2007-03-08

69% support, sort of

I expect there is quite a bit more in the raw data than in the part of the announcement that is carried in this news story. Strategic's survey finds that 69% of people in Serbia support cooperation with ICTY, 15% for reasons of justice, 28% to avoid negative consequences, and 26% to satisfy the EU. I'd like to do some crosstabs and longitudinals on that.

Update: OSCE has the summary.

5 comments:

András said...

Thanks for the link to the OSCE site, Eric. I wonder what you make of the other figures in the survey. Whatever the views of respondents regarding ICTY cooperation and the handover of Ratko Mladić (who IMHO will never go to Scheveningen as long as Koštunica remains a factor in Serbian politics), the rest of the responses in the survey make for depressing reading. For example:

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Regarding the statement: "JNA je bombardirovala Dubrovnik" [the Yugoslav army bombarded Dubrovnik], 56 percent of respondents said they'd heard of it; only 34 percent believed it to be true; and just 15 percent thought that it was a crime.

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Regarding the statement: "Mostar je bombardovala JNA" [the Yugoslav army bombarded Mostar, i.e. in 1992], 40 percent had heard of it; 19 percent believed it to be true; 9 percent thought that it was a crime.

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Regarding the statement: "U Bijeljini su 1992. godine paravojne formacije iz Srbije ubijale civile" [In Bijeljina in 1992 paramilitary formations from Serbia killed civilians], 33 percent had heard of it; 18 percent believed it to be true; 16 percent thought that it was a crime.

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Regarding the statement: "Pripadnici srpskih oružanih formacija prinudno raseljavaju Muslimane iz Zvornika tokom rata u Bosni" [Members of Serb armed
formations forcibly displaced Muslims from Zvornik during the war in Bosnia], 39 percent had heard of it; 24 percent believed it to be true; 13 percent thought that it was a crime.

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Regarding the statement: "Sarajevo je bilo preko hiljadu dana (3 godine) pod opsadom" [Sarajevo was under siege for 1000 days (3 years)], 58 percent had heard of it; 48 percent believed it to be true; 18 percent thought that it was a crime.

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Regarding the statement: "Tokom operacije 'Bljesak' 1995, pripadnici hrvatske vojske i policije počinili su ratne zločine nad Srbima u zapadnoj Slavoniji"
[During Operation "Flash" in 1995, members of the Croatian army and police committed war crimes against Serbs in western Slavonia], 78 percent said they had heard of it; 75 percent believed it to be true; and 70 percent thought that it was a crime.

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Regarding the statement: "Kada je počelo NATO bombardovanje 1999. Albancima su oduzimani dokumenti i proterivani su" (When the NATO bombing in 1999 began, the Albanians were deprived of their documents and were expelled], 36 percent said they had heard of it; 15 percent believed it to be true; 10 percent thought that it was a crime.

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Regarding the statement: "Pripadnici UČK činili su zločine u vreme rata na Kosovu (1999)" [Members of the KLA committed crimes during the time of the war in Kosovo (1999)], 77 percent had heard of it; 74 percent believed it to be true; 70 percent thought that it was a crime.

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COMMENT: A dozen years after the war in Bosnia and nearly a decade after the war in Kosovo, after all the war crimes trials in The Hague, Belgrade and Sarajevo, it's hard not to be discouraged by such continued high levels of denial and by the exclusive focus on Serb victimhood. No doubt both trends have been reinforced by the media, by the prevailing political discourse in Serbia and by what's being taught in the educational system. Do you see any likelihood of change, and if so how would it come about?

Eric Gordy said...

Yes, I have been following the results on these questions since Strategic did their first survey in 2001. This is the only agency that has been asking the same questions periodically over several years, so it's a very rich source, potentially. My buddy Saška and I are also putting in for a grant that would allow us to get Strategic's raw data and do some reanalysis, and maybe also commission a couple of narrower followup surveys.

Two possible interpretations of the "know/believe/regard as a crime" question sets are:

1. There really is a very low level of knowledge. Strategic has also consistently found that people are unsatisfied with their level of knowledge, and have very low levels of trust in media institutions. At the same time, this finding has always surprised me a bit, since anybody who has spent time in the region knows that most people are voracious consumers of all kinds of information.

Which leads me to favor the second option,

2. There are unique circumstances that prevent a methodological problem for survey research, and when people answer questions about whether they "know" or "believe" something, they do not interpret the question literally. These methodological problems are consequences of a larger condition of distrust, which has accompanied the destruction of institutions.

Aleks said...

"...the exclusive focus on Serb victimhood."

Well that certainly expresses your 'opinion'.

Who in the Balkans isn't playing the victim card and who is it who has the 'moral right' to tell us who is 'right' and who is 'wrong'?

You could also say exactly the same of the Croats, Bosnian Moslems and Kosovo Albanians: "We did nuffink wrong. It woz wot them uvers who wuz criminals"

You can also read whatever you like into such reports.

Most Serbs that I've come across have never said that they were solely 'victims', but that "it was a civil war and everybody committed crimes".

Is this an unreasonable point of view?

(The Diaspora is an entirely different kettle of fish.)

Eric Gordy said...

Oops, in that last comment I meant "present," not "prevent."

Here's a segment of a piece I wrote on the results of Strategic's 2001 survey, for illustration.

A curious contradiction emerges with regard to the question of knowledge. The preceding results suggest that knowledge of at least some events is widespread in Serbia. At the same time, when asked directly, respondents do not indicate that they believe that they are themselves well informed. 22.3% of respondents consider themselves well informed about the wars in Croatia, while 19.4% of respondents consider themselves well informed about the wars in Bosnia-Hercegovina. Nor did respondents indicate that they believed that their fellow citizens were well informed.

However, when asked the admittedly long and possibly confusing question, “Has it ever happened that a new fact which you have learned from any source about any event related to the conflicts (wars in Croatia, Bosnia-Hercegovina, Kosovo) caused you to change your thinking or position about the role (responsibility) of the warring sides?,” an overwhelming 85.5% answered in the negative. Despite this somewhat discouraging result from the point of view of efforts to promote information, the survey results suggest some potential guidelines for efforts to disseminate information.

These results suggest a wide gap between the sources of information people trust and the sources they actually use. Asked what were their primary sources of information during the war, responses broke down as follows:

RTS-TV/state media 80.4%
Independent papers
(Blic, Glas, Danas) 67.9%
Stories of witnesses 62.3%
Stories of relatives 45.5%
State-controlled papers
(Politika, Expres, Novosti)43.1%
Independent radio/TV
(ANEM, B-92) 42.4%
Personal experience 17.4%

When people were asked what sources of information they trusted, the structure of responses was different, as follows:

Source Trusted Did not trust
RTS-TV
23.2% 42.5%
State-controlled papers
28.8% 36.5%
Independent papers
44.7% 17.9%
Independent radio/TV
62.4% 16.2%
Relatives
68.6% 16.2%
Witnesses
62.2% 15.4%

András said...

"...the exclusive focus on Serb victimhood."

Well that certainly expresses your 'opinion'.


It's not my opinion, it's merely an observation based on the figures from this particular survey.

According to the latter, in the case of wartime incidens where the victims were non-Serbs, sizeable majorities of the respondents do not believe they really happened, and even if they happened fewer than one in five respondents believe that these were crimes.

By contrast, three out of four respondents surveyed believed that the incidents in which the victims were Serbs really happened, and 70 to 90 percent of them thought that these were crimes.

I made no comment about about what surveys asking similar questions in Bosnia, Croatia or Kosovo might say about perceptions among their respective publics, since I haven't seen any survey results from those places. If you know of any, please post them.