Friday, October 24, 2003

My organization recently conducted a nation-wide public opinion survey in Ukraine. One of the questions asked respondents to indicate what characteristics make a country a democracy. Surveys for the past decade in former Soviet countries have shown that people have very different ideas as to what a democracy is, and those perceptions can be telling.

The top responses in Ukraine were:
1. Human Rights
2. "Everyone has work"
3. "Retirees are looked after by the state"
4. "No official corruption"

Concepts such as freedom of speech, press, and religion, as well as the right to vote rated much lower. Now this is mostly just indicative of the fact that dire economic worries mostly drive opinion in Ukraine. ("everyone has work"?? State looks after seniors"?? Why, those sound like some dirty commie ideas to me!)

What was interesting to me was how poorly the beacon of democracy itself stands up to these (admittedly incorrect) ideas about democracy. Between Ashcroft and Rumsfeld's detainees, the worst unemployment since Hoover, compassionate conservatism that leaves seniors stranded, and the various leaks and lies and Halliburton hand-outs, I wonder what Ukrainians think of American democracy?


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