The latest Eurobarometer, a yearly European Commission (EC)-sponsored demographic report released in early April, revealed a somewhat disconcerting picture of Slovak citizens' feelings about their own country's development.
Satisfaction with democracy, the free-market economy, the general direction of the country, respect for human rights and the state of family incomes all showed relatively marked negative trends, compared to some of the previous surveys.
The Eurobarometers have been conducted annually by the EC since communism's fall in the region in 1989. The polling, covering altogether 20 countries in central and eastern Europe, was conducted among 1,066 Slovaks in November 1996. This year's survey, called "The Eurobarometer No. 7," canvassed 22,000 people.
Perhaps the most alarming statistic pertaining to Slovakia was in the "satisfaction with democracy" category. Some 74 percent (up from 67 percent a year earlier) of Slovaks expressed their dissatisfaction, a chunk larger than in any of the Visegrád countries.
For obvious reasons, Prime Minster Vladimír Mečiar's government was not pleased with the poll's findings. Dušan Slobodník, chairman of parliament's foreign affairs committee, said it is a case in point of how unreliable polls can be. "It's not true. [The report] simply doesn't correspond to the reality in our country," Slobodník said, adding that he is planning to thoroughly research how the pollsters came up with their figures.
"People have had their whole system of beliefs shaken," said Ján Čarnogurský, chairman of the opposition Christian Democratic Movement, in his overview of the poll's results.
However, he pointed to the peaks in 1992 (Čarnogurský's interim government) and in 1994 (Jozef Moravčík's interim government) in Slovakia's otherwise generally downward trends in Eurobarometers as indicative of how Mečiar's three administrations are responsible for the downhill slope.
Not all clear
Stanislava Chlemíková, of AISA, the public opinion agency that coordinated the poll in Slovakia, said it's "unclear what the report really means." It's a "snapshot" that provides a certain notion of how a nation is responding to a set of issues, she added.
It does, however, clearly point to just how dynamic developments continue to be in the area.
For example, three out of four people in Albania said that their family finances had improved since 12 months earlier. The subsequent collapse of the state-sponsored pyramid scheme there will likely present a different picture in Eurobarometer No. 8.
Unlike Albanians, more Slovaks (40 percent) felt their household financial situation had worsened in the past year, once again, more than in any of the Visegrád countries. Similarly negative was Slovaks' perception of the free market economy (42 percent disagreed with it) and respect for human rights (58 percent felt they were not respected).
Dissatisfaction also can be seen in Slovakia's neighbor to the south, where nearly three out of four Hungarians said they were not happy with the general direction their country was headed, whereas it was only two out of three Slovaks.
24. Apr 1997 at 0:00 | Terry Moran