ADID (anti-democratic intolerant discourse) in Romania: A longitudinal approach.
One of the main goals driving this analysis was to identify and describe how various measurements were used in passed surveys to address intolerant, discriminatory and anti-democratic attitudes. This in turn could help guide and develop better or more refined ways of assessing aforementioned attitudes and behaviours and perhaps pinpoint specific circumstances in which they are activated and subsequently discouraged. Addtionnaly, this is a descriptive study aimed to trace a rough skectch of how widespread intolerant beliefs and opinions are in Romania, what are the recipient target-groups and perhaps indentify over time changes in the manifestation patterns of such anti-democratic attitudes.
According to our definition, ADID is characterized by the simultaneous presence of three elements: a more or less clear identification of the target group, the expression of a negative attitude towards the group, and a more or less explicit assertion of the idea that the group, because of a supposed characteristics, should be treated less favorably than other groups of humans are, by default, expected to be.
ADID can comfortably include concepts such as stereotypes, prejudice, discrimination/discriminatory acts, intolerance, and so on. Our definition of ADID is consistent with all these concepts both when we take into account common language/dictionary and basic social science definitions.
Because individual characteristics and traits could have important consequences on how people perceive issues of tolerance and prejudice in general or related to specific groups, the present analysis looks at the variation of different measures of ADID across socio-demographic attributes. Literature has identified that the most important of these are the level of education, urbanization, age, religiosity, gender, authoritarianism and democratic values. However, because in many cases measures of religiosity, authoritarianism and democratic values could not be standardized across different surveys, only the following demographic traits were included: education, urbanization, age and gender. Ethnicity was also added as a control variable where needed.
While one would expect to see an increase in tolerance and acceptance of the Roma population throughout the years, the anti-Roma sentiment appears to be rather resilient or at best dissipating at a very slow pace. Moreover, while most studies have shown that more educated people, as well as the youth tend to be more tolerant and acceptant in general, this may not be so true in the case of Romania when referring to the Roma population. This type of inelasticity is a very interesting phenomenon that certainly requires its own path of exploration through developing and employing more complex survey designs. Specifically, one would be interested to see why the contact theory does not quite hold in Romania when it comes to the Roma population and if and how prejudice, stereotyping and social distance are intertwined to form an impermeable web of intolerance. These findings regarding the overtime persistence of anti-Roma sentiment in Romania are in tune with what the 2003 IPP study “Intolerance, Discrimination, Extremism in Romania” suggests: that while younger Romanians and those with more formal education are, indeed, more tolerant towards LGBT groups, the same may not hold true for attitudes towards the Roma and Hungarians.
Compared to other European countries, Romania scores rather low when it comes to displaying accepting attitudes towards gay/ lesbian/ bisexual people. On the other hand, compared to tolerance towards the Roma, acceptance of sexual minorities does appear to be more sensitive to education and age.
Younger and more educated people, as well as people who have gay or lesbian friends and acquaintances are more likely to express tolerance of sexual minorities. These findings could have a practical impact on how various campaigns promoting tolerance towards LGBT groups are designed and implemented.
In 2014 62% of respondents stated they would not want a gay neighbour compared to 75% in 1990. It is interesting to observe that in 2014 more people stated they would not like to have a gay neighbour (62%) than not liking a Roma neighbour (46%). The 2015 Eurobarometer tells the same story in a different way. The mean score for feeling comfortable with having a Roma work colleague was 6.6 while the average score for being comfortable with a gay/ lesbian or bisexual co-worker was 4.6. Romania had the largest mean acceptance score difference between the two out-groups out of all EU28 countries. This again supports the findings that Romanians in general find it extremely difficult to express tolerance towards LGBT groups. This is particularly worrisome if we take into account Inglehart’s assertion, that accepting LGBT groups is a good indicator of tolerating groups of people that are different in general. The question thus remains, what are the contextual factors that allow for intolerant attitudes to be so widespread and resilient. Scholars have found that religiosity and adopting authoritarian world-views could partially explain aversion towards sexual minorities. The goal then would not be to try and change these attitudes and beliefs, but rather to explore various contexts in which reconciliation between holding such beliefs and accepting “the other” would occur.
A major issue when attempting to study any type of social phenomenon from a longitudinal perspective using secondary data as a source is discontinuity of indicators. Very few studies conducted in Romania used identical survey items to address ADID, which in turn makes comparability across the years challenging. Moreover, there is a lack of refinement when it comes to breaking down concepts into their separate dimensions and exploring their complexity, with most surveys focusing on just one angle of ADID. This limits the scope of secondary data analyses and restricts the examination of any overlaps between these dimensions and also where/ why does disengagement from a particular attitude occur. Subsequently, the studies produced using existing survey data employed few measurements taken as proxies for intolerance, with the majority focusing on the same evaluation approaches, such as appraising social distance from certain groups or approval of treating members of minority groups “like any other person.”
Also lacking in past surveys are batteries of questions that would allow comparability of the different types of prejudice across separate target-groups. It is, for example, rather difficult to examine whether respondents with a high level of antipathy towards the Roma also exhibit negative sentiments towards other minorities, or whether readiness to restrict political rights varies across out-groups.
Existing studies fulfill the task of painting the general picture when it comes to describing sources and manifestations of ADID, however a more nuanced approach would lead to a much better understanding of intolerant/ anti-democratic attitudes and, more importantly, how to shift them.
Less Hate, More Speech – Youngsters Get Involved!
The project is run by Median Research Centre (MRC) in partnership with Educ Association and targets young people between 12 and 17 years old, in order to help them better identify and react to online and offline hate speech.
More, on the project’s website.