The Institute for Political Sciences and International Relationships “Ion I. C. Brătianu” of the Romanian Academy and the the Laboratory of Information Warfare Analysis and Strategic Communication (LARICS), under the patronage of the Romanian Academy, have presented a sociological study based on two surveys simultaneously done on the Romanian and American societies.
The study “Values, perceptions and representations of the population of Romania and the United States of America”, commissioned by LARICS, represents a scientific contribution that has the potential to help strengthen the strategic partnership between Romania and the United States of America, by providing a comparative and an in-depth knowledge of the two societies. The study reveals the values, attitudes, states of mind of the two societies in 2018 and their particularities.
The national survey was conducted by INSCOP Research (www.inscop.ro) at the request of LARICS, during 12th – 23rd October 2018, on a sample of 1050 individuals, representative for the Romanian population (18 and over 18 years). The maximum permissible error is ± 3%, at a confidence interval of 95%, given a probabilistic, multi-layered sample. The data was collected through a questionnaire applied by the interview operators at the home of the respondents. The sample was validated based on the National Statistics Institute’s official data.
The survey in the United States of America was conducted by the The Polling Company (www.pollingcompany.com) during 19th – 22nd October, 2018, on a sample of 1050 individuals, representative for the US population (18 and over 18 years). The maximum permissible error is ± 3%, at a confidence interval of 95%. The data was collected through a phone questionnaire, providing live opt-in response technology of 70% landline, 30% cell phone coverage.
Inscop Research (Romania) and The Polling Company (USA) have signed a collaboration partnership through which they offer each other support for conducting sociological studies, not only in Romania and other countries in the region, but also in the United States of America. The two companies are also working for developing a set of innovative methodologies, already tested on the American market, which can be applied on Romanian and regional markets.
The study includes three sections: the first one contains common questions applied both in the USA and Romania (I), the second one contains questions which were exclusively included in the American survey (II) and the third one contains questions which were exclusively applied in Romania (III).
Section I – Common questions (Romania – the USA)
The direction of the country
- 19% of Romanians think the direction towards which Romania heads is good, while 46% of Americans have the same perception about their country.
- 74% of the Romanian respondents are pessimistic about the direction of their country compared to less than half of Americans.
- 43% of Romanians think that things are going in a wrong direction in Europe. A similar percent – 40% – consider that things are going in a right direction in Europe, while 17% don’t know or don’t answer.
- The percentage of non-responses to this question registered among US respondents is 40%. 35% of the interviewees believe that things are going in a wrong direction in Europe, while a quarter are optimistic concerning the future of the Europe.
The current general situation of the country
- 72% of Romanians consider that the current general situation of Romania is bad or very bad, while almost a quarter think that the current general situation is good or very good.
- Almost a half of the Americans (47%) believe the current general situation of their country is good or very good. 44% say that the current general situation of the USA is bad or very bad.
The current economical state of the country
- Over 70% of the Romanian respondents consider the current economical state of the country is bad (57%) or very bad (16%). Less than a quarter of the interviewees assess positively the current economical state of Romania.
- Over half of the Americans think the current economical state of their country is good (38%) or very good (18%). 35% assess negatively the current economical state of the USA – 26% as bad and 9% as very bad.
The financial situation of the family
- Over half of the Romanians evaluate their family’s financial situation as being good (57%) or very good (4%). 35% say their family has a bad (30%) or very bad (5%) financial situation.
- Approximatively 60% of those surveyed in the USA think the financial situation of their family is good (47%) or very good (14%). Almost a third say their family has a bad (22%) or very bad (10%) financial situation.
The 3 main problems of the country
- The 3 main problems of the country mentioned by Romanians are: the inflation / the cost of day-to-day living (chosen as an answer from the three possible options by 69% of those surveyed), the economic state (59%) and the energy cost (53%). This list of problems faced by Romania, as viewed by the respondents, is completed by other issues like: the level of taxes and contributions, the lack of jobs respectively. The climate changes, immigration and terrorism are among the least mentioned problems by the
- The Americans think that the main 3 problems faced by their country are: the access to medical care services (mentioned by 38% of those surveyed), immigration (38%) and the inflation / the cost of day-to-day living (36%). This list of the problems is completed by: terrorism (28%), climate change (28%), the economic state (23%), the level of taxes (20%). The cost of energy and the lack of jobs are among the least mentioned problems by the Americans.
The level of trust in institutions
- The trust in institutions was measured on a special scale, giving marks from 1 to 5, in which 1 means a lot of trust and 5 – very little trust.
- The institution that both Romanians and Americans trust the most is the Army. Police also benefits from a quite high level of trust in Romania and the USA.
- Among the listed Romanian political institutions, the President and the local authorities have the highest level of trust. The political parties and the other central institutions, the Government and the Parliament, are rather distrusted by the Romanians.
- In the USA’s case, the local authorities also have the highest level of trust among the listed institutions. The Americans have a rather low trust in the Government, the Congress and the political parties.
- Romanians and Americans’ trust in Justice is higher than in other fundamental institutions like the Parliament / the Congress and the central / federal Government. Both in Romania and the USA, a significant percentage of respondents choose a moderate answer, giving a 3, on the 1 to 5 scale measuring trust.
- Romanians’ trust in the media is a little higher than the Americans’, the negative evaluations being more frequent in US case.
The interest in politics
- Overall, Romanians are rather uninterested in politics. 19% of the Romanian respondents say they are completely uninterested in politics, 31% not that interested and 28% slightly interested. Only 7% are very interested in politics, while 14% rather interested.
- On the opposite side, the American population is rather interested in politics. 26% of the American respondents declare themselves very interested in politics and 24% – rather interested.
The importance of democracy
- For both Romanians and Americans, it’s very important to live under a democratic regime, Americans being firmer in this respect. For half of the Romanians, it is very important to live in a democratically governed country. A little over 10% chose answer options 1 and 2, corresponding to a low importance.
- Over three quarters of Americans consider that it’s very important to live in a country in which there is a free election system. Only 2% said that this aspect has a low importance.
Freedom of the press
- Americans think, in a much higher proportion than Romanians, that the press in their country is free. Almost 30% of Romanians believe that the national media has very little or little freedom. In comparison, 10% of the American respondents think that the media in their country has a little or no freedom at all.
Types of political leadership
- A significant percentage of both Romanians and Americans, express their agreement with a type of political leadership which involves a leader / president who manages the country’s problems with an iron hand. Thus, 49% of Romanians, 42% of Americans respectively, think that such a type of political leadership would be useful for their countries.
- Also, almost 60% of Romanians would prefer their country to have a leader / president who assumes the role of mediator within the society. 60% of the American respondents expressed their preference for a balance and mutual control between the state powers.
- 42% of Romanians think that a Government made up of experts (technocrats) would be a good solution for ensuring the governing of the country, while only 32% of Americans share the same opinion.
- Both Romanian and American respondents are reserved concerning the prospect of increasing the powers of the legislative bodies in their countries.
- Romanians think, in a larger percentage than the Americans, that the state should take more responsibility for the people’s well-being (68% versus 46%). At the same time, 75% of Romanians, respectively 64% of Americans, believe that each individual should take more responsibility for his own well-being.
- Romanians have more faith, than the Americans, that people can, in time, have a better life through hard work (67% versus 57%).
- On the other hand, over a half of the Romanian respondents (60%) think that it’s very difficult to get rich only by working harder, unlike 46% of the questioned Americans.
Intervention of the state
- Romanians agree, in a larger percentage than the Americans, with a stronger intervention of the state in the economy. So, 70% of Romania’s population think that the state should intervene more in the economy, while only 30% of the USA population share this opinion.
- Also, Romanians believe, in a larger percent than the Americans, that the state should tax the rich people more than it does now (63% versus 52%), respectively that the differences among people’s incomes should diminish (65% versus 39%).
- Almost a third of both the Romanian respondents and the American ones agree with the limitation of certain rights and personal freedom in case of strong threats to national security. So, the agreement is rather low.
The role of international organisations in solving global conflicts
- Romanians generally appreciate, in a larger percentage than the Americans, the necessity of international organisations (51% versus 40%), and their efficiency in solving different global issues (47% versus 31%).
- Also, Romanians positively evaluate, in a larger percentage than the Americans, the efforts of the UN for maintaining peace (44% versus 27%) and the security guarantee offered by NATO to its members (48% versus 31%).
The role of the states in solving global conflicts
- 46% of Romanians, 40% of Americans respectively, think that, as one of the most powerful countries in the world, the USA has a big a responsibility in solving global conflicts.
- Over a half of both the Romanian and the American respondents consider that all the states, whether big or small, bear a certain responsibility for solving global conflicts.
- Romanians believe, in a larger percent than the Americans, that their country should only deal with internal issues (48% versus 23%).
- The Romanian respondents believe, in a larger percent than the Americans, that it is important for their country to meet the international commitments, even when they are divergent to politics proposed by the national government (50% versus 40%).
Increase in defence spending by NATO countries
- Americans think, in a larger percentage than the Romanians, that the increase in defence spending by NATO members is necessary to counter the Russian threat (47% versus 34%), and that their country should increase defence spending (32% versus 23%).
- Under a quarter of both Romanian and American respondents think that the NATO countries that do not increase their defence spending should be excluded from the Alliance.
- 40% of Romanians, respectively 36% of Americans, believe that each country should decide on its own how much it allocates for defence, regardless of the decisions taken at NATO level.
Maintaining the US sanctions against Russia
- Romanians’ opinions concerning the US sanctions against Russia are divided. Almost 30% of the those surveyed believe that maintaining these sanctions would be advantageous for Romania, while a similar percentage consider that it wouldn’t be a good thing for the country. 26% think that maintaining these sanctions is neither advantageous nor disadvantageous for Romania. Also, we observe a large share of non-responses – 18%, which indicates a low knowledge of the subject.
- Almost half of the American respondents believe that maintaining these US sanctions against Russia is beneficial for their country. The percent of the non-responses is also high in the case of American respondents.
The fake-news phenomena
- The majority of both Romanian (56%) and American respondents (52%) think that fake-news are more likely to spread online than on traditional channels.
- Half of the Americans, respectively a little over half of the Romanians, believe that behind the spread fake-news are, most of the times, the politicians and the political parties in their countries. The distribution of answers shows that the politicians and the political parties are most strongly perceived as being the initiators of fake-news.
- Under 50% of both Romanians and Americans say that behind the spread of fake-news, are, most of the time, other states.
- The Romanian respondents say, in a larger percent than the Americans, that media spreads fake-news in pursuit of a larger audience (56% versus 42%).
- Ordinary people are perceived as being the spreaders of fake-news by a small percent of the interviewees, both Romanians and Americans (a little over a quarter).
The willingness to alert authorities when facing a situation that could pose a threat to public safety and order
- 47% of Romanians, respectively 55% of Americans, declare that they would be willing to alert the Police and other authorities in case of a situation that represents a threat to public safety and order.
- Romanians are more reserved in alerting authorities than the Americans. 16% of the Romanian respondents (compared to 4% of the Americans) declare that they would rather not alert authorities in order to avoid unnecessary complications for themselves, while 6% (compared to 1% of the Americans) to avoid being viewed by the others as a snitch.
Equity of the society
- Only about one-eighth of Romanians and Americans believe that we live in a fair society, which does not disadvantage those who are powerless and follow the rules.
- The highest share of the respondents (over 50% of Romanians, a little under half of the Americans – 47%) consider that they live in an unfair society in which rules do not apply to those in power.
- A little over a quarter of both Romanians and Americans think that the world is neither fair or unfair.
- Romanians declare they believe in God in a larger percent than the Americans (92% versus 76%).
- 85% of Romanians, compared to 60% of Americans, consider themselves religious persons. 10% of the Romanian respondents see themselves as not being religious, and just 1% as being convinced atheists. In the USA, 26% of those surveyed consider themselves not being religious, while 5% declare themselves convinced
The USA’s image in the world
- Over a half of Romanians think that the USA has a rather positive image in the world, while just a little over a third (36%) of the Americans have the same perception about their country. Almost a half of the interviewed Americans believe that their country has a rather negative image in the world.
Romania’s image in the world
- Two thirds of Romanians (66%) think that Romania has a rather negative image in the world, while almost a quarter (24%) consider that their country has a positive image.
Section II – Questions included exclusively in the American survey
- 67% of the Americans declare that they have heard of Romania, 20% declare that haven’t heard of it, while 12% don’t know or don’t answer.
- Men, older people and those in urban areas declare, more often than the other categories (females, youngsters, people from suburban/rural areas), that they have heard of Romania. Also, a higher percentage of those who have heard of Romania can be found among the respondents from the North-East and West of the USA, as well as the white and Asian respondents.
Information about Romania
- 23% of the interviewees declare that they know Romania is a country, 3% that it’s a former communist state. Also, the 3% mention that they know someone from our country. 4% of the respondents associate Romania’s name with Gymnastics, respectively Vlad the Impaler/Dracula.
- 61% say that they have heard of Romania in another context.
- 71% of Americans declare that they have heard of Transylvania, 19% that they haven’t heard, while 10% don’t know or don’t answer.
- 35% out of the total interviewees consider Transylvania a region of Romania, 23% that it’s Dracula’s country, 4% – a region in Hungary, 3% – a region in another EU country.
- 6% say that they have never heard of Transylvania, while 24% don’t know or don’t answer.
- White males, between 45 and 64 years, those living in the North-East and the ones with a higher level of education, identify Transylvania as a region in Romania, more often than other categories.
Statements about Romania
- Asked to express their agreement on a series of statements about our country, 69% of Americans identify Romania as being a European country, 36% – a country in the Black Sea Region, 31% – an EU member, 28% – a NATO member. Just 8% think that Romania is located in Asia.
- 28% of those surveyed show interest in visiting Romania.
- Males and those with a higher level of education identify Romania as a NATO member, an EU member or a country in the Black Sea Region, more often than the other categories (females, people with a lower education level).
- The willingness to visit Romania is higher among young people and the ones with a higher income.
Improving the opinion about Romania
- At the top of the list of information which could be taken into account for improving the opinion about Romania are: the fact that Romanian soldiers are fighting alongside the American ones in Afghanistan (48% of the respondents chose the answer options 4 and 5, which means a high importance), the EU and NATO membership (46% chose the answer options 4 and 5 on the scale), the fact that over 70% of the Romanians have a good opinion about the USA (44%) and the lack of close ties with Russia (43%).
- The percentage of those who don’t know or don’t answer is a quite high.
- Men, those over 35 years, those with a higher education and the inhabitants from the North-East are the categories who believe stronger than the others that the Romanians’ predominant good opinion about the USA is important for improving their opinion about our country.
Section III – Questions which were exclusively included in the Romanian survey
The feelings towards the USA
- Romanians have, in an overwhelming majority (79%) rather positive feelings towards the USA. Only 14% declare that their feelings towards the USA are rather negative.
- Young people and urban tend to have a pro-American orientation, more than older people and rural residents. In terms of gender and education, there aren’t major differences concerning the feelings towards the USA.
- People leaving in the West part of Romania have a stronger pro-American orientation than people from other regions of Romania.
- Self-employed people and those with higher income (over 3000 lei) declare, in a higher proportion, that they have rather negative feelings towards the USA.
The presence of American troops on Romania’s territory
- Three quarters of Romanians say that the presence of the American troops on Romania’s territory is important and very important, while only 18% consider this military presence as less important or not important.
- Males, people between 35 and 49 years and those with a medium-level education believe, more than the other categories, that the presence of the American troops on Romania’s territory is important.
- People living in the South-West and Central part of Romania, namely Transylvania, say, in a higher percentage than people from other regions, that the presence of the American troops on Romania’s territory is very important.
- As the income increases, the importance of American troops on Romania’s territory decreases.
- From the point of view of occupation, state employees, pensioners and University students believe, in a lower percentage than the other categories, that the presence of the American troops on Romania’s territory is very important.
The investments made by American companies in Romania’s economy
- Almost 80% of Romanians say that the investments made by American companies in Romania’s economy are important and very important. Only 18% see these investments as less important or not important.
Working for an American company
- Over a half of Romanians would like to be hired in a company having an American majority shareholding.
- Young people and the ones with a low education level are the most willing to work in an American company.
- In terms of gender and residence, there are no significant differences.
- Geographically speaking, people from the West and from Moldavia are the most willing to work in an American company.
- People with a higher income are less willing to work in such a company, than the ones with lower income.
- Excluding the unemployed/no occupation/housewife category, the self-employed people and the private sector employees are the most willing to work in an American company.
- Most of the respondents (42%) believe that, in case of an attack, our country cannot defend itself without the help of the other NATO members, while 31% neither agree nor disagree with the statement. Only 19% of those surveyed say that Romania could defend itself in case of an attack.
The state of democracy
- 45% of Romanians think that, over the last years, the democracy in their country has neither consolidated, nor weakened itself, 35% that it has consolidated, while 16% consider that it has weakened.
- 35% of the interviewees agree that the state should favour the domestic companies even if it breaks the principals of the free competition, 31% neither agree, nor disagree and 26% declare they don’t agree with this idea.
The country’s international role
- Almost 60% of the respondents believe that our country should try to make its voice more strongly heard at the international level. 30% neither agree, nor disagree with this idea, while only 7% say they disagree with this idea.
- As concerns an increased implication of our country in solving regional and global conflicts, 35% agree with the idea, 40% neither agree nor disagree, while 19% disagree.
- Being asked what we celebrate this year by the so-called Romania’s Centenary, overall, more than 75% of the interviewees, referred to, more or less clearly, the event of the Great Union. So, 34% have mentioned that we celebrate 100 years from the Great Union, 27% – the Great Union, 12% – the Union, 2% – the creation of Great Romania, 2% – the Union of Romania.
- A quite high percentage – 12% of the respondents don’t know or don’t answer.
The most important event for Romania since the Great Reunion until present day
- 45% of Romanians say that the 1989 Revolution is the most important event from the Great Union up to present day. The top of the most important events is completed, at a large percentage difference, by Romania’s accession to the EU (8%), the Second World War (5%), Romania’s accession to NATO (3%), the communism (3%). The rest of events on the list are mentioned by 1% or under 1% of the respondents.
- 30% of the respondents (a high percent) don’t know or don’t answer.
- 46% of the American public thinks that in the USA things are going in the right direction. In Romania, only 19% of the population believe that things are going in the right direction, revealing, compared to the previous years, a strong downward trend.
- Romanians are much more optimistic about the future of the EU than Americans (40% compared to 25%). In general, Romania, which has an internal view of the EU, is among the most Euro-optimistic member countries. The current political debate in the USA regarding the relationship with the EU probably has a significant influence on Americans’ perception over the future of European project.
- Somewhat paradoxically, 61% of Romania’s population, the same as the US population, assess the financial situation of their own families as being good or very good (considerably more Americans say it’s very good). Of course, each public relates to the economic development of its own society, the subjectivism in evaluating one’s own situation being obvious.
- As concerns the trust in institutions, it can be observed a comparable lack of trust in political parties, Government and Parliament/Congress. So, there is a crisis of the democratic model in both countries, as in the entire Euro-Atlantic world. Even the level of trust in the president is similar. Although not very high, the trust in the president in both Romania and the US is higher than in other institutions. We state, though, that the American president is still in the first half of his mandate, while the Romanian president enters the last year of his mandate.
- The trust in the Army remains the highest, both in Romania and the USA. Also, the trust in Justice and the press is higher in Romania than in the USA.
- Americans are much more interested in politics than Romanians (50% compared to 21%), which explains the differences in terms of elections turnout and absenteeism between the two societies, as well as the complexity of the political implication and civism in the USA. This indicator underlines the major differences of political culture, apart from those derived from the political and elective system particularities. Also, Americans seem more attached to the idea of democracy than Romanians, although, living under a democratic regime is considered important by the respondents in both countries. Both political cultures approve to the idea of a strong leader / president.
- At least at a discourse level, the references to work and responsibility are not very different for the two populations. However, Americans focus more on the individual’s than on the state’s responsibility. Romanians believe that both the individual and the state are responsible for the individual well-being, which is a rather comfortable answer and in accordance with the social norms.
- Economically, Romanians sustain more than the Americans an increased state intervention, which in not necessarily an East-European attitude, but a typical European one.
- On the other hand, Americans believe more than Romanians that increasing funds for NATO to counter the Russian threat is a must.
- Concerning general human issues – religiousness, the belief in a fair world – or rather unfair – there aren’t any significant differences between the two populations.
- Americans are much more demanding with their own country and only 36% think that the USA has a positive image in the world, while 60% of Romanians think that the USA has a rather positive image.
- In what concerns the perception of Romania in the USA, although most of the Americans know that a country with this name exists, a common brand which can help identifying our country is missing. Transylvania and Dracula work in this sense rather through recognition – they are associated with Romania not automatically, but if people are asked about them in this context.
- Regarding the Romanian public, it’s probably one of the few of the EU which is simultaneously and significantly pro-American and pro-EU.