32046 5/5/2005 12:03 05BUCHAREST1084 Embassy Bucharest UNCLASSIFIED//FOR OFFICIAL USE ONLY This record is a partial extract of the original cable. The full text of the original cable is not available. UNCLAS SECTION 01 OF 06 BUCHAREST 001084
DEPT FOR EUR/NCE - WILLIAM SILKWORTH
E.O. 12958: N/A TAGS: PGOV, PHUM, SOCI, KDEM, ECON, IZ, RO, poll SUBJECT: POLLS SHOW ROMANIANS' VIEWS ON IRAQ, EU INTEGRATION, AND OTHER KEY ISSUES
SENSITIVE BUT UNCLASSIFIED, PLEASE HANDLE ACCORDINGLY
1. (SBU) Summary: Two recent polls show mixed results about Romanian military engagement in Iraq, with numbers varying as to when and how the question was asked. Results generated by an April 23-24 poll directly linking a pull-out to saving Romanian hostages' lives showed 70 percent in favor of a troop withdrawal. Two weeks earlier, similar questions showed a plurality of respondents favoring maintaining or increasing Romanian military engagement in Iraq. Post provides the following results of diverse polling in past weeks as a useful "snapshot" of the Romanian public's thinking on Iraq as well as topical issues such as EU integration, possible early elections, effectiveness of current political leaders, discrimination in society, etc. End Summary.
Opposed to Troops in Iraq?
2. (U) The Center for Urban and Regional Sociology (CURS) conducted a national blitz poll April 23 and 24 regarding the presence of Romanian troops in Iraq. CURS queried 1,020 subjects over 18 years of age shortly after kidnappers threatened that they would kill three Romanian journalists held hostage in Iraq unless the Romanian government withdraws its troops from Iraq. The poll has a maximum error of 3 percent and was commissioned by TV channel "Antena 1." Asked whether Romania should pull out its troops from Iraq, as the kidnappers have demanded, in order to save the journalists' lives, respondents answered as follows: 70 percent - yes 18 percent - no 12 percent - don't know/no answer.
A break-down on gender, age, education, and residence area categories yielded the following results:
Gender Men 63 percent - yes 25 percent - no 12 percent - don't know/no answer.
Women 76 percent - yes 10 percent - no 14 percent - don't know/no answer.
Age 18-30 years of age 67 percent - yes 20 percent - no 13 percent - don't know/no answer.
31-55 years of age 71 percent - yes 18 percent - no 11 percent - don't know/no answer.
56 years of age and over 73 percent - yes 15 percent - no 12 percent - don't know/no answer.
Education Primary school 78 percent - yes 11 percent - no 11 percent - don't know/no answer.
High school 71 percent - yes 18 percent - no 11 percent - don't know/no answer.
Higher education 62 percent - yes 26 percent - no 12 percent - don't know/no answer.
Area of residence Urban 65 percent - yes 23 percent - no 12 percent - don't know/no answer.
Rural 74 percent - yes 13 percent - no 13 percent - don't know/no answer.
3. (U) When asked whether Romania should pull out its troops whether or not the journalists are released, the respondents stated: 57 percent - yes 33 percent - no 10 percent - don't know/no answer.
4. (SBU) Requested to give grades on an ascending 1 to 10 scale, the respondents indicated an average 7.2 for the manner in which the media covered the crisis of the hostages and an average 6.9 regarding the authorities' efforts to solve the crisis.
5. (SBU) The poll's results triggered controversy immediately when media magnate Dan Voiculescu, who owns "Antena 1," expressed support for a troop pull-out based on the poll's results. Voiculescu heads the Romanian Humanist Party (PUR), which is in alliance with the center-right government, but is suspected by some of being a "Trojan horse," retaining loyalty to its erstwhile ally, the former ruling, center-left Social Democratic Party (PSD). Governing Liberal-Democratic (PNL-PD) Alliance leaders responded, however, that crucial foreign policy decisions should not be based on polls taken during an emotionally charged time. Indeed, CURS Director Sebastian Lazaroiu acknowledged that the percentage of those in favor of the withdrawal of the troops would have been lower under "normal conditions."
Poll Prior to Hostage Crisis Shows Different Results
6. (SBU) A separate poll carried out by the National Institute for Opinion Polls and Marketing (INSOMAR) between April 12 and 17 and commissioned by a trade union, PETROM, shows that a narrow plurality favor keeping troops in Iraq or increasing their numbers. The poll was conducted nationwide on a sample of 1,668 people of over 18 years of age and had a maximum error of 2.4 percent. Significantly, the poll took place after the hostages were in custody and a film of them had been released by their captors but, unlike the CURS poll, it was conducted prior to the release of a disturbing second film portraying the hostages held at gunpoint and threatened with death. Asked what course of action the government should consider after the kidnap of Romanian citizens, the respondents answered as follows: 40.3 percent - should withdraw the troops from Iraq, 34.3 percent - should keep the troops in Iraq, 7.5 percent - should increase military presence in Iraq, 17.9 percent - don't know/no answer.
7. (U) Asked whether they think the Presidency is making sufficient efforts to release the Romanian journalists from Iraq, respondents answered as follows: 60.4 percent - yes 26.7 percent - no 12.9 percent - don't know/no answer.
To the same question, but regarding the government, the respondents said the following: 54.8 percent - yes 30.3 percent - no 14.9 percent - don't know/no answer.
Most Romanians "Satisfied" with Political Leaders
8. (U) Asked to express their degree of satisfaction with President Basescu's activities, respondents indicated the following: 12 percent - very satisfied 51 percent - pretty satisfied 25 percent - pretty dissatisfied 11 percent - very dissatisfied
As for the degree of satisfaction with the Tariceanu government's activities, the respondents answered as follows: 8 percent - very satisfied 47 percent - pretty satisfied 32 percent - pretty dissatisfied 13 percent - very dissatisfied
Poll Shows PNL-PD Alliance Would Win Early Elections
9. (U) When asked which party or political alliance they would vote for if elections were to take place next Sunday, respondents answered the INSOMAR poll as follows: 55.8 percent - PNL-PD Alliance 26.4 percent - Social Democratic Party (PSD) 8.2 percent - Greater Romania Popular Party (PPRM) 3.0 percent - Democratic Union of Hungarians (UDMR) 2.1 percent - Romanian Humanist Party (PUR) 1.2 percent - Christian-Democratic Popular Party (PPCD) 3.2 percent - other party
(Comment: These results tend to support President Basescu's assertion that the center-right PNL-PD alliance would trounce the PSD if early elections take place. Based on these results both the UDMR and PUR would risk losing their parliamentary representation, since a party must gain five percent of the national vote to have a voice in parliament. End Comment.)
10. (SBU) Break-downs on education, age and residence area indicate the preference of all education categories for the PNL-PD Alliance, with a larger majority of those with higher education favoring the PNL-PD. Respondents under 65 years of age are more inclined to vote for the PNL-PD Alliance, whereas those over 65 years of age lean toward PSD. The largest differences in favor of the PNL-PD Alliance appear in the 18-34 and 35-49 age categories. A large majority of urban respondents favor the PNL-PD Alliance whereas in rural areas, traditionally a PSD stronghold, support is almost equally distributed between the PNL-PD Alliance and the PSD, with a slight advantage for the former. (Note: the INSOMAR pollsters did not release the complete statistical results for the categories described in this paragraph. End Note.)
11. (SBU) A large majority of the INSOMAR respondents would rather vote for individual candidates than for party slates, as follows: 63.4 percent - would prefer to vote for individual candidates 17.6 percent - would prefer to vote for party slates 19.O percent - provided no answer
Fearing God.and Trusting the Church
12. (SBU) When asked by the INSOMAR pollsters what they fear, Romanians responded: God (91 percent), disease (88 percent), price increases (83 percent), poverty (82 percent) and corruption (76 percent). Asked about institutions, the respondents stated that they have "much confidence or very much confidence" in the church (87 percent), army (72 percent), media (62 percent), and Presidency (53 percent). The least trusted institutions are Parliament (27 percent), trade unions (30 percent), the judiciary (34 percent), and the government (37 percent).
13. (SBU) Most Romanians express a high level of trust in the church, with a majority attending regular religious services at least several times a month. When asked how often they go to church, respondents gave the following answers: 33.8 percent - several times/year, on the main religious holidays (Christmas, Easter) 23.6 percent - several times/month 21.7 percent - once a week 11.6 percent - once a year or less 6.2 percent - several times a week 3.3 percent - don't go at all
City Folk Rosy on EU
14. (U) The Institute for Free Initiative and CURS conducted a poll between March 17 and 23 on a sample of 1,208 people aged 18 years or older of age from urban areas. The survey had a maximum error of plus-minus 2.8 percent. More than a month prior to President Basescu's April 25 signing of the EU accession treaty, pollsters asked respondents whether they support Romania's EU accession. Respondents answered as follows: 85 percent - yes 10 percent - no 5 percent - can't tell 15. (U) When asked their opinion on how their everyday life would change if Romania becomes an EU member, respondents said: 43 percent - for the better 26 percent - it will be the same 16 percent - for the worse 15 percent - can't tell
16. (U) Asked which of three alternatives they would favor regarding reforms that imply economic sacrifices for the population (decrease in living standards), the respondents favored the following opinions: 53 percent - Romania should implement reforms faster in order to integrate with the EU in 2007 34 percent - Romania should implement reforms gradually even if this means postponing integration.
17. (U) In answer to a question regarding possible obstacles to EU integration, the respondents indicated the following: 29 percent - corruption 14 percent - behavior of Romanians abroad 13 percent - way in which the Romanian economy operates 12 percent - Romania's failure to meet assumed commitments 9 percent - low living standard 9 percent - political instability 8 percent - low competitiveness of Romanian companies on the EU market 4 percent - economic and political interests of other countries 2 percent - can't tell
18. (U) According to the poll, urban Romanians think that "significant effects" of Romania's EU integration will be: price increases (81 percent), increased foreign investment in the Romanian economy (79 percent), shutdown of some companies (74 percent), Romania will become a market for Western products (71 percent), development of Romanian agriculture (65 percent), tax increase (63 percent), decrease of corruption in Romania (54 percent), increase of unemployment (51 percent), increase of Romanians' incomes (50 percent), and increase of inflation rate (39 percent).
Gallup Poll: Youth Optimistic, Apathetic
19. (U) The Gallup Organization and the British Council released April 12 results of a joint opinion poll designed to provide an image of Romanian youth. The survey was conducted between May and November 2004 in Bucharest, Brasov, Cluj, Constanta, Iasi, Sibiu, and Timisoara, on a sample group of 1004 people between 15 and 35 years of age. Margin of error is plus-minus 3.0%. The survey's questions focused on EU integration, tolerance toward minorities, equal opportunity for men and women, and interest in the political life and civic involvement, among other issues. Gallup also used focus groups to supplement findings of the survey.
20. (U) When asked their views of EU integration, 56 percent of the respondents said they believe that it will bring more personal advantages than disadvantages; 27 percent believe it will bring them neither advantages nor disadvantages; 8 percent believed it would bring more disadvantages, and 9 percent had no reply or did not know. 61 percent believed their personal income would increase with EU accession, and 50 percent believed it would increase their opportunities to study abroad.
21. (U) At the same time, young Romanian respondents expressed little interest in political life. 78 percent are not interested at all, are interested to a very small extent, or to a small extent in anything that is perceived as political activity, i.e. joining a party, going to the polls, or being informed about political developments. Young people are also reluctant to do volunteer work, with 59 percent of the respondents expressing little or no interest in such activities. (Comment: Many Romanians have a jaundiced view of volunteerism since during the communist era "volunteer work" was, in fact, mandatory service. End Comment.)
22. (U) Regarding minorities, respondents were asked a question regarding individuals who are gay/lesbian, Roma, Hungarian, or disabled. For each minority category, pollsters asked respondents to chose from the following answers: such people should not live in Romania; I would accept them to live in Romania; I would accept such a person to live in my town; I would accept such a person to be my colleague at work; I would accept such a person to be in my group of friends; I would accept such a person to be a member of my family. For sexual minorities, 21 percent of the respondents agreed with the statement that "such people should not live in Romania" while 24 percent favored "I would accept them to live in Romania"; only 5 percent of respondents said they accept sexual minorities as members of their families. As for ethnic minorities, 11 percent of the respondents think that Roma should not live in Romania and 9 percent share this opinion for ethnic Hungarians. The respondents showed a high acceptance level for disabled people and there were no negative remarks about them in the focus groups. Focus groups also revealed a high intolerance for Roma. The cluster analysis indicated, in terms of tolerance, that 15 percent of the respondents showed rejection, 44 percent were moderately tolerant, while 41 percent showed high acceptance. Most young Romanian men (69 percent) think that women have as many rights as needed, 18 percent believe women have too few rights, 9 percent opine women have too many rights, and 4 percent don't know/don't answer. Women have a different opinion, 56 percent of the respondents opining that women have too few rights, 40 percent thinking that they have as many rights as needed, 1 percent believe women have too many rights, 3 percent don't know/don't answer.
23. (U) While most respondents are satisfied with the possibilities to travel to cities for recreation and to study in the cities, a majority (68 percent) are "dissatisfied" or "not too satisfied" with urban job opportunities. Knowledge of foreign languages, solid professional education and PC and IT abilities are the three qualities judged by young people to be the most useful for getting a good job. For 84 percent of respondents, a good salary heads the list of the top three important criteria in choosing a job. The next two priorities are a safe job and a pleasant working environment. A majority of respondents do not go at all to classic music concerts (69 percent), opera (73 percent), theatre (54 percent), ballet (80 percent), or exhibits (66 percent).
24. (U) The respondents gave a positive appraisal of the Romanian education system; 61 percent of them think that what is taught in Romanian schools is useful for students further in life. Regarding IT, 88 and 80 percent of the respondents use computers and the internet, respectively. 68 percent of the respondents report that they speak one or two foreign languages fluently.
25. (SBU) Comment. We are hesitant to draw far-reaching conclusions regarding the CURS polling on a troop pullout from Iraq, given both the emotionally charged atmosphere in which the polling was conducted and PUR leader-Antenna 1 owner Dan Voiculescu's potentially ambiguous political motivations. A better sense of Romanian attitudes toward their Iraqi role will probably emerge after resolution of the current hostage situation. However, these polls offer a "snapshot" of current Romanian attitudes toward both "front page" issues and social values. What is clear is that Romanians are generally satisfied with Basescu and the new government and optimistic about their future within the EU. It is also clear that the political divide evident during November/December elections between rural and urban voters and the elderly and other population groups has widened in the past several months. Even more than before, support for the previously omnipotent Social Democrats (PSD) has shrunken to a bedrock of elderly and rural voters. That does not bode well for its future. Also significant are prejudicial Romanian social attitudes toward gays and Roma. Levels of acceptance, even among presumably more "open" younger Romanians, are very low. End Comment. 26. (U) Amembassy Bucharest's reporting telegrams are available on the Bucharest SIPRNET Website: www.state.sgov.gov/p/eur/bucharest.