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Cablegate: Polls Show Romanians' Views On Iraq, Eu

This record is a partial extract of the original cable. The full text of the original cable is not available.

UNCLAS SECTION 01 OF 06 BUCHAREST 001084

SIPDIS

SENSITIVE

DEPT FOR EUR/NCE - WILLIAM SILKWORTH

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: PGOV PHUM SOCI KDEM ECON IZ RO
SUBJECT: POLLS SHOW ROMANIANS' VIEWS ON IRAQ, EU
INTEGRATION, AND OTHER KEY ISSUES


SENSITIVE BUT UNCLASSIFIED, PLEASE HANDLE ACCORDINGLY

1. (SBU) Summary: Two recent polls show mixed results about
Romanian military engagement in Iraq, with numbers varying
as to when and how the question was asked. Results
generated by an April 23-24 poll directly linking a pull-out
to saving Romanian hostages' lives showed 70 percent in
favor of a troop withdrawal. Two weeks earlier, similar
questions showed a plurality of respondents favoring
maintaining or increasing Romanian military engagement in
Iraq. Post provides the following results of diverse
polling in past weeks as a useful "snapshot" of the Romanian
public's thinking on Iraq as well as topical issues such as
EU integration, possible early elections, effectiveness of
current political leaders, discrimination in society, etc.
End Summary.

Opposed to Troops in Iraq?
--------------------------
2. (U) The Center for Urban and Regional Sociology (CURS)
conducted a national blitz poll April 23 and 24 regarding
the presence of Romanian troops in Iraq. CURS queried 1,020
subjects over 18 years of age shortly after kidnappers
threatened that they would kill three Romanian journalists
held hostage in Iraq unless the Romanian government
withdraws its troops from Iraq. The poll has a maximum
error of 3 percent and was commissioned by TV channel
"Antena 1." Asked whether Romania should pull out its
troops from Iraq, as the kidnappers have demanded, in order
to save the journalists' lives, respondents answered as
follows:
70 percent - yes
18 percent - no
12 percent - don't know/no answer.

A break-down on gender, age, education, and residence area
categories yielded the following results:

Gender
Men
63 percent - yes
25 percent - no
12 percent - don't know/no answer.

Women
76 percent - yes
10 percent - no
14 percent - don't know/no answer.

Age
18-30 years of age
67 percent - yes
20 percent - no
13 percent - don't know/no answer.

31-55 years of age
71 percent - yes
18 percent - no
11 percent - don't know/no answer.

56 years of age and over
73 percent - yes
15 percent - no
12 percent - don't know/no answer.

Education
Primary school
78 percent - yes
11 percent - no
11 percent - don't know/no answer.

High school
71 percent - yes
18 percent - no
11 percent - don't know/no answer.

Higher education
62 percent - yes
26 percent - no
12 percent - don't know/no answer.

Area of residence
Urban
65 percent - yes
23 percent - no
12 percent - don't know/no answer.

Rural
74 percent - yes
13 percent - no
13 percent - don't know/no answer.

3. (U) When asked whether Romania should pull out its
troops whether or not the journalists are released, the
respondents stated:
57 percent - yes
33 percent - no
10 percent - don't know/no answer.

4. (SBU) Requested to give grades on an ascending 1 to 10
scale, the respondents indicated an average 7.2 for the
manner in which the media covered the crisis of the hostages
and an average 6.9 regarding the authorities' efforts to
solve the crisis.

5. (SBU) The poll's results triggered controversy
immediately when media magnate Dan Voiculescu, who owns
"Antena 1," expressed support for a troop pull-out based on
the poll's results. Voiculescu heads the Romanian Humanist
Party (PUR), which is in alliance with the center-right
government, but is suspected by some of being a "Trojan
horse," retaining loyalty to its erstwhile ally, the former
ruling, center-left Social Democratic Party (PSD).
Governing Liberal-Democratic (PNL-PD) Alliance leaders
responded, however, that crucial foreign policy decisions
should not be based on polls taken during an emotionally
charged time. Indeed, CURS Director Sebastian Lazaroiu
acknowledged that the percentage of those in favor of the
withdrawal of the troops would have been lower under "normal
conditions."

Poll Prior to Hostage Crisis Shows Different Results
--------------------------------------------- -------
6. (SBU) A separate poll carried out by the National
Institute for Opinion Polls and Marketing (INSOMAR) between
April 12 and 17 and commissioned by a trade union, PETROM,
shows that a narrow plurality favor keeping troops in Iraq
or increasing their numbers. The poll was conducted
nationwide on a sample of 1,668 people of over 18 years of
age and had a maximum error of 2.4 percent. Significantly,
the poll took place after the hostages were in custody and a
film of them had been released by their captors but, unlike
the CURS poll, it was conducted prior to the release of a
disturbing second film portraying the hostages held at
gunpoint and threatened with death. Asked what course of
action the government should consider after the kidnap of
Romanian citizens, the respondents answered as follows:
40.3 percent - should withdraw the troops from Iraq,
34.3 percent - should keep the troops in Iraq,
7.5 percent - should increase military presence in Iraq,
17.9 percent - don't know/no answer.

7. (U) Asked whether they think the Presidency is making
sufficient efforts to release the Romanian journalists from
Iraq, respondents answered as follows:
60.4 percent - yes
26.7 percent - no
12.9 percent - don't know/no answer.

To the same question, but regarding the government, the
respondents said the following:
54.8 percent - yes
30.3 percent - no
14.9 percent - don't know/no answer.

Most Romanians "Satisfied" with Political Leaders
--------------------------------------------- ----
8. (U) Asked to express their degree of satisfaction with
President Basescu's activities, respondents indicated the
following:
12 percent - very satisfied
51 percent - pretty satisfied
25 percent - pretty dissatisfied
11 percent - very dissatisfied

As for the degree of satisfaction with the Tariceanu
government's activities, the respondents answered as
follows:
8 percent - very satisfied
47 percent - pretty satisfied
32 percent - pretty dissatisfied
13 percent - very dissatisfied

Poll Shows PNL-PD Alliance Would Win Early Elections
--------------------------------------------- -------
9. (U) When asked which party or political alliance they
would vote for if elections were to take place next Sunday,
respondents answered the INSOMAR poll as follows:
55.8 percent - PNL-PD Alliance
26.4 percent - Social Democratic Party (PSD)
8.2 percent - Greater Romania Popular Party (PPRM)
3.0 percent - Democratic Union of Hungarians (UDMR)
2.1 percent - Romanian Humanist Party (PUR)
1.2 percent - Christian-Democratic Popular Party (PPCD)
3.2 percent - other party

(Comment: These results tend to support President Basescu's
assertion that the center-right PNL-PD alliance would
trounce the PSD if early elections take place. Based on
these results both the UDMR and PUR would risk losing their
parliamentary representation, since a party must gain five
percent of the national vote to have a voice in parliament.
End Comment.)

10. (SBU) Break-downs on education, age and residence area
indicate the preference of all education categories for the
PNL-PD Alliance, with a larger majority of those with higher
education favoring the PNL-PD. Respondents under 65 years
of age are more inclined to vote for the PNL-PD Alliance,
whereas those over 65 years of age lean toward PSD. The
largest differences in favor of the PNL-PD Alliance appear
in the 18-34 and 35-49 age categories. A large majority of
urban respondents favor the PNL-PD Alliance whereas in rural
areas, traditionally a PSD stronghold, support is almost
equally distributed between the PNL-PD Alliance and the PSD,
with a slight advantage for the former. (Note: the INSOMAR
pollsters did not release the complete statistical results
for the categories described in this paragraph. End Note.)

11. (SBU) A large majority of the INSOMAR respondents would
rather vote for individual candidates than for party slates,
as follows:
63.4 percent - would prefer to vote for individual
candidates
17.6 percent - would prefer to vote for party slates
19.O percent - provided no answer

Fearing God.and Trusting the Church
-----------------------------------
12. (SBU) When asked by the INSOMAR pollsters what they
fear, Romanians responded: God (91 percent), disease (88
percent), price increases (83 percent), poverty (82 percent)
and corruption (76 percent). Asked about institutions, the
respondents stated that they have "much confidence or very
much confidence" in the church (87 percent), army (72
percent), media (62 percent), and Presidency (53 percent).
The least trusted institutions are Parliament (27 percent),
trade unions (30 percent), the judiciary (34 percent), and
the government (37 percent).

13. (SBU) Most Romanians express a high level of trust in
the church, with a majority attending regular religious
services at least several times a month. When asked how
often they go to church, respondents gave the following
answers:
33.8 percent - several times/year, on the main religious
holidays (Christmas, Easter)
23.6 percent - several times/month
21.7 percent - once a week
11.6 percent - once a year or less
6.2 percent - several times a week
3.3 percent - don't go at all

City Folk Rosy on EU
----------------------
14. (U) The Institute for Free Initiative and CURS conducted
a poll between March 17 and 23 on a sample of 1,208 people
aged 18 years or older of age from urban areas. The survey
had a maximum error of plus-minus 2.8 percent. More than a
month prior to President Basescu's April 25 signing of the
EU accession treaty, pollsters asked respondents whether
they support Romania's EU accession. Respondents answered
as follows:
85 percent - yes
10 percent - no
5 percent - can't tell
15. (U) When asked their opinion on how their everyday life
would change if Romania becomes an EU member, respondents
said:
43 percent - for the better
26 percent - it will be the same
16 percent - for the worse
15 percent - can't tell

16. (U) Asked which of three alternatives they would favor
regarding reforms that imply economic sacrifices for the
population (decrease in living standards), the respondents
favored the following opinions:
53 percent - Romania should implement reforms faster in
order to integrate with the EU in 2007
34 percent - Romania should implement reforms gradually even
if this means postponing integration.

17. (U) In answer to a question regarding possible
obstacles to EU integration, the respondents indicated the
following:
29 percent - corruption
14 percent - behavior of Romanians abroad
13 percent - way in which the Romanian economy operates
12 percent - Romania's failure to meet assumed commitments
9 percent - low living standard
9 percent - political instability
8 percent - low competitiveness of Romanian companies on the
EU market
4 percent - economic and political interests of other
countries
2 percent - can't tell

18. (U) According to the poll, urban Romanians think that
"significant effects" of Romania's EU integration will be:
price increases (81 percent), increased foreign investment
in the Romanian economy (79 percent), shutdown of some
companies (74 percent), Romania will become a market for
Western products (71 percent), development of Romanian
agriculture (65 percent), tax increase (63 percent),
decrease of corruption in Romania (54 percent), increase of
unemployment (51 percent), increase of Romanians' incomes
(50 percent), and increase of inflation rate (39 percent).

Gallup Poll: Youth Optimistic, Apathetic
----------------------------------------
19. (U) The Gallup Organization and the British Council
released April 12 results of a joint opinion poll designed
to provide an image of Romanian youth. The survey was
conducted between May and November 2004 in Bucharest,
Brasov, Cluj, Constanta, Iasi, Sibiu, and Timisoara, on a
sample group of 1004 people between 15 and 35 years of age.
Margin of error is plus-minus 3.0%. The survey's questions
focused on EU integration, tolerance toward minorities,
equal opportunity for men and women, and interest in the
political life and civic involvement, among other issues.
Gallup also used focus groups to supplement findings of the
survey.

20. (U) When asked their views of EU integration, 56
percent of the respondents said they believe that it will
bring more personal advantages than disadvantages; 27
percent believe it will bring them neither advantages nor
disadvantages; 8 percent believed it would bring more
disadvantages, and 9 percent had no reply or did not know.
61 percent believed their personal income would increase
with EU accession, and 50 percent believed it would increase
their opportunities to study abroad.

21. (U) At the same time, young Romanian respondents
expressed little interest in political life. 78 percent are
not interested at all, are interested to a very small
extent, or to a small extent in anything that is perceived
as political activity, i.e. joining a party, going to the
polls, or being informed about political developments.
Young people are also reluctant to do volunteer work, with
59 percent of the respondents expressing little or no
interest in such activities. (Comment: Many Romanians have
a jaundiced view of volunteerism since during the communist
era "volunteer work" was, in fact, mandatory service. End
Comment.)

22. (U) Regarding minorities, respondents were asked a
question regarding individuals who are gay/lesbian, Roma,
Hungarian, or disabled. For each minority category,
pollsters asked respondents to chose from the following
answers: such people should not live in Romania; I would
accept them to live in Romania; I would accept such a person
to live in my town; I would accept such a person to be my
colleague at work; I would accept such a person to be in my
group of friends; I would accept such a person to be a
member of my family. For sexual minorities, 21 percent of
the respondents agreed with the statement that "such people
should not live in Romania" while 24 percent favored "I
would accept them to live in Romania"; only 5 percent of
respondents said they accept sexual minorities as members of
their families. As for ethnic minorities, 11 percent of the
respondents think that Roma should not live in Romania and 9
percent share this opinion for ethnic Hungarians. The
respondents showed a high acceptance level for disabled
people and there were no negative remarks about them in the
focus groups. Focus groups also revealed a high intolerance
for Roma. The cluster analysis indicated, in terms of
tolerance, that 15 percent of the respondents showed
rejection, 44 percent were moderately tolerant, while 41
percent showed high acceptance. Most young Romanian men (69
percent) think that women have as many rights as needed, 18
percent believe women have too few rights, 9 percent opine
women have too many rights, and 4 percent don't know/don't
answer. Women have a different opinion, 56 percent of the
respondents opining that women have too few rights, 40
percent thinking that they have as many rights as needed, 1
percent believe women have too many rights, 3 percent don't
know/don't answer.

23. (U) While most respondents are satisfied with the
possibilities to travel to cities for recreation and to
study in the cities, a majority (68 percent) are
"dissatisfied" or "not too satisfied" with urban job
opportunities. Knowledge of foreign languages, solid
professional education and PC and IT abilities are the three
qualities judged by young people to be the most useful for
getting a good job. For 84 percent of respondents, a good
salary heads the list of the top three important criteria in
choosing a job. The next two priorities are a safe job and
a pleasant working environment. A majority of respondents
do not go at all to classic music concerts (69 percent),
opera (73 percent), theatre (54 percent), ballet (80
percent), or exhibits (66 percent).

24. (U) The respondents gave a positive appraisal of the
Romanian education system; 61 percent of them think that
what is taught in Romanian schools is useful for students
further in life. Regarding IT, 88 and 80 percent of the
respondents use computers and the internet, respectively.
68 percent of the respondents report that they speak one or
two foreign languages fluently.

25. (SBU) Comment. We are hesitant to draw far-reaching
conclusions regarding the CURS polling on a troop pullout
from Iraq, given both the emotionally charged atmosphere in
which the polling was conducted and PUR leader-Antenna 1
owner Dan Voiculescu's potentially ambiguous political
motivations. A better sense of Romanian attitudes toward
their Iraqi role will probably emerge after resolution of
the current hostage situation. However, these polls offer a
"snapshot" of current Romanian attitudes toward both "front
page" issues and social values. What is clear is that
Romanians are generally satisfied with Basescu and the new
government and optimistic about their future within the EU.
It is also clear that the political divide evident during
November/December elections between rural and urban voters
and the elderly and other population groups has widened in
the past several months. Even more than before, support for
the previously omnipotent Social Democrats (PSD) has
shrunken to a bedrock of elderly and rural voters. That
does not bode well for its future. Also significant are
prejudicial Romanian social attitudes toward gays and Roma.
Levels of acceptance, even among presumably more "open"
younger Romanians, are very low. End Comment.
26. (U) Amembassy Bucharest's reporting telegrams are
available on the Bucharest SIPRNET Website:
www.state.sgov.gov/p/eur/bucharest.

DELARE

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