10 EU countries

Article originally published on GLOBSEC website, 23 June 2020 – accessible here

At times of instability and insecurity reinforced by the COVID-19 pandemic, democracies can become particularly fragile. A belief in good governance, trustworthy media and institutions, and active civil society are now crucial for the democratic societies to get back on feet, move forward and overcome societal and economic challenges of the near future. But what if the societies lack these components?   

GLOBSEC’s new report Voices of Central and Eastern Europe: Perceptions of democracy & governance in 10 EU countriesprovides a unique insight into satisfaction with democracy and current governance systems in 10 Central and Eastern European countries: Austria, Bulgaria, Czechia, Estonia, Hungary, Latvia, Lithuania, Poland, Romania and Slovakia. 

By observing links between the support for liberal democracy over autocracy, satisfaction with the governance and life, or inclination to believe in conspiracy and misinformation narratives, the report reveals fragile spots that require further discussion on multiple levels.  

Here are our key findings: 

  • In countries with higher rankings in democracy quality indexes, respondents are more satisfied with their current governance system. 
  • Support for liberal democracy is not straightforward in the region. Only in 5 of 10 countries, more than 50% of the respondents would choose liberal democracy over an autocratic leader. 
  • Only Austrians, Estonians and Czechs are more satisfied with their governance system than dissatisfied. 
  • There is a strong recognition of income inequality and systemic favouritism for those with contacts to elites and higher incomes – on average, 70% in the region believe that those with contacts to political elites are favoured in society. 
  • The majority of CEE respondents does not believe the narrative that their values are under threat due to the “West” – only 28% on average believe so. 
  • On average, only 44% in the region trust the media. But at the same time, in Austria, Czechia, Romania and Slovakia, more than 70% believe that media is rather or completely free of influence. 
  • Those who believe in conspiracy theories and disinformation narratives are very likely to prefer a strong leader over liberal democracy and would trade their democratic freedoms for other social and financial benefits.
  • Slovakia and Bulgaria are the most conspiracy theory- and misinformation-prone in the region. On average, around a half of respondents agreed with the narratives articulated.