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Newly Independent Montenegrins More Confident Than Serbs in Government

by Magali Rheault

But many social and political institutions receive similarly low marks in both countries


PRINCETON, NJ -- It has been a full year since Montenegro and Serbia parted ways after having been united for almost a century. In spring 2006, people in the tiny republic of Montenegro voted in a referendum to become independent. But unlike most of the national splits in the former Yugoslavia, the Montenegro-Serbia divorce was virtually bloodless.

Last fall, Montenegro moved swiftly to hold parliamentary elections where the pro-European center-left coalition of Milo Djukanovic, the former prime minister who has been a mainstay in Montenegrin politics for the last 15 years, won a majority of the seats. The Montenegrin government has already taken the first concrete step toward membership in the European Union (EU). Serbia's fate is more challenging, as the country has been unable to initiate serious membership talks with Brussels due to the unresolved status of Kosovo and perceptions that Serbia has not been fully cooperative with the UN war crimes tribunal.

As Montenegrins mark the first anniversary of their independence, Gallup World Poll results from February 2007 offer a look at the relative optimism with which Serbs and Montenegrins regard their social and political institutions.

Different Attitudes Toward National Government and Leadership

Montenegrins feel considerably more positive about their country's government and leaders than Serbs feel about theirs. Almost 6 in 10 Montenegrins (58%) say they approve of their country's leadership, compared with 38% of Serbs. Similarly, 60% of Montenegrins say they have confidence in their national government, vs. 37% of Serbs.

These differences could result from the referendum over independence that brought national self-determination to Montenegrins, but took territory away from Serbs. Montenegrin leaders saw the question of independence, which had been much discussed over the previous decade, to a successful and peaceful resolution. Serbia, meanwhile, lost its direct access to the coast, a frustration that may contribute to Serbs' low confidence in their government.

Similar Attitudes Toward Many Other Institutions

However, these differences shouldn't overshadow the finding that majorities of both Serbs and Montenegrins lack confidence in several of their respective countries' social and political institutions.

Almost 9 in 10 Serbs (87%) say corruption is widespread throughout the government in their country; Montenegrins are only somewhat less likely to say so, at 71%. An even higher percentage of Serbians, 92%, say corruption is widespread within their country's businesses, as do 83% of Montenegrins.

Only small majorities of respondents in both nations (55% in Serbia, 53% in Montenegro) say they have confidence in the honesty of elections. The judiciary and the media, meanwhile, elicit the trust of less than a majority in both countries. About one in three Serbs (32%) say they have confidence in the judicial system and courts, as do 45% of Montenegrins. Just 4 in 10 (42%) Serbs say they have confidence in the quality and integrity of the media in their country, vs. 45% of Montenegrins.

Years of regional conflict and a legacy of heavy bureaucracy may contribute to respondents' low levels of confidence toward social and political institutions. Both countries are still grappling with issues of rule of law and political reforms, and meaningful change will take time.

Survey Methods

Results are based on face-to-face interviews with 1,000 adults, aged 15 and older, conducted in February 2007. For results based on the total sample of national adults, one can say with 95% confidence that the maximum margin of sampling error is ±3 percentage points. In addition to sampling error, question wording and practical difficulties in conducting surveys can introduce error or bias into the findings of public opinion polls.


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