European Social Register 2010 9. Volume

ISSN 2062-2414
HUNGARIAN ACADEMY OF THE SCIENCES Institute of Political Science of the HAS Institute of Sociology of the HAS Budapest
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The latest volume of the Social Register series includes studies analysing results of the latest European Social Survey conducted in 2008-2009, presenting data of the participating countries and comparing them with earlier survey findings as well as data from other similar research. The project – a signifi cant undertaking of empirical sociology – was initiated by the Social Studies section of the European Science Foundation in 2000 with the purpose of acquiring reliable data about the attitude changes of EU member states and candidate countries, thus allowing to lay the grounds of a longterm policy. The research launched in 2001 was inherently defi ned in the spirit of comparative analyses regarding both its conceptual apparatus and methodology. Hungary has taken part in the project since the beginning, although generating the necessary resources for the surveys every two years has sometimes proved rather diffi cult, considering the crumbled fi nancing system of sciences in Hungary. Via the cooperation of the Institute for Political Science and the Institute of Sociology of the Hungarian Academy of Sciences participation in the two-yearly survey series has so far been uninterrupted. After four rounds – each including both standard and rotating module questions – the research seems to be quite successful; this is proved by the fact that in 2008 it won the Descartes Prize, a prize for acknowledging outstanding achievements in social sciences in the European Union. Since almost all member states and also some non-EU countries are now involved, non-participation would be rather irresponsible. Hopefully, ensuring Hungary’s further involvement in the project will soon gain priority in science policy. Another reason for its signifi cance is that the picture presented in this volume about the place of Hungarian society among European ones is not in the least fl attering. However, do not blame the mirror if you are not pleased with the image it shows; instead, focus on drawing the appropriate conclusions. Such comparative analyses are inherently meant to confront participants with their strengths and weaknesses, the prevailing trends and areas in need of changes or improvements in the future. The present volume is centred on the analysis of value and attitude survey data, specifi cally the examination and interpretation of those characteristic of Hungarian society. One of the most essential and recurring issues is the large-scale loss of confi dence even perceptible in daily life and severely affecting new democracies including Hungary. The phenomenon – not unknown in Western Europe either – is rather complex, hence, its components, reasons and the possible ways of its dissolution deserve particular consideration. The studies in the volume not only record, but also analyse answers, including the correlation of confi dence with the evolution of other values and the general effect of the regime change on mental status in our region. Signifi cance of confi dence is demonstrated from the viewpoint of political legitimacy and government effi ciency, along with its relation to general living standards and to the evolution of tolerance level regarding certain important social issues. 8 European Social Survey Volume 9. The three chapters in the volume discuss value changes going on in European societies, the decline of confi dence involving reasons and consequences, and the evolution of attitudes such as tolerance and acceptance. The study by László Füstös and Ivett Szalma aims at establishing a connection between current and earlier empirical value studies from both theoretical and methodological aspects. Measurement of values and interpretation of their correlation have always been thorny questions of empirical research, giving rise to numerous approaches. The authors explore research background and interpretation alternatives, and place research results into a wider theoretical framework. In their second study they investigate how the Hungarian value survey results fi t into international, particularly European tendencies. Value spaces are represented in two different models: the positions of the country clusters – including Hungary – are illustrated in two-dimensional projections of Europe’s value space, using Schwartz’s and Rokeach’s theoretical frameworks. Zsolt Boda and Gergő Medve-Bálint examine the notion of confi dence and the correlation of its indicators with other social phenomena. Although not entirely independent of each other, a clear distinction has to be made between interpersonal and institutional confi dence indicators. Nevertheless, from the perspective of political legitimacy confi dence in institutions is of outstanding signifi cance. Research results show an interesting picture suggesting that the evolution of the confi dence indicator is not simply determined by economic development as expressed by GDP, but also by the actual tendency of economic growth or decline. The latter, is of course affected by other factors such as historical traditions, stability of the institutional system, which are infl uenced by government effi ciency and the experience of fair processes, or the lack of such experience. Timea Szabados’s study provides a detailed analysis of research results regarding the evolution of social and interpersonal confi dence in European countries, laying emphasis on the reasons for deviations and the tendency of changes. In this respect Hungary – among others - brings up the rear, although regarding interpersonal confi dence we ranked somewhat better than regarding confi dence in social institutions. Confi dence indicators have been proved to be connected with sensitivity to justice, willingness for tolerance, as well as general satisfaction. Indicators of political and social activity are also quite telling: their absence partly implies the level of resignation. In the European rank of supra indicators generated from the indices above, Hungary is rather behind, a fact leaving everybody who feels responsibility for the country’s fate lost in deep thought. In her study investigating the relations of confi dence and community bonding Ágnes Utasi gives a differentiated picture of social factors that affect the extent of confi dence. The analysis of research results demonstrates how individual confi dence is infl uenced by different living conditions, gender, age, type of residence, education, and income and property situation. Confi dence in institutions, however, largely depends on the existence and activity of organisational and public life as well as private communities. The fact that Hungary tops the negative rank concerning confi dence and the harmony of community relations is partly due to its higher relative starting level before the regime change compared with other post-socialist countries. Accordingly, expectations towards the new system were also higher, and so was the European Social Register 2010 9 disappointment. Thus, instrumental communities, which worked well earlier, were shattered; society became more defi nitely atomized, resulting in a greater loss of confi dence than any other country following a similar track. In the third chapter of the book the scope of analysis involves attitudes toward European integration, opinions about the state’s role in economic and labour market regulation, and the extent of tolerance for differing lifestyles. Borbála Göncz examines above all the changing attitudes of East-Central European countries to European integration processes. The success of social and regime integration also have an effect on attitudes to integration. It is vital to point out that public opinion about the European Union largely depends on mediators, i.e. the image presented by politicians and the media. Surveys support with facts that it is not simply the economic development as expressed by GDP that mostly determines positions concerning the European Union, but satisfaction with the results of the regime change and the operation of democracy, as well as prospects for economic growth. Thus, economic stagnation and the crisis also affect integration attitudes in a negative way. Additionally, the effect of demographic variables (age, gender, type of residence, education etc.) is also studied. Judit Takács and Ivett Szalma analysed the level of tolerance for lesbian and homosexual lifestyles in a comparative survey. Attitudes to the aforementioned issue show a wide variety in EU countries. The researchers investigate - among others - infl uencing factors like the effects of democratic traditions, political orientation, beliefs (belonging to creeds, extent of religiousness), education, type of residence, age, attitude to traditional female roles, xenophobia, and legal regulations of cohabitation. Surprisingly, Hungary is different from the European trend in certain aspects. The effect of specifi c indicators on the evolution of attitudes is determined by using multilevel regression analysis. Results gained so far from ESS surveys fully underlie the theoretical presumption saying that the transformation of political culture and social mentality in the ‘new democracies’ is a slow process, which may fi tfully be infl uenced by traumas triggered by the regime change. Such traumas were for instance the unfulfi lled expectations about welfare among a wide range of citizens, the loss of existential security, the breakup of old social relationships, or the identity crisis. The signifi cance of European dimension comparative analyses is that they hold a mirror to Hungary, while at the same time outline the direction of desirable future improvement. It is more than delightful to have a national, methodologically and theoretically prepared, research team that is able to participate in this comparative study all by itself as an equal partner, independently contributing to the development of Europe’s scientifi c treasury in parallel with adding to the achievements of Hungarian science.