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Prof. Radosław Markowski’s team from the Center for the Study of Democracy at the SWPS University are running a study during which every couple of days Poles are being asked about their opinions and moods. The surveys are conducted by Pracownia Badań Społecznych.

We are presenting the results of the first survey from 9th and 10th of April. Sociologists asked how Poles assess the central government, local government, and opposition. How much are they afraid of coronavirus? Do they feel that their lives may be at risk? Do they still have enough money to pay all regular bills? Are they scared for their future? And will the election on May 10th, if it happens, be legal?

When respondents were answering these questions, already 1.6 million people were infected with coronavirus all over the world (data for April 10th). Over 100,000 patients have died, and 382,000 recovered. In Poland, the number of new cases of coronavirus is still growing. As citizens, we are all waiting for the peak of incidence to come and pass, we are looking at the epidemiological curve to potentially identify new, positive trends, and we are hoping that the moment will come when the curve will stop rising vertically. But for now every day brings bad news.

During the study, on April 10th, there were already 5,955 infected people in Poland, and 181 of them died (data from the Ministry of Health). We do not know when the epidemic will reach its peak. Probably not in the second half of April, as announced by the first forecasts of epidemiologists. Health Minister Łukasz Szumowski is now talking about May. On Thursday, just before Easter, the government extended the stringent restrictions of movement, including closed borders, schools, shopping malls, restaurants, cinemas, theaters and clubs. There is a ban on leaving home. High school final exams have been postponed.

But not the presidential election scheduled for May 10th. PiS wants them to take place completely via voting by mail.

Local government, government or the opposition - who is fighting the pandemic?

In such a political context, the respondents answered questions about the government and the Prime Minister - Mateusz Morawiecki. The respondents had a choice of three answers:

  •  he reacts excessively, creates unnecessary panic;
  •  does not respond properly, underestimates the threat;
  •  reacts adequately.

Half chose the answer "respond adequately". Almost a third of respondents are not satisfied with the actions of Mateusz Morawiecki, and claim that "the government is not responding properly, it underestimates the threat.". 17% of those who took part in the survey think that he "reacts excessively, creates unnecessary panic." The youngest (18-24 years) are the most convinced about the latter, the oldest are the least often, over 55 years old.

And the parliamentary opposition? The biggest group of respondents - 41% - assesses that the opposition "reacts adequately", it is less than in the case of the government. And slightly more often you can see disappointment with the attitude of the opposition - the third of respondents agreed with the opinion that the opposition "does not react properly". 20% of them say that the opposition is creating unnecessary panic.

Local authorities were the most appreciated. As much as 59% of respondents say their response is right. Every fourth of them thinks that the local authorities "underestimate the threat." And only 13% accuse the local authorities of spreading panic. Again, the group of oldest respondents least often believes that local authorities overreact to coronavirus threats.

Educational institutions also scored well. This is important, because suddenly e-lessons had to be started. It was not an easy process, as some students do not have equipment or internet access at home. 65% of Poles are satisfied with what educational authorities are doing, and the largest percentage can be seen among the youngest respondents (18-24 years old). Every fifth of Poles accuses educational authorities of not having a proper response, every tenth - that they are causing panic.

Sociologists also asked for an assessment of the European Union's response. Half of the respondents have no objections, 37% - accuses EU officials of underestimating the threat, and only 9% accuses Brussels of spreading panic.

Coronavirus: is it a direct threat? 

Pandemic does not yet affect the majority of Poles directly. 89% says there are no coronavirus symptoms among close relatives or distant acquaintances. 87% - does not know anyone who would be checked by a doctor in this respect. 76% of respondents had no experience with the quarantine of family or friends.

21% have close experiences with the epidemic and their distant friends went through quarantine.

Only 7% know someone who tested positive for coronavirus. 

The plurality of 40% estimates the likelihood that they may become infected themselves in the next three months. This fear applies to all of the age groups.

Future? What future?!

The researchers asked the respondents to choose one of three answers for the question “what awaits us in the next 2-3 months”: * the worst is yet to come; * the situation will remain more or less similar to the current one; *things will start to improve.

We are not optimists, we do not feed ourselves with false hope. Just 2 percent replied "I don't know."

59% of respondents know the worst is ahead of us. A fourth of them assumes that it will be neither better nor worse, and 15% look ahead boldly, because they estimate that the worst is already behind us.

One can see that the fear of the unknown future affected everyone more or less equally. It is experienced by Poles with the same strength irrespective of their age and of whether they live in villages or cities. Even between the employed and those without a job there are no significant differences.

What will happen with the economy? Here the respondents had to mark the answer on a five-point scale. 1 means: "coronavirus is not a threat at all", 5 - "coronavirus is a very high threat".

Companies are already closing down, the unemployment rate is rising and the economic growth will not be visible for a long time. As much as 93% marked points 4 and 5 on the scale, because we expect the worst. This fear concerns everyone, there are no significant differences between young and old, urban and rural areas residents, and between employed and unemployed people.

We are only slightly less afraid that the epidemic will endanger the health of Poles in general. 74% of respondents see a very intense threat here. Already at the moment, patients who are not infected with coronavirus have problems with access to indispensable treatment such as surgeries. They might die without help. Experts note that there will be medical additional effects of coronavirus - deaths due to non-treatment of other diseases. Women perceive this threat slightly more often than men.

Only 2% of the respondents see no such threat.

69% worry about their finances. 60% estimate that the epidemic has already negatively affected their savings and investments. 62% already reported less money in their pockets. And two-thirds say that this new situation will not allow them, as before, to materially help family members. 55% pay fixed bills (electricity, water, gas, garbage) on unchanged rates, but 45% already struggle to do that.

52% of respondents pay loan installments without a problem, but 48% cannot afford that any more.

Leaky shield

The opposition urged the government to make the "anti-crisis shield" less vulnerable and offer more solid support to employers and employees. The Senate prepared a "solid dam", which it wanted to replace with a "hollow shield". PiS threw out all senatorial suggestions, adding a few of them to the second shield.

Will the anti-crisis shields adopted by Morawiecki's office help?

The respondents had a choice of three answers: * this is a far inadequate solution, too bureaucratic, and the funds allocated for aid are far too small; * it is a half-way solution, which is intended to make people think government well, which does not allow for real solution of problems economic; * it is a good and adequate solution, it is helpful in dealing with existing problems.

The respondents think that 'anti-crisis shields' adopted by the government are disappointing. 51% chose the second answer that it was a half-way solution. Nearly every third of respondents think that this is not enough help for employees and employers. 18% is satisfied with these adopted solutions.

The "shield" is very needed, because according to the PBS study, only about a fourth of respondents work normally. And if they do not work as before, they do not earn as before.

As much as 30% work only to a limited extent, 28% - have a slightly limited job, and 17% - do not work at all because the workplace has stopped.

Only 28% of people who took part in the research are not afraid of losing their jobs. 6% have already lost it, 28% consider it very likely. And the largest group - 39% - worried about their employment, although they estimate that it is not very likely that they may lose it due to the epidemic.

The presidential election 

Jarosław Kaczyński, the chairman of PiS, is not interested in the opinions of experts, epidemiologists, lawyers, or even of the National Electoral Commission itself. Jarosław Kaczyński wants elections at all costs as he fears that later Andrzej Duda will have no chance of winning. The Law and Justice changed the electoral code, although it should not be altered half a year before the election (according to a ruling of the Constitutional Tribunal in 2011).

But the PiS takes the constitution for nothing. First, it introduced postal voting for persons in quarantine and older than 60, now it wants everyone to have to vote that way.

The Minister of Health, Łukasz Szumowski does not say directly whether the election will be possible. He promised that he would present his recommendation after Easter.

The study of the Center for Democracy Studies team did a poll that shows that citizens do not want to elect a president now.

80% (including 72% strongly) accuses PiS that it is "a huge mistake that forces people to participate in the presidential election during the epidemic." 11% is of the opinion that "the PiS government should conduct elections on time, regardless of the threat of further spread of the epidemic."

And what if the elections happen anyway? 71% thinks that "the elections will be invalid, because the law prohibits changing the electoral rules within the 6 months preceding the election, and also because forcing the whole society to vote by postal voting...".

10% is firmly convinced that "the situation is exceptional, therefore, regardless of whether the proposed solution is constitutional or not, the elections will be considered valid." And 19% is inclined to share this opinion to varying degrees.

Poles do not want these elections. As much as 69% says that "they will be unfair, because opposition candidates do not currently have equal opportunities to run an election campaign, only predident Duda can do it effectively."

22 % have a completely different view on that matter "the situation is currently the same for all of the candidates, there is an access to traditional forms of campaigning and to social media, anyone can campaign, Duda is not privileged."

The government pushes for the election and argues that it will not be a threat to the life and health of either voters or members of election commissions. But the study shows that we do not believe in official infection data.

As much as 60% of respondents assess that the numbers are underestimated because the government wants to reduce fears of epidemics and to secure participation in the election. Only 27% trust government statistics and assume that the government reliably counts deaths because there is no reason to withhold real data.

And if elections happen, who will want to vote? Only 23% say that they will take part in elections. The rest of respondents claim they will not. As much as 56% of them explain that the elections will be illegal and unconstitutional. 6% will not vote because they just don't participate in elections. And 15% will not cast their vote in the presidential election for other reasons.

Duda's supporters will go in highest proportion - in such elections he could count on 63% of support, i.e. victory in the first round.

Those candidates who have little support, or less than 10% cannot count on their electorate, which is much more likely to stay at home.

Coronavirus: conspiracy or nature?

Where did this misfortune come from? What do we believe in? That "some foreign forces or countries are deliberately contributing to the spread of coronavirus"? Is it "the result of natural processes that occur in nature"?

This time the respondents had to choose one of two theses: * no one is behind it, this is a natural phenomenon; * the spread of coronavirus is a deliberate act. We are divided into two equal parts in this matter. 42% are in favor of the first thesis, 45% in favor of the second, and 12 percent have no opinion.

Do we accept the rigors of everyday life imposed on us? Researchers asked to choose an answer from a seven-point scale.

1 - means that "in the current situation [the respondent] is able to sacrifice civil rights and freedoms; the government is right to limit it; the restrictions should be even greater, even if they do not result from a constitutional state of emergency. "

7 - "restrictions on the rights and freedoms imposed on Poles do not result from the possibilities offered by the constitution, they are too far-reaching and expose us to irreparable losses."

Poles are divided. 31% marked the first step on a scale, 21%- seventh. 17% marked their answer in the middle of the scale.

PBS study, 9-10 March, online sample of 600 adult Poles.

***
Every day, 400 journalists at Gazeta Wyborcza write verified, fact-checked stories about the coronovirus pandemic for you.

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We have decided to open online access to our news stories and special guides focused on the issue of public health, for free.

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