Czech Republic: Public's trust in trade unions increasing

A 2014 survey finds that 42% of respondents in the Czech Republic trust trade unions. This figure has been steadily rising for the last three years among employees in both public and private sectors. Another 2014 poll shows that nearly 66% think unions are useful and helpful.

Background

Since 1995, the Public Opinion Research Centre of the Academy of Sciences (CVVM) and the Empirical Research Centre (STEM) have regularly monitored the level of people’s trust in trade unions in the Czech Republic. STEM, in its latest opinion poll in November 2014, focuses on whether people feel trade unions are useful and helpful (in Czech). The latest survey carried by the CVVM (part of its long-running poll ‘Our Society’), also in 2014, compares trust in trade unions with trust in other institutions of public life (in Czech, 468 KB PDF).

Methodology

In both surveys, the sample in the fourth quarter of 2014 was selected using the quota sampling method. Both survey samples were of approximately 1,000 respondents. The STEM’s survey involved a representative sample of the Czech Republic’s population aged 18 and older, whereas the respondents in the CVVM survey were aged 15 and older.

The wording of the question posed by STEM read ‘Do you trust in the following institutions – trade unions?’ The choice of answers was: ‘Certainly yes; somewhat yes; certainly no; somewhat no.’

The wording of the question posed by the CVVM was, ‘Tell us please, do you trust a) the courts; b) police; c) the army; d) the press; e) TV; f) radio; g) trade unions; h) churches; i) non-profit organisations; j) banks; k) the internet?’ The choice of answers was: ‘I certainly trust; I trust somewhat; I distrust somewhat; I certainly do not trust.’

Key findings

Increase in trust in trade unions

As shown in the moving average lines in Figure 1, trust in trade unions has been increasing. The overall rising trend is visible in the data from both STEM and CVVM although, in the latter, the values of positively oriented answers showing trust in trade unions are on average 10 percentage points lower.

The results from the CVVM research show that 42% of respondents trust trade unions and that 37% of respondents do not trust them. A relatively high percentage of people (21%) answered ‘I don't know’. It can be seen that the level of trust in trade unions was lowest between 2001 and 2003 (about 30 %) and 2006 and 2007 (about 33%). In the last three years, however, trust in trade unions peaked at over 40%.

The lines in Figure 1 also show a decline in trust in trade unions at the time when the Czech economy was feeling the greatest impact of the economic crisis, in 2009 and at the beginning of 2010. However, the public expressed greater support for trade unions after unions conducted a national strike in June 2011 against austerity measures and the reforms of the right-wing government led by Petr Nečas. 

Figure 1: Trust of Czech public in trade unions, 2004–2014 (%)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Note: The chart records 'Certainly yes, Somewhat yes' (STEM survey) and 'Certainly trust, Somewhat trust' (CVVM survey) responses; The moving average illustrates clearly the trend of growing trust in trade unions (author’s own calculations).

Source: CVVM’sTrust in some institutions of public life in September 2014’ (in Czech, 468 KB PDF), and press release from STEM, Trends in September, 2012 ’Trade unions trusted by every second citizen’ (in Czech

Older people, left-wing voters trust unions more – entrepreneurs trust less

A detailed analysis of the structure of trade union supporters is provided by STEM. It repeatedly shows that over the long term neither the respondents’ demographic characteristics nor their financial standing have any influence on how much they trust trade unions. CVVM’s findings differ somewhat, however. These show a link between the respondents’ age and the extent to which they trust trade unions. Trade unions are more frequently trusted by people aged 45–59, with a lower proportion of people aged 20–29 trusting trade unions. It has been also concluded, rather surprisingly, that levels of trust do not differ between respondents employed in the public or private sector.

The variables affecting people’s trust are closely connected with their political opinions and orientation. Statistically significant differences were evident depending on which political party a respondent preferred. This connection was noticeable over several years. In 2012 (according to STEM), for example, trade unions were trusted by only 38% of those who voted for the right-wing Civic Democratic Party (ODS) but by 62% of those who voted for the left-wing Czech Social Democratic Party (ČSSD).

Figure 2: Trust in trade unions, by political party affiliation

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Note:  Question asked 'Do you trust in the following institutions? – Trade unions'. 
Source: STEM's ‘Trade unions are trusted by every second citizen’ (in Czech) 

Economic status also determines the degree of trust in trade unions. Trust in trade unions was most frequently shown by employees and pensioners and least by entrepreneurs and the self-employed. In 2012, half of retired respondents and a third of entrepreneurs and the self-employed trusted in trade unions (see Figure 3).

Figure 3: Trust in trade unions, by economic status

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Source: STEM's ‘Trade unions are trusted by every second citizen’ (in Czech) 

More see unions as useful than as trustworthy

Another indicator, used by the 2014 STEM poll, showed that a much higher percentage of respondents considered trade unions useful and helpful than felt unions are trustworthy. Since 1995, trade unions have been seen as useful and positive by approximately 70% of respondents (that is, respondents who said that either 'Yes, certainly', or 'Yes, somewhat' that trade unions were useful and helpful). This number has fallen in the last two years: 62% of respondents in 2013 and 64% in 2014 saw trade unions as useful and helpful. (Approximately 20% of respondents answered 'Yes, certainly' to the question.)

The STEM survey in 2014 focused on the opinions of people whose interests are currently defended by trade unions. Some 84% of respondents felt that trade unions defend their members’ interests. However, three-quarters of respondents believed that trade unions exist to defend public employees’ interests. Only 41% were confident that trade unions defend the interests of all employees.

As illustrated by the long-term trends, the question of trade unions being useful and helpful is differentiated by party affiliation. The differences in opinions among different parties’ followers were quite considerable. Some 73% of respondents who vote for the left-wing ČSSD felt that trade unions were useful and helpful. The equivalent figure for the Communist Party of Bohemia and Moravia (KSČM) was 69%. Followers of right-wing parties Tradition Responsibility Prosperity (TOP 09) and ODS are considerably less likely to feel that unions are useful and helpful (Figure 4).

Figure 4: Trade unions judged useful and helpful, by political party affiliation

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Source: STEM's ‘According to two thirds of the population, trade unions are useful and helpful ‘ (in Czech) 

STEM’s public opinion polls also show how much people trust the two most recent Chairs of the country’s biggest trade union confederation, the Bohemian-Moravian Confederation of Trade Unions (ČMKOS). The current ČMKOS Chair, Josef Středula, is trusted by 39% of respondents and not trusted by 55%, while 6% do not know who he is. Some 58% of those respondents who felt that trade unions are important for society trust the present Chair, while he was trusted by only 13% of respondents who felt unions were unimportant. Levels of trust and distrust were almost identical for the previous Chair Josef Zavadil who resigned at the end of 2013.

Trade unions trusted less than other public institutions

A poll by the CVVM monitored the level of trust in trade unions and also in the courts, the police, the army, the press, TV, radio, churches, non-governmental organisations (NGOs), banks and the internet. Although trust in trade unions is increasing, their share of overall trust is rather low.

Table 1: Trust in selected institutions of public life (%)

 

Definitely TRUST

Somewhat TRUST

RATHER Distrustful

Definitely distrust

DON'T KNOW

Yes/No

DIFFERENCE

Army

20

50

17

5

8

70/22

+48

Police

13

52

27

7

1

65/34

+31

Courts

13

48

28

9

2

61/37

+24

Radio

8

51

28

7

6

59/35

+24

NGOs

8

40

27

9

16

48/36

+12

Internet

8

41

31

8

12

49/39

+10

TV

7

44

33

12

4

51/45

+6

Trade unions

8

34

26

11

21

42/37

+5

Banks

7

41

32

14

6

48/46

+2

Press

6

39

38

13

4

45/51

-6

Churches

6

18

30

36

10

24/66

-42

Note: Items are listed in the order of difference between the total of answers ‘I definitely trust’ and ‘I somewhat trust’ and the total of answers ‘I am rather distrustful’ and ‘I definitely distrust’.
Source: CVVM SOÚ AV ČR, v.v.i., Our Society 8–15 September 2014, 1,017 respondents aged 15+ (in Czech, 468 KB PDF

Based on the data used in Table 1 and Figure 5, churches are seen as the least trustworthy public institutions. The proportion of people that trusts trade unions is only slightly higher than the proportion that distrusts them (the same applies to NGOs, banks and TV). However, if respones of 'Somewhat trust' only are looked at, trade unions come in second from the bottom. Moreover, a relatively high percentage of 'Don't know' responses (21%) shows that the public do not know about, or are unsure of, trade unions’ role in society. In contrast, significant trust is shown for the army (70% of respondents), the police (65%) and courts (61%); trust in all these institutions has increased over the last eight years (see Figure 5). Trust in the trade unions has also grown over the last eight years (despite a difference in intensity, the trend corresponds to the results of the STEM’s public opinion poll). However, there has been a decline in trust in the news media, specifically in TV and the press. 

Figure 5: Trust in selected public institutions 1993–2014

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Source: STEM's ‘Trade unions are trusted by every second citizen’ (in Czech) 

 

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