PUBLIC TRUST AND PARTICIPATION DEPENDING ON ETHNICITY IN LATVIA
Keywords:citizens’ trust, local governments, national government, participation, ethnic composition
Low public trust in public power institutions is still an urgent problem among the Member States of the European Union. According to the latest Standard Eurobarometer 80 data, the trust continues decreasing. In Latvia trust indicators are also markedly low - 17% residents of Latvia trust in the national parliament, 21% - in the government, but the indicator of trust in political parties is explicitly critical - it constitutes only 6%. Since the Eurobarometer research only includes citizens' opinion, we can assume that the trust indicators are even lower.
The population of Latvia consists of the Latvians, who are the titular nation - 59.6%, the Russians - 27% and other national minorities, for instance, the Ukrainians and the Byelorussians. The issue of the integration of the Russian speaking people has been topical in Latvia since the mid 90ties, however, as a result of the unsuccessful integration policy, there is still an alarming number of non-citizens in Latvia, which, according to the Office of Citizenship and Migration Affairs of Latvia data, in 2012 constituted 17% of the population of Latvia and which is the third highest indicator in the European Union.
Democracy in Latvia can only function well when all residents of Latvia, regardless of their ethnicity, undertake the responsibility for their country and participate in the public and local government administration. Therefore this publication aims at researching whether the indicators of public trust and participation differ, depending on the ethnicity of residents in Latvia. The authors also wanted to find out whether the issue of ethnicity has vital importance with regard to the improvement of public trust and participation in Latvia.
The research is based on the public opinion poll that was conducted by the authors and the Marketing and Public Opinion Research Centre (SKDS) in Latvia in July 2012. In order to elaborate the research design, a case study method has been used. The data analysis methods, such as the grouping of statistical data and their depiction in tables and document analysis, have been used.
The research results show that the trust in national level institutions is affected by different factors, including the ethnicity issue. The acquired research data in correlation with the nationality structure in statistical regions acquired in 2011 Population Census process in Latvia, affirm already mentioned conclusion, than public power institutions in Latvia (data of the Central statistical Bureau of Latvia) are more positively evaluated by respondents in regions with most number of Latvians, i.e. Vidzeme region (87% Latvians), Kurzeme region (76% Latvians).