Two-thirds 'loyal' to Latvia in minority poll

A public opinion survey amongst Latvia’s various ethnic minority groups commissioned by the State Chancellery from the SKDS marketing and public research agency was released Tuesday, showing that about two-thirds – 64% of respondents either strongly (21%) or moderately (44%) call themselves ‘affiliated to Latvia’.

Another approximate quarter of the respondents however indicated ‘strong affiliation’ with Russia, SKDS head Arnis Kaktiņš told the media.

Also, 31% of non-citizens responded that they had no intention of applying for Latvian citizenship, seeing no need for undergoing the process. 25% of non-citizens said their advanced age was keeping them from getting citizenship, while another 11% said their Latvian-language skills were insufficient. Yet another 9% believe citizenship should have been granted them automatically.

Of those non-citizens indicating a desire to acquire citizenship, 36% said they would do so because Latvia is their land of birth. Fewer – 25% see the benefits of freer mobility, while 19% would like to take part in elections, thereby making citizenship essential.

The surveyed group were also asked about social problems the government should be tackling foremost. Altogether 38% felt that social policies were the top priority, 34% held unemployment to be the main problem, while 27% wanted the government to raise the standard of living. 19% believe the health care system should be brought to order, while another 18% listed economic development as their priority issue for government attention.

Prime Minister Laimdota Straujuma told the press after presenting the survey that she was pleased to know the public opinion of this population group. “This is a good indicator that needs to be appreciated,” she commented on the strong response in acknowledging some feelings of patriotism toward Latvia amongst non-Latvian minorities.

“The question is, what to do further,” she indicated, underscoring the fact that too little has been done to bring different groups in society together in solidarity. One of the tasks the government has agreed upon Tuesday is to prepare further proposals for developing more Latvian-language learning programs, and to promote the naturalization to citizenship among non-citizens, ensuring clear and evident information about the benefits of joining the nation’s civic population, she said.

The premier went on to explain that the survey was prompted by the situation in Ukraine, when the public information space in Latvia was suddenly filled with various opinions and quotes, among them strong support for Russian propaganda and non-democratic values, often as if in the name of the public good.

Kaktiņš commented that the survey shows Latvia that not everything is going smoothly here and we are certainly not anywhere near the most unified nation or society in Europe. On the other hand, there is no grounds to claim that society is particularly split or prone to civil war. “That’s just silly, there’s no basis to say so,” he stressed.

The survey of 801 adult ethnically non-Latvian permanent residents titled ‘Sense of belonging to Latvia’ was conducted in May of this year and also tested respondents’ opinions on the Russia-Ukraine conflict. It revealed 41% supporting neither side, 36% in support of Russia and 15% for Ukraine.

Asked whether they support the use of armed force by Russia in Ukraine, 29% of respondents were in favor, while 45% were opposed. On the other hand, as regards trust in the veracity of Russian-language media, 43% believe the news and information is being reflected objectively, while 36% do not think this is so.

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