The Dynamics of Public Opinion in a Time of Crisis


February 2011


According to the popular opinion, the economic crisis in Bulgaria has not yet come to an end, and every second individual claims to have been affected by it. The majority of Bulgarians believe the economic situation keeps worsening, but at the same time, the number of people expecting improvements this year is higher. People’s confidence in the financial and banking systems remains stable. Also, the popular support for the GERB (Citizens for European Development of Bulgaria) party is falling; however, this does not affect the rating of other political parties in an upward fashion.
This data comes from the nation-wide representative survey on the general public opinion carried out by a team of the Open Society Institute – Sofia in January-February 2011 presented at today’s press-conference with topic: The Dynamics of Public Opinion in a Time of Crisis.

The survey examines the impact of the crisis on different social groups, as well as the dynamics of the economic and political moods in the country.
One out of two individuals who took part in the survey claims that the economic crisis has affected them in one way or another. The negative effects are strongest in the labor market, either due to shrinking incomes or job losses. Middle-aged people between 30 and 60, those with very low incomes (120lv per member of household) and representatives of ethnic minorities are among the ones who felt the strongest effects of the crisis. Nearly two-thirds of the representatives coming from these social groups claim they have been affected.
The majority of the interviewed people (58%) describe the situation in the country as "intolerable" believing that the state of the economy has deteriorated during the past year. However, there can be observed the trend of a moderate increase in the relative share of people who can notice improvements (from 6% to 13%) during the last two years, as well as a gradual fall in the percentage of those who believe the economy keeps worsening (from 72% to 58%).
The number of people with positive expectations about Bulgaria’s economic growth keeps rising and trends remain upward-sloping. During the last two years the number of optimists who anticipate improvements in the economic situation in the next 12 months has tripled (from 9% to 28%), while the number of pessimists has decreased almost twice (from 55% to 30%). The strongest positive expectations can be found among the supporters of the GERB (Citizens for European Development of Bulgaria) party (58%) and those of Ataka (National Union Attack) (39%), while the concentration of pessimists is biggest among supporters of MFR (Movement for Rights and Freedoms) (62%). February is the month with the largest number of Bulgarians (33%) who express they do not expect any change in the economic situation of the country.
Confidence in the stability of the financial and banking systems remains high. The majority of the surveyed people express support for the currency board system, as well as trust in the stability of the domestic currency, the lev. Currently, the majority of people disapproves of a potential change of the lev with euro – the conversion of the domestic currency for euro is approved by 34% and rejected by 45% of the interviewed.
The public is certain there is a necessity for exceptional measures to fight the crisis, but it remains separated on its assessment of the anti-crisis measures the current government has undertook so far.
The majority of people who participated in the survey (52%) claim that the government’s actions are chaotic; the people who believe in the opposite view, namely that the government’s goals are clear and meaningful, are nearly twice as few (24%).
Only 20% of the surveyed individuals assert that the leading party GERB is capable of implementing effective anti-crisis measures by themselves, while the majority believes that in order such measures to be successful, GERB needs the support of other political parties as well.
The portion of people who evaluate Bulgaria’s development as negative and unsuccessful under Prime Minister Boyko Borissov is 41%, and for the first time since he got to power this number surpasses the portion of people believing the situation in the country is improving (36%).
At the same time, GERB remains central to the right-wing political environment – 35% of people believe parties with similar ideologies have to cooperate with the leader GERB, while barely12% think the country needs a right-wing alternative in the face of another party but GERB. Popular opinions on left-wing party relationships are more divergent – 14% of the surveyed people claim that similar leftist parties have to work in cooperation with the left-wing leader BSP, while other 15% of people think there is a necessity for a left-wing alternative other than the BSP.
In the course of a year, support for GERB declined from 33% to 28%; however, this did not lead to an increase in support for any of the other political parties in Bulgaria. Instead, the number of people who claimed they will abstain from voting has risen – from 37% to 42%.
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