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IRI Poll: Macedonians Worried About Economy; Reaffirm Support for More Representative Democracy

April 20, 2015

Skopje, Macedonia – According to a poll released today by IRI, Macedonians remain strongly concerned about the state of their country’s economy, specifically high unemployment.  They also express strong support for representative democracy, especially believing that women and youth should play an increased role in Macedonia’s developing democratic process.

Pessimism Continues on Overall Direction of the Country, Unemployment is Top Concern

The number of respondents who say that Macedonia is moving in the right direction has dropped from 36 percent in IRI’s September 2014 poll to 29 percent in December, while the plurality of respondents (39 percent) says that Macedonia is moving in the wrong direction.  Unemployment (47 percent) and the low standard of living (15 percent) top respondents’ list of the most serious problems facing the country.

Democratic System of Government is More Important to Citizens than Economic Prosperity  

Despite overall concern about the economy, Macedonian citizens prioritize democracy over economic prosperity.  When asked which is more important to them:  a democratic system of government or a prosperous economy, the majority, 53 percent, says that democracy is definitely or somewhat more important, while 38 percent says that prosperity is definitely or somewhat more important to them.

Freedom of Expression Still a Concern; Media Seen as Lacking Freedom

Almost half of the respondents (48 percent) think free speech and free expression of ideas do not exist in Macedonia, while 45 percent hold the opposite view.  A plurality of citizens (40 percent) believes that media do have a large degree of freedom to report on the economy.  However, respondents believe that media do not have much freedom to write about corruption (44 percent) and the judiciary (43 percent.)

“Freedom of expression and freedom of speech are quintessential to the health of a democracy and to the ability of citizens to have an impact on political decision making.  The number of citizens who feel that these conditions are under threat is a serious concern, and we urge the Macedonian government to take necessary measures to foster a more open political environment,” said Jan Surotchak, IRI’s regional director for Europe.  

Majority Supports More Women Candidates for Office, Greater Youth Involvement in Politics

The poll’s findings show a high level of support for the involvement of women in politics and women running for political office.  If two candidates having the same qualifications were to run for office, the majority of respondents (59 percent) says the candidate’s gender would make no difference to them.  Among those who say that the candidate’s gender would make a difference, more respondents would support a female (23 percent) than a male (16 percent) for political office.  

There is strong support for women to run for and hold office as mayors (88 percent), and a majority (65 percent) agrees that the current number of female mayors in Macedonia is insufficient.  In addition, a clear majority of respondents (69 percent) agrees that politicians do not listen enough to the needs and ideas of young people.

SPECIAL NOTE:  The IRI survey was conducted prior to the release of allegedly wiretapped conversations among high-level Macedonian government and opposition officials.  “IRI expresses concern that if such allegations are proven true, democratic standards will have been undermined and individuals’ privacy violated.  IRI asks the Macedonian authorities to abide by the highest principles of rule of law, transparency, freedom of speech, and protection of privacy in the handling of this case,” said Surotchak.

Methodology

The poll was conducted by Brima Ltd., a survey research company based in Skopje, in cooperation with Williams and Associates and IRI.  The survey was conducted through face-to-face interviews from December 9-15, 2014 with a random sample of 1,105 Macedonian citizens, age 18 and older.  The margin of error does not exceed plus or minus three percent at the midrange of the 95 percent confidence level. 

This research is made possible by the generous support of the American people through the United States Agency for International Development (USAID).  The views expressed in this press release do not necessarily reflect the views of USAID or the United States government.

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