17:21 Sep. 12, 2016
About a half of Central European population shows no favor to neither West nor Russia, but support for the Euro-Atlantic structures is still high
Up to 50% of the population in Hungary, Slovakia and the Czech Republic think their countries belong to something between the East and the West, the GLOBSEC Policy Institute opinion poll shows.
In the time of crisis for liberal European ideas, Russia is strengthening its pressure on these countries, promoting its influence by portraying itself as an alternative to the decadent United Europe and aggressive U.S., the authors say.
"The ultimate goal of Russian propaganda in Central Europe is undermining citizens‘ trust in the European integration project, contesting the importance of NATO as a viable military defence pact, and the membership of the Central European countries in it", the survey states.
Although Russia has not been able to win the hearts and minds of the people in this region, it has managed to enchant them, ensuring that they are confused and frustrated, full of negative emotions towards their own values and institutions. In order to map the effects of the propaganda campaign on public attitude towards EU and NATO, this opinion poll was held.
According to research, Hungarians still have the highest approval rate for their membership in the EU and NATO.
54% of Hungarians and 52% of Slovaks think positively about their EU membership, with only up to 14% opposing. The Czech Republic reveals itself as the most Eurosceptic of the three, with only 32% of the population supporting EU and 45% having a neutral attitude towards the Union.
Up to 50% of citizens of the three countries still have no positive or negative opinion on NATO as well.
The Euro-Atlantic Alliance is endorsed by 44% of the Czechs and 47% of the Hungarians, and by only 30% of the Slovaks. 20% of Slovakian people opposes it, making their country less NATO-friendly in Central Europe.
"Anti-Americanism is a significant factor in distrust towards NATO. To illustrate: 59% of Slovaks and 51% of Czechs find the U.S.'s role in Europe and the world negative and the idea that the U.S. uses NATO to control small countries is believed by 60% and 58% respectively.
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To the contrary, 46% of the Hungarians see the U.S. engagement in the world and European affairs in a positive light, and 39% negatively. Also, fewer Hungarians (39%) than their Czech and Slovak counterparts believe that the United States uses NATO to control other countries and impose their will on them", the poll shows.
The Czech are also more inclined to use more "alternative" media, i.e. conspiracy or anti-West-oriented, than traditionally reliable outlets. Up to 24% of them do so, along with only 16% of the Hungarians and 17% of the Slovaks.
In order to effectively oppose Russian propaganda, the authors offer to officially recognize the problem of foreign propaganda in a form of political declaration, develop and implement comprehensive communication strategies focused on defending and promoting European values and institutions and strengthen the media literacy, the document states.