MYPLACE research team at the Ivo Pilar Institute, Croatia on a recent survey conducted by the team, looking in particular at what the results show in relation to young people.
For more information on the MYPLACE project visit the project’s website: HERE
Since one of the main goals of MYPLACE is to understand the social participation of young people and the meaning they attach to it, understanding attitudes young people have towards nongovernmental organisations (NGOs) seems particularly important. NGOs represent an important form of active citizenship that contributes to the development of democracy. By getting involved in the work of NGOs young people learn to advocate for the interests of the group they belong to or for the interests of the wider society, and thereby develop an important form of political culture.
In this post we will provide some of the key findings of the recent national representative survey (N=1004) regarding the visibility and public perception of NGO in Croatia conducted by Croatian MYPLACE partner institution Ivo Pilar Institute of Social Sciences. In addition, we will stress similarities and differences in visibility and public perception of NGOs with regard to age, in order to see if young people differ from middle and older age groups with regard to their relationship toward NGOs and perception of their role in society. Also, we will compare some of the results with the results of the previous research (phone surveys) conducted by Ivo Pilar Institute of social sciences in 2006 and 2007, as well as, face to face survey conducted in 2005. Although research within My Place is conducted on the age group of 16-25, due to an extremely small percentage (6.2%) of young people in this age range in a survey sample, we will show the results for young people aged 18-30 years.
Visibility of NGOs
More than eight tenths of Croatian citizens (86%) are familiar with the expression NGO, while about six tenths (64%) know the meaning of the term and slightly more than two tenths have only heard of the term but do not know the meaning. Similarly, about six tenths of citizens know a concrete or common name for at least one NGO. Familiarity with the term NGO and its meaning is less prevalent among older citizens, citizens with a lower level of education and a lower income, citizens who are retired or unemployed, citizens from villages with a small or medium degree of urbanization, among citizens for whom religion is important and whose political orientation is either right or central. Of all the socio-demographic characteristics analyzed, the greatest differences in the knowledge of specific NGOs are associated with the level of education.
Distribution of results according to age (Graph 1) shows that people younger than 30 years as well as those in the age range from 30-60 are more familiar with the expression NGO than people older than 60. These results can be explained with socio-political context in which the oldest age cluster grew up.
Slightly less than four tenths of citizens (37%) know at least one person who is an active NGO member which presents a significant increase compared to data collected in 2007 (23%). Knowing people who are active NGO members is more prevalent among younger and middle-aged citizens, men, citizens who are not retired, among better educated citizens, among citizens with a higher income and among citizens from villages with a medium degree of urbanization.
A significantly higher percentage of young and middle age group knows someone who is an active member of an NGO. From the Graph 2 we can see that the degree of acquaintance of people who are members of NGOs is similar in percentage in the youngest age group and the middle age group.
Membership in NGOs
About two tenths of citizens (19%) consider themselves as members of NGOs, while one tenth (10%) consider themselves as active volunteers. In comparison to findings from 2007 the prevalence of NGO membership has doubled. Membership in NGOs is more characteristic for citizens with a higher level of education and for men than women, while it is less prevalent in the group of citizens with the lowest income. Again, from the Graph 3 below we can see that there are no big differences in the NGO membership in different age groups.
Despite positive attitudes toward NGOs and emphasis on positive contributions that NGOs have on society 80% of young people is not involved in the work of NGOs. Volunteers dominate among the active members (13,1%), followed by the inactive members (5,5%), while less than 1% of young people are paid for their work in the NGOs (Graph 13).
Slightly less than half of citizens (48%) express willingness for involvement in NGO activities (in ideal circumstances). Comparison with the field survey data set from 2005 revealed an increase in citizen’s willingness to become involved in NGO activities (from 36% to 48%). Willingness to become involved is more prevalent among younger citizens, citizens who are not retired, citizens with higher levels of education and higher income and citizens who have a left political orientation.
Attitudes toward NGOs
A positive general attitude about NGOs and their activities is characteristic for slightly more than seven tenths of Croatian citizens (76%), about two tenths of citizens express a neutral attitude (22%), while the proportion of citizens with a general negative attitude is negligible. These results are equal to those obtained in a telephone survey in 2007. A positive general attitude towards NGOs is more characteristic for younger citizens, employed persons, and citizens from villages with a medium and high level of urbanization.
The majority of Croatian citizens expressed positive opinions about NGOs on measures of specific attitudes, although to a lesser extent than in the case of a general attitude. Namely, slightly less than six tenths of citizens agree that NGOs have an important role in highlighting and solving problems in society (59%), that NGOs are now much more effective in their work than 5 years ago (59%) and that NGOs greatly improve the conditions and quality of life in the community (57%). In addition, slightly more than five tenths of citizens agree that the government should encourage the activities of NGOs through tax cuts (51%), and through direct funding (55%). In addition to these positive opinions, a section of the public have some sceptical opinions about NGOs. Generally speaking, more positive specific attitudes towards NGOs are more characteristic for younger and middle-aged citizens, citizens from villages with a middle and high level of urbanization and among citizens who have a left or central political orientation, while citizens from the group with the lowest average monthly income express a neutral attitude more often.
For example, young and middle-aged citizens believe that NGOs are more effective in their work today than five years ago. Slightly less than two thirds of young and middle-aged people agreed with this statement as opposed to less than half of elderly citizens (Graph 5).
Generally, the public is more satisfied with NGOs’ contributions to raising citizen’s awareness about their rights, to improving the quality of life in general, to the development of civil society and democracy, than with contributions to solving life’s problems, the participation of citizens in decision-making processes and in shaping policy in areas that affect daily lives. Up to five tenths of citizens evaluate these individual contributions of NGOs as moderate or extreme. At the same time, half or more citizens believe that NGOs contribute to solving life’s problems, to citizen’s participation in decision-making processes and in shaping policy in areas that affect everyday life to a little extent or not at all. Comparison with findings from the 2007 survey revealed an increase in the perceived contribution of NGOs to improving the quality of life in general, and a decrease in the perceived NGO contribution to the development of civil society and democracy. All encompassed specific NGO contributions are more frequently evaluated as moderate or extreme by younger and better educated citizens and in some cases by higher income citizens, citizens from villages with a greater level of urbanization and citizens who have a left political orientation.
Specifically, 63,7% of the population aged 18-30 says that NGOs strongly or moderately contribute to raising people’s awareness of their rights (Graph 6). Slightly more than 50% of young people also say that NGOs strongly or moderately contribute to improving the quality of life in general (Graph 7), development of democracy (Graph 8) and civil society (Graph 9) in Croatia and solving the life problems of people or certain social groups (Graph 10).
Besides highlighting the positive contributions of NGOs for the society, 57% of young people believe that NGOs have little or no contributions on shaping policies that affect the daily lives (Graph 11), while 53% believe that NGOs do not contribute or contribute a little to citizen’s participation in decision making processes (Graph 12).
Estimation of a potential impact of a person as an individual and as a member of NGO on a decisions made on different levels
About six tenths of citizens think that NGOs generally have little or no impact at a local and national level (62% and 56%, respectively), while more than eight tenths of citizens consider that NGOs at both levels should have a greater impact on local and national level (85% and 84%, respectively). Comparison of these findings with results from 2007 revealed an increase in the proportion of citizens who consider that NGOs at both levels should have a greater impact (and a decrease in the proportion of citizens who do not know how to estimate the size of NGOs’ current impact). The share of citizens who consider current NGOs’ impact at the local level as medium or large is higher among better educated citizens, while the share of citizens who consider current NGOs’ impact as medium or large at the national level is higher among younger and middle age citizens. The share of citizens who think that NGO impact should be large or moderate are higher among citizens who have a left or central political orientation (for NGOs’ impact at the local level) and among women and citizens from villages with greater levels of urbanization (for NGOs’ impact at the national level).
Croatian citizens are consistent in their assessment that as individuals they cannot influence the decisions affecting the local community, the region, and especially Croatia as a whole, Europe or global international processes and phenomena (from 51% to 80%).
At the same time, about four tenths of citizens consider that as members of NGOs they may somewhat or greatly influence decisions affecting local communities, less than three tenths think as such for the level of the region, less than two tenths of citizens think that for the level of Croatia as a whole and about a tenth think that for decisions affecting entire Europe and global international processes.
Comparison with 2007 data revealed an increase in the proportion of citizens who believe that as individuals they cannot influence decisions affecting Croatia as a whole (from 64% in 2007 to 73% this year), as well as an increase in the proportion of citizens who believe that as NGO members they cannot influence decisions affecting the local, regional and especially the national level.
Results regarding youngest age group show similar pattern. Young people believe that they can have larger influence as NGO members than as individuals on the decisions in their local community, region of Croatia in which they live, the decisions made at the level of the entire Croatia and all over Europe, and even in decisions affecting the global international phenomena and processes (Graph 13).
Differences according to age show that people in the youngest age group and people in the age range from 31-59, unlike the ones older than 60, believe that as a members of NGOs they can influence decisions affecting the local community, region of Croatia where they live and the global international processes and phenomena. Differences according to age were not shown on a estimation of impact of a person as an individual.
Presented results show that the youngest age group (18-30) and the middle age group (31-59) differ from the oldest age group (older than 60) in the visibility of NGOs, membership in NGOs, attitudes toward NGOs, and in the estimation of impact of a person as a NGO member on a decisions on a different levels.
Youngest and middle aged citizens are more familiar with the expression NGO, are more likely to know someone who is an active member of an NGO, are more willing to get involved in the work of NGOs, have more positive general attitudes and some specific attitudes toward NGOs, and believe that as a members of NGOs they can influence decisions made on a different levels. Despite the affinity of the youngest age group towards NGOs, more than 80% of young people are not members of NGOs, less than 1% is paid for their work in NGOs, and the rest are volunteers or non-active members. Also, young people show the biggest willingness to get involved in the work of NGOs in comparison to other age groups, but unfortunately they do not differ from other citizens in their level of individual political efficacy –confidence in their ability to participate in politics.
 The Ivo Pilar Institute of Social Sciences conducted the survey within the project “Visibility and public perception of CSO” for the SIPU International AB – TACSO office in Croatia. Telephone survey was carried out between the April and May of 2012 on a national representative sample of Croatian citizens. Full research report summary is available on http://www.tacso.org/doc/cro_newsletter_7_2012_en.pdf