Poll: Czech support for NATO waning 8 years after joining

The Czech Republic joined NATO eight years ago this week, in March 1999. Joining the organisation was one of the biggest steps taken by the country in the decade after the fall of communism. But eight years later, support for NATO membership seems to be waning in the Czech Republic.

This week, the Public Opinion Research Centre in Prague published a report based on research among Czechs concerning their attitude towards NATO and two other organizations: the European Union and the United Nations.

With the exception of a poll conducted in 2004, the popularity of the three organizations seems to be falling, with NATO being the least popular of all. While 56% of Czechs trusted NATO in 2004, three years later it is only 45%. I spoke with the author of the recently published report, Michaela Dimitrova, about the possible reasons for such a significant decline in NATO's popularity.

"NATO is, in my opinion, generally perceived as a rather controversial institution. At present, I think people are influenced by the discussion concerning a US radar base in our country. Possibly, some people are also influenced by an issue which is not directly connected with international affairs but still can have some kind of effect on their opinions - I'm talking about the current corruption scandal surrounding the purchase of fighter planes. I think that all this is reflected in the level of confidence that Czechs have in NATO, as well as their contentment with the Czech Republic's membership of this organization."

Ms Dimitrova also explains the five-percent difference between the number of Czechs "trusting" NATO and the number of people who "are satisfied" with the country's membership of NATO, which is a little higher. She says that as far as the level of confidence is concerned, people are more affected by current goings-on, whereas when it comes to the question of membership, they tend to look at the matter from a broader perspective.

In the report Ms Dimitrova points out that people over sixty years of age are less inclined to trust NATO, the EU and the UN, while people with university education generally have a much more positive attitude towards these organizations.

"That people with university education have more confidence in international organizations, while people over sixty are more skeptical towards them is a continuing trend. If we look at some surveys which concentrated on elderly people, we realize that they sometimes have problems orienting themselves in political affairs. And I think that their distrust and dissatisfaction with some international institutions may result from that."