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Cablegate: New Poll Shows Continued Growth in Nato Support

VZCZCXRO6763
PP RUEHIK RUEHPOD RUEHYG
DE RUEHVB #0916 2771501
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
P 041501Z OCT 07
FM AMEMBASSY ZAGREB
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC PRIORITY 8204
INFO RUEHZG/NATO EU COLLECTIVE

UNCLAS ZAGREB 000916

SIPDIS

SIPDIS

DEPARTMENT FOR EUR, EUR/SCE
USNATO FOR JONES, UNDERWOOD

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: PREL NATO PGOV KPAO MOPS MARR HR DEFENSE REFORM
SUBJECT: NEW POLL SHOWS CONTINUED GROWTH IN NATO SUPPORT

REF: A. ZAGREB 618

B. ZAGREB 593
C. ZAGREB 395 AND PREVIOUS

1. SUMMARY AND COMMENT: A poll contracted by the
International Republican Institute (IRI) shows a continued
rise in public support for NATO membership. In a
Post-organized briefing to NATO-member embassies on October
2, IRI representatives highlighted a 10 percent increase in
support for Croatia's Alliance membership since their last
regular poll in April 2007. Respondents in favor of
membership rose to 48 percent while opposition dropped to 43
percent. When adjusted to reflect only respondents willing
to vote in a potential NATO referendum, support climbed to 56
percent and opposition dipped to 41. IRI-organized polls
have consistently shown lower levels of support than
GoC-sponsored polling due to various methodological
differences but are widely considered to be a more reliable
measure of public opinion. END SUMMARY AND COMMENT.

CLEAR POSITIVE TREND BUT PUBLIC STILL FEELS UNINFORMED
--------------------------------------------- ---------
2. Poll results, based on 3,000 face-to-face interviews
conducted throughout the country from August 17 to September
17, indicate clear growth in public backing for NATO
accession, showing a 17 percent rise from the February 2007
low of 31 and opposition 18 points down from its historic
high of 61. Equally encouraging was relatively consistent
support across major political parties, with 56 percent of
ruling Croatian Democratic Union (HDZ) voters and 51 percent
of opposition Social Democratic Party (SDP) supporters
favoring NATO. SDP support is particularly important,
showing that members have not confused party leader Zoran
Milanovic's calls for a referendum on NATO accession with
opposition to Croatia's membership.

3. The general public, however, still feels poorly informed
about the costs and benefits of NATO membership. Despite
intense GoC efforts, only 19 percent of Croatians feel well
or very well informed about NATO. That figure remains
unchanged over the past year. According to the poll, many
Croatians also continue to view NATO as a servant of USG
foreign policy interests and believe membership will increase
the risk of terrorist attacks.

HDZ NARROWING SDP LEAD IN ELECTION RUN-UP
-----------------------------------------

4. Regarding the popularity of political parties, the poll
showed HDZ closing the gap on SDP before parliamentary
elections next month. At nearly 27 percent, HDZ is just
three points behind the SDP, a statistical dead heat given
the poll's margin of error. Other trends, such as voters'
perceptions of the government, are also improving for the
HDZ, but their performance on such issues as unemployment and
corruption remain key vulnerabilities.

5. The full polling presentation will be provided to EUR/SCE
via email and will be available on Post's SIPRNet site at
http://www.state.sgov.gov/p/eur/zagreb/.
BRADTKE

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