Czechs Not Engaged
How involved are Czech citizens?
Civil society represents a necessary precondition for the existence of a democratic state. The study ”Research on Civic Engagement in the Czech Republic in 2015” investigates perceptions of democracy. It shows that 7 percent of the Czech population is “very active” in many areas, but also that more than half the population is involved “very little or not at all”.
The study was developed by the Civic Education Centre with support from the Konrad Adenauer Foundation and the research agency TNS AISA. The study is unique in the Czech Republic in terms of both scope and scale. The research focused on a representative sample group of 3,876 selected respondents.
Results show that Czech citizens are involved mainly in non-political activities, such as helping disabled and sick people (41%), helping people in vulnerable social situations (35%), and assisting in disaster relief efforts (27%). People also participate in leisure activities (24%) or devote time to taking care of their local environment or community (22%). Significantly fewer people are involved in human rights issues (8.8%), public debates or referendums (7.3%) or EU-related issues (1.8%).
“The big issue is a low level of trust in democratic institutions”, claims one of the authors, Ondřej Matějka from the Civic Education Centre. “Even those who are engaged a lot have little trust in these institutions. If such attitudes continue, democracy itself could be in danger. But also, there is a strong relationship between confidence in democratic institutions and citizen engagement, which is why it’s necessary to work on increasing citizen engagement.”
The study divides citizens into four main categories:
- Very active — engaged in multiple fields and multiple issues (7%)
- Rather active — active mostly in leisure activities or social or political issues (38%)
- Rather passive — occasionally engaged, mostly in the form of donating money or performing some physical work (46%)
- Passive — not engaged at all (10%)
“Significant differences in the participation of these four groups show that the interests of large groups of citizens are not adequately represented in public life”, adds Jan Krajhanzl from the Faculty of Social Sciences at Masaryk University and the study’s expert guarantor. “If a significant part of the public remains passive, it further strengthens the isolation of political institutions and tends to promote fringe or extremist agendas.”
An action-oriented attitude and broad levels of citizen participation are essential for the development and cultivation of a civic society. Another helpful study, “100 Years of Czech Democracy", provides relevant background information for civic education and offers suggestions on how to engage people more effectively. It contains advice on how to support teachers, how to start a school parliament, how to engage schools in community affairs and many other topics. Using this research it is possible to support the involvement of different target groups and focus more precisely on those issues in which they are most interested.