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Public Opinion toward Politics and Reforms in Czechoslovakia in 1968 Pat Lyons, Institute of Sociology v.v.i, Czech Academy of Sciences.

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Presentation on theme: "Public Opinion toward Politics and Reforms in Czechoslovakia in 1968 Pat Lyons, Institute of Sociology v.v.i, Czech Academy of Sciences."— Presentation transcript:

1 Public Opinion toward Politics and Reforms in Czechoslovakia in 1968 Pat Lyons, Institute of Sociology v.v.i, Czech Academy of Sciences

2 Why is the study of Czechoslovak public opinion in 1968 important? Public versus elite interpretations of Dubček era? Revolution or counter-revolution? Socialism versus capitalism? Differences between Czechs and Slovaks? Key events in the public mind: 1968, 1989, 1993? Legacy of 1968? Citizenship past and present?

3 Key research questions What reforms did Czechoslovak public opinion support in 1968? What were the political and electoral preferences of the public in 1968? What was the conceptualisation of citizenship in 1968?

4 Sources of data on public opinion Mylnář ÚVVM survey of May 1968 (individual level) 10 national ČSSR surveys 5 of the Czech public 1 survey of Slovak public 4 surveys of party members: Czech Communist Party (KSČ) (x2), Czechoslovak Peoples Party (ČSL) (x1), Czechoslovak Socialist Party (ČSS) (x1)

5 Aggregate level data

6 Socialism or Capitalism? In early July 1968, a large majority (89%) across the ČSSR favoured “continuation of socialist development” Very little support for capitalism (5%) In ČSSR a maximum of 17% envisaged the emergence of capitalism in May 1968 Capitalist aspirations centred on the economic (36%) and political ineffectiveness (19%) of the communist government, or “other” unspecified reasons (24%)

7 Public Support for Government Reforms QUESTION: “DO YOU APPROVE OR DISAPPROVE OF THE CONTEMPORARY POLICY OF THE CZECH COMMUNIST PARTY?” (CZECH LANDS, APRIL , N=2,183)

8 Who could guarantee democracy? Placement Statement123Don’t know THE LEADING ROLE OF THE REJUVENATED KSČ THE NATIONAL FRONT AND ITS DEMOCRATIC PROGRAM THE INFLUENCE OF THE LARGE SOCIAL ORGANISATIONS THE EXPRESSION OF PUBLIC OPINION IN THE PRESS, RADIO AND TELEVISION ACTIVITY OF EXISTING NON-COMMUNIST PARTIES25885 CHOICE IN ELECTIONS AMONG INDEPENDENT PARTIES QUESTION: “WHAT ARE THE GREATEST GUARANTEES OF SOCIALIST DEMOCRACY?” CHOOSE THREE CHOICES IN ORDER OF IMPORTANCE (CZECH LANDS, AUGUST , N=2,947)

9 Public Participation in the Reform Process? QUESTION: “DO YOU WANT TO CONTRIBUTE PERSONALLY TO THE IMPLEMENTATION OF THE ACTION PROGRAM?” (SLOVAKIA, JUNE , N=1,160)

10 Vote choice in hypothetical elections in July ‘68 QUESTION: “TO WHOM WOULD YOU GIVE YOUR VOTE IF THERE WAS AN ELECTION THIS MONTH, BASED ON THE INDEPENDENT CANDIDACY OF ALL POLITICAL PARTIES?” (CZECH LANDS, JULY , N=487)

11 Vote choice in July ’68 with a “new party” present QUESTION: “TO WHOM WOULD YOU GIVE YOUR VOTE IF THERE WAS AN ELECTION THIS MONTH, BASED ON THE INDEPENDENT CANDIDACY OF ALL POLITICAL PARTIES?” (CZECH LANDS, JULY , N=487)

12 Popular perceptions of politicians in April 1968 QUESTION: “WHAT KIND OF PEOPLE DO YOU THINK POLITICIANS MOST COMMONLY ARE?” (CZECH LANDS, APRIL , N=2,183)

13 Electoral system preference among voters Electoral System PreferenceAllUnder 40 yrs Over 40 yrs Member KSC Non- member KSC CANDIDACY AND ELECTION OF INDEPENDENTS INDEPENDENT CANDIDACY OF POLITICAL PARTIES INDEPENDENT CANDIDACY OF POLITICAL PARTIES AND SOCIAL ORGANISATIONS SOME FORM OF COMBINATION OF INDEPENDENT (GROUPS) CANDIDATES OF POLITICAL PARTIES AND SOCIAL ORGANISATIONS THE PRESENT SYSTEM OF NATIONAL FRONT CANDIDACY DON’T KNOW TOTAL100 QUESTION: “WHAT ELECTORAL SYSTEM WOULD BEST ENSURE EXPRESSION OF THE DEMOCRATIC WILL OF THE PEOPLE?” (CZECH LANDS, JULY , N=487)

14 Future of Czechoslovak State in late 1968? QUESTION: “IT WAS EVIDENT THAT OUR PEOPLE WERE UNITED IN AUGUST. DO YOU THINK THAT WE WILL REMAIN UNITED OR NOT?” (ČSSR, SEPTEMBER , N=1,866)

15 Future Basis of Czechoslovak unity? QUESTION: “IN YOUR OPINION, WHAT HAS TO BE DONE TO MAINTAIN THE UNITY OF THE NATION?” (ČSSR, SEPTEMBER , N=1,882)

16 Individual level data

17 Climate of Public Opinion, May ’68? ÚVVM interviewers in the Mylnář survey felt that 92% of respondents were truthful 53% of respondents thought that other interviewees would answer truthfully A further 33% of respondents felt that some items would be answered truthfully Association between both interviewer’s and respondent’s assessments of the interviewing process is not strong (Gamma =.25, p<.001; Kendall Tau b =.16, p<.001) Conclusion: the public opinion climate was not seen to be completely free and open by all respondents

18 Theoretical Approaches to Citizenship Structural Theory Group level analysis Sociological explanation Example: Vàclav Havel (Social Capital Model) Choice Theory Individual level analysis Economic or rational choice explanation Example: Vàclav Klaus (General Incentives Model)

19 Contemporary Theories and Models of Citizenship

20 Mlynář Model of Citizenship (1968)

21 Main Dimensions of Political Attitudes in May ‘68

22 Structural vs. Choice Models of Citizenship Civic Voluntarism Model Resources: Age, education, type of work, income, accomodation type, occupation Sense of political efficacy: Understand current situation; know “correct” social and civic norms (internal) Mobilisation: Organisational membership Psychological engagement: Politics is important at a personal level Partisanship: Membership of KSC /KSS General Incentives Model Sense of Political efficacy: Understand current situation; know “correct” social and civic norms (internal) Collective benefits: Multipartyism secures democracy Costs of participation: Obligations /implications of political activity Process incentives: Open media, political discussion not decrees, interest group competition Outcome incentives: Respect for opinions of political rivals (non-democrats should not be punished) Altruism: Citizens should participate in public life Social norms: Attitudes toward socialism CITIZENSHIP (THE DEPENDENT VARIABLE) Rights, freedom and equality (b) Obligation to volunteer (a)Attitudes towards political power(d) Potential political participation

23 Civic Voluntarism Model Comparison Dependent variable: Willingness to be a candidate in an election (13 point scale) Model estimate using OLS regression, Czech lands Adj. R 2 =.09, Slovakia Adj. R 2 =.09, Note * p .05, ** p .01, ***p .001 (significance refers to Czechoslovak model)

24 General Incentives Model Comparison Dependent variable: Willingness to be a candidate in an election (13 point scale) Model estimate using OLS regression, Czech lands Adj. R 2 =.09, Slovakia Adj. R 2 =.09, Note * p .05, ** p .01, ***p .001 (significance refers to Czechoslovak model)

25 Summary of Modelling Results Structure TheoryChoice Theory Civic Voluntarism ModelGeneral Incentives Model Czech landsSlovakiaCzech landsSlovakia Resources  Political Efficacy  X  Mobilisation  Political Interest  X PartisanshipX  Collective Benefits  Costs of ParticipationXX Process IncentivesXX Outcome IncentivesXX Group Incentives  Social Norms  X Model Fit (Adj. R 2 ).09

26 C ONCLUSIONS …

27 What reforms were supported in ’68? Public supported reforming socialism - little support for revolution to create capitalism Public supported breaking Communist Party’s monopoly on power, i.e. creating political pluralism Improve economic performance through use of Workers’ Councils

28 Partisan/Electoral preferences in ’68? Popular support for the unifying role of the National Front form of governance KSČ would have been the largest party had there been free elections (as promised in September 1968) ČSL and ČSS did not attract widespread support Impact of a “new party” would have been limited Public wanted opposition parties to accept KSČ hegemony and offer pragmatic rather than ideological criticism Public favoured an electoral system that ensured political pluralism (and also control political corruption) KSC preferred a majoritarian electoral system, while ČSL and ČSS wanted a proportional party list system

29 Concepts of Citizenship in ’68? Emphasis within KSČ was on political orientation and participation (Mylnář survey research agenda) Concept of citizenship were similar in Czech lands and Slovakia Structural and Choice Theories of Citizenship appear to be equally applicable to the data Few difference in the Civic Voluntarism and General Incentives Models tested IMPLICATION: Political attitudes may not have been largely different across the Czech lands and Slovakia once socio-economic differences are taken into account More research is required to test this preliminary result

30 Future Research … Historiography – influence of elites vs. citizens Assemble more survey data from 1968 era (if possible?) Construct a more detailed analysis of the structure of political attitudes (SEM) Explore Czech and Slovak differences with regard to political attitudes and citizenship Undertake a “replication” and “extension” survey in May 2008 to facilitate comparison across time, and establish the relative importance of the “Prague Spring”


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