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INSCOP Opinion Poll March 2020: Romanians’ perception of the coronavirus epidemic

Part 1: The perception of measures to counter the negative consequences of the epidemic coronavirus on the economy and the job market

According to the latest INSCOP Research survey, “The public perception of the COVID -19 epidemic in Romania”, conducted in partnership with Verifield and the daily newspaper Adevărul, between March 16-19, 2020, the overwhelming majority of Romanians view as important and very important the government measures to support the economy and the labor market affected by the coronavirus epidemic.

Given the negative impact of the coronavirus epidemic on the economy and the job market, 91.7% of the respondents consider it is very important and important for the government to support the companies that have economic difficulties due to the coronavirus epidemic (63.8% think it is very important and 27.9% that it is important). 93.6% believe it is very important and important for the government to support major public or private investment projects in order to stimulate the Romanian economy and to create more jobs (72% – very important and 21.6% – important).
Granting low interest loans to companies that make investments and create jobs is seen as very important and important by 87.2% of those interviewed (59% think it is very important, 28.2% think it is important), while the government paying its debts to the private companies (VAT refund) is considered important and very important by 79.2% (40.5% think it is very important and 38.7% that it is important).

Remus Ștefureac, CEO and founder of INSCOP Research: “The major negative impact of the coronavirus epidemic on the economy is fully understood by the vast majority of the population. The public debates, but also the personal experience of hundreds of thousands of employees that already find themselves in difficulty, have put their mark on the perception of the economic risk. For this reason, for example, over 90% of Romanians believe that it is important and very important for the state to support the companies that face economic difficulties due to the coronavirus epidemic and to support major public or private investment projects in order to stimulate the Romanian economy and to create more jobs. State investments in infrastructure, agriculture, encouraging investments for the production in Romania of indispensable goods such as sanitary materials or unlocking major private investment projects such as the exploitation of natural gas from the Black Sea, and the entry into the project of the state-owned company Romgaz can be useful measures to increase the confidence in the Romanian economy. On the other hand, the instant and often desperate call for help from the government of the most private companies, big and small, raises the issue of rethinking the role of the state in the Romanian capitalist economic system after the end of this crisis. We cannot ask everything from the state in times of crisis, and then to minimize its role, resources and administrative capacity. The capital has a responsibility, and, in situations of national and global crisis, part of the accumulated profit should also be allocated to support the employees. In turn, the institutions of the Romanian state should go through a deep reform process after this crisis (reducing the waste of public funds, increase the professionalism of staff, integrity) and modernization (in particular digitization) to meet the multiple challenges and to play a useful economic role for the whole society.”

Part 2: Main sources of information about the coronavirus epidemic

TV channels and the web pages of newspapers are the Romanians’ main sources of information about the evolution of the coronavirus epidemic.
Most respondents (70.7%) say they watch TV channels. The web pages of newspapers rank second among the main sources of information about the epidemic coronavirus with 9.2%, followed by the official channels (websites) of the authorities, with 8%, and social networks with 7.1%. 2.3% of Romanians get their information mainly from radio stations, and 1.7% form relatives, friends and acquaintances. 0.6% of the respondents indicated other sources, while 0.4% do not know or do not answer.

Remus Ștefureac, CEO and founder of INSCOP Research: “The main source of information on the coronavirus epidemic remains the television, followed by the websites of the newspapers. The access of official channels of the public authorities (the web pages of the central and local institutions) is still low. From this point of view, a greater responsibility of the media in verifying the sources of information and an increased attention on the part of people using social networks and restraint in distributing information from uncertain sources are essential conditions to limit the spread of fake news. The phenomenon of misinformation during the war against an epidemic that has already turned into a pandemic, is a real threat with serious consequences for the cohesion of the society. The health of the process of informing the population becomes essential in these times to prevent panic or even accidental contagion“.

Part 3: the compliance with the measures imposed by the state of emergency, the attitude towards the authorities’ measures to fight the coronavirus epidemic, helping Romanians returning from other countries, confidence in professional groups, and institutions.

The overwhelming majority of Romanians support the measures taken by the authorities to limit the spread of the new virus.

Willingness to comply with the measures imposed by the state of emergency
Starting from Monday, 16th March 2020, the state of emergency was declared in Romania; the respondents were asked if they intend to comply with the measures taken by the authorities during this period. 98.3% answered yes and only 1.4% no. 0.3% do not know or do not answer.

Remus Ștefureac, CEO of INSCOP Research: “The results of the opinion poll show that the vast majority of Romanians, manifest, at least at the level of statements, a rational attitude, accepting the measures taken by the authorities to limit the spread of the coronavirus epidemic, against both national and global climate of uncertainty and vulnerability. The high share of those who declare that they intend to comply with the measures taken during the country’s state of emergency (98%) reveals the deep fears emerging in society. At the same time, it shows that the population comprehends the gravity of the situation, as well as the fact that the state’s institutional mechanisms of action in exceptional crises begin to produce, at this point, the effect for which they were provided for in the country’s Constitution and laws. On the other hand, we certainly cannot exclude the dissonance that sometimes arises between what people say and their actual behavior. Therefore, it is essential that the statements of the respondents captured by the opinion poll to be properly and rigorously sustained by actions. However, the overwhelming percentage of the population who say they agree with the authorities’ measures shows that a large part of Romanians reacts as it should in this unprecedented crisis. Those who do not follow the recommendations of the authorities to isolate themselves, thus adopting deviant behaviors from the general rule, become a major source of risk for their communities.
Leaving aside the individual deviant behaviors that nevertheless represent a minority concerning the large population of Romania, the data from the study show that, in the current crisis, collective behavior is rather prudent. We have a relatively cohesive society that, to a large extent, seems to respond rationally to the measures taken by the authorities. The sooner the whole society will understand the importance of compliance with the authorities’ measures, the sooner we will achieve the social discipline. At the point, this is the main weapon we have at our disposal to fight the coronavirus epidemic efficiently.

The public support for the measures taken to limit the spread of the coronavirus epidemic
92.6% of Romanians agree with the general measures taken by the authorities to limit the spread of the coronavirus epidemic. Only 5.4% disagree with these measures, while 1.9% do not know or do not respond.
96.3% of the total respondents agree with school, kindergarten, and university closures. 2.9% do not agree with the measure, while the percentage of non-answers is 0.8%.


The strict control of the population entering Romania from other countries is supported by 92.2% of the respondents. 5.8% of those interviewed disagree with this measure, while 1.9% do not know or do not answer.
92.8% of the respondents agree with the criminal penalties applied to citizens who do not comply with the isolation/quarantine measures. 5.9% disagree with this measure, while 1.4% do not know or do not answer.

Remus Ștefureac, CEO of INSCOP Research“The population massively supports the main restrictive measures taken so far by the authorities in percentages of 90-95%. The fact that a similar percentage also supports the criminal sanction of those who do not comply with the measures taken by the authorities amplifies the Romanians’ approval of the measures aimed to limit the epidemic. The data on the attitude towards the measures taken by the authorities are relatively similar to those from opinion polls conducted in other countries affected by the COVID-19, such as Italy, for example, where over 90% of the population supports the measures taken by the authorities to limit the epidemic. ”

Helping Romanians returning home from other countries
Helping Romanians returning home from other countries during this period meets the agreement of 75.6% of Romanians, 20.7% expressing their disagreement. 3.6% is the percentage of non-responses.
Remus Ștefureac, CEO of INSCOP Research: “A large part of the population views the long-debated issue of the influx of Romanians who are returning to the country from abroad in a key of solidarity. The fact that three-quarters of the respondents agree with helping Romanians returning home from other countries during this period shows a high level of social cohesion, especially given the indignation sparked by the media coverage of cases of infected persons from the diaspora who did not respect the quarantine. On the other hand, the 20% who do not agree with the help of Romanians from the diaspora stress the need to increase the responsibility of the people who have returned from countries strongly affected by the epidemic to protect themselves and those around them“.

Confidence in professions that are most exposed to risks in the fight against COVID-19
Against the background of the coronavirus outbreak and the efforts to limit and control it, respondents were asked how much confidence they have in various professions that are most exposed to risks during this period. The highest confidence is enjoyed by firefighters, doctors, and nurses, with 92.6% high and very high confidence, respectively 90.4% high and very high confidence. The military is next with 88.7% high and very high confidence, pharmacists with 86.8% and the police with 72.4%. The grocery store workers are credited with high and very high confidence by 59.4% of the respondents.
Remus Ștefureac, CEO of INSCOP Research: “During this period of exceptional crisis, and of vulnerability, the level of public trust in the professions most exposed to risks is high. Doctors and nurses, pharmacists, firefighters, military, and police officers enjoy record levels of public confidence, which highlights the population’s deep fears, as well as the people’s need to relate to benchmarks of stability and professionalism that are at the forefront of the battle against the coronavirus epidemic. Even grocery store workers enjoy a very high level of confidence of about 60%”.

Confidence in institutions
All the institutions measured in the poll enjoy significantly higher levels of public confidence than usual. The Army is the most trusted institution. 88.2% of respondents say that they have high and very high confidence in this institution. The Ministry of Health enjoys the confidence of 77.5% of Romanians, not surprising amid a health crisis. The Police enjoy the high and very high confidence of 72.1% of the total respondents, the European Union (62.1%), the Presidency (55.7%), the Town Hall (55.4%), the Government (43.3%) and the Parliament (39.1%).

Remus Ștefureac, CEO of INSCOP Research: “There is a significant increase in the level of confidence in public institutions. In a situation of crisis, insecurity, and uncertainty and against the background of the state of emergency, the increase in confidence in institutions is understandable. The population needs some benchmarks of stability and functionality of the state. For this reason, people tend to trust the most relevant public authorities in larger proportions than they usually do. High levels of confidence are recorded by the Army, the Ministry of Health, the Police or the Presidency. For example, The Army, with over 85% high and very high confidence, reaches a level of trust similar to that in the ’90s, after fluctuating around 65% in recent years. Compared to the figures from the survey conducted last year, in March 2019, by INSCOP Research at the request of Konrad Adenauer Foundation, the Police gains over 25 percent, the Presidency over 15 percent, and the Government almost 30 percent (in the case of the Government, a year ago the political structure was different). Even the Parliament has a level of confidence that it has not had since the 1990s. A year ago, the INSCOP survey showed that public confidence in the Parliament (11%) was more than three times lower than it is today. The European Union maintains a high level of confidence, gaining about 10 percent compared to the last year’s INSCOP survey. Although there are differences between the two surveys regarding the method of data collection (face-to-face in 2019, CATI in 2020), the figures can be compared.

All these developments are the result of an exceptional crisis. People are worried, they need assurances, and they are looking for benchmarks that they generously invest with confidence. The response to this fundamental crisis faced by our generation will weigh heavily on the way the social contract between the Romanian state and its citizens will be rewritten in the context in which, during the three decades of the democratic regime, this relationship has constantly deteriorated. In this regard, both the state institutions and the citizens have major responsibilities. The institutions should issue clear and proper rules of social behavior and ensure their rigorous enforcement using all possible legitimate instruments, and citizens must comply, without exception. Only in this way can we hope to overcome this crisis in a short time. Otherwise, without this cooperation between the state and the citizen, the consequences on our lives, with all that entails for the public health, economy, jobs, incomes, and, ultimately, life expectancy, could be dramatic”.

 

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