Usually, the numbers from surveys themselves say very little. The attitude of Czechs to democracy is easier to understand in the context of similar research conducted in other countries; importantly, it can give an indication as to the level of fidelity to the product, in this case democracy.
To measure this value, marketers use the so-called Net Promoter Score (NPS), based on the opinions of customers or employees (and in the case of democracy – citizens). Any value higher than zero can be satisfactory (those faithful clients outnumber those willing to abandon the product). Any number definitively below zero is a problem.
Czechs do not like democracy
The ISSP survey was conducted in 35 OECD countries to test their satisfaction with democracy. What is the overall level expressed in the above marketing indicator? The global NPS value fluctuates around -48. This is understandable as we are all users of democracy and therefore, unlike in the case of products, it is impossible for everyone to choose what suits him best.
Nevertheless, the sheer number of those indifferent or disappointed over those satisfied is alarming. In business, this would lead to the exchange of managers, which in the most disgruntled countries has actually happened recently. This dissatisfaction has also manifested by the disintegration of traditional parties and the emergence of fragmented governments.
In only five NPS countries does democracy have a rating more than zero. Perhaps, not surprisingly, it’s the three Scandinavian countries, Switzerland and Australia. In turn, the Czechs belong to the five most dissatisfied nations with an indicator of -77. Only a few other post-communist countries and Spain are at a similar level, where confidence in democracy is probably also ruined by regional separatist tendencies.
A demographic breakdown
Wealth is a strong indicator of confidence in the system. Above all, low-income earners are less trusting of democracy than the wealthier members of the society. According to a CVVM study, the difference is not simply that the more destitute citizens opt for authoritarian governments, but the Czechs in this economic bracket believe that for people like them democracy, or the lack of it, is irrelevant.
About 30% of Czechs cannot afford a trip abroad; they are also unable to plan larger expenses or prepare their finances for the future. Some of the advantages of democracy, such as the freedom of travel, are rather hypothetical, and the shortcomings of the Czech social system, like the dishonest methods around debt collection, have grown to become permanent attributes of democracy in their eyes.
Therefore, the NPS in people with a net income up to PLN 2,500 (~690 USD) is clearly lower than the average in the country and amounts to ca. -85, which means having almost no faith in democracy.
However, it is impossible to explain everything by earnings and the economic situation. Well-educated Czechs in a better financial condition do not assess democracy much better. A Czech student and a person with income above 5,000 net pln (~1,380 USD) continues to form assessments lower than the average European.
What else is playing a role? Primarily, regional issues are of considerable importance. People from areas highly affected by social problems (unemployment, improper executions of collection warrants, etc.), those with an addiction to diminishing industries, and who have little hope for long lives or any improvement to the quality of the environment, more often do not vote or vote for extremist parties.
Lacking access to the Internet and education
There are, of course, additional factors which play more significant roles for different age groups. Among the older generation digital exclusion is a prominent issue. Those who do not use the Internet complain about the lack of opportunities to speak about social matters. For this segment of society, they are missing out on political communication, which is mainly taking place on social networks.
The younger generations’ attitudes towards democracy are not rooted in personal or national history though education plays a crucial role here. Vocational school students are much more sceptical about democracy than high school students. According to many of the former, communism in Czechia was a better system.
In the Czech educational framework, which is riddled with inequalities, these dissatisfied pupils often come from poorer and less educated families. In their schools, apart from history lessons, there is a lack of media education and social science that could give access to the experiences of other parts of society and strengthen their ties to their larger community.
Individualism and lack of community
All this does not fully explain Czech scepticism towards democracy. When we examine the main types of political involvement (measured e.g. by the tendency to sign a petition or talk about politics with friends) or the general level of social trust expressed by the conviction of others, they feel uninformed, especially so if they are asked to compare their knowledge with that of the “rest of the world”.
The majority of them perceives the decision to join political life as a way for individual politicians to achieve personal ambitions. For this reason, politics has lost its public service dimension, and there is a perceived disconnect between the ruling elite and the Czech society. In contrast to Western countries, fewer Czechs believe that a good citizen should be mindful of the government’s actions.
As far as consumerism is concerned, Czechs shop clearly below the European average; however, they do take into account the ecological or political responsibility of the producer. That being said, being a good citizen in Czechia is clearly less connected with the helping of others: in your own country or abroad. The conviction Czechs feel towards government institutions’ respect for minorities, an essential component of democracy, is very weak.
Overall in Czechia, there is a combination of individualism with a limited solidarity among people who do not fall into the category of “ordinary people”. Therefore, Czech democracy, which lacks both a sense of belonging or conflict which could unite the people, is perceived as rhetorical and an empty form of power that can be replaced by another.
A spoon full of sugar
Tailored medication must be administered based on a specific diagnosis. Most importantly for Czechia, many of the economic wrongs from the past should be repaired since they have resulted in a lack of trust in the rule of law. These include the introduction of a new, transparent system for loans and debt collection. This would also comprise the difficult to understand fact that, in the Ostrava region, the state agreed to enter the mining sector without any obligation to restore or clean up the region after the natural resources have been depleted. Czechs should also be afforded the possibility to make financial plans and enjoy freedoms that are elements of democracy for the majority of the population.
They should also reduce the level of dependence of learning outcomes based on the economic status of families. Today, this correlation is huge which leads to inherited, endemic poverty coupled with a limited access to certain freedoms. It is also necessary – apart from the commemoration of ancient philosophers, Punic wars and sociological terminology – to teach more about media efficiency and the functioning of contemporary democracy along with its weaknesses, and to show where the problems of modernity come from (i.e., emigration to social exclusion).
One should limit the digital omission of older and poorer members of society so that they can participate more fully in the law-making process, obtain information about democracy and create new forms of social capital. The state should not compete with non-profit organizations but try to support them and encourage people not only to vote once every four years but to associate, cooperate and participate in disputes about the direction in which they are going.
And above all, one should not talk about politics but rather topics, without which politics becomes an empty election carousel, with the new ideas quickly becoming worn out and rejected just like those that came before them.
Daniel Prokop is the Director of social and political research at the Czech research firm Median as well as a researcher for the faculty of social sciences at the Charles University in Prague.
How is the Net Promotor Score calculated?
The test consists in asking clients to determine their level of satisfaction on a scale from 0 to 10. We still need to deduct the percentage of dissatisfied and indifferent people (0-6) from the percentage of people who are very satisfied and faithful (values 9-10).
The result, expressed in NPS, depends on the type of product and context. Theoretically, it can accept values from -100 (dissatisfied or indifferent) to 100 (happy and loyal).