About the event

The study

The following analysis contains excerpts from the results of a 2016 CSCI survey, part of a research project specifically built by CPD to verify how the Romanian public responds to subjects of regional interest and even anti-Western themes. Pro-US and pro-Russia attitudes were a central element of research – the analysis also extracted some features of these audiences. We were interested to see what type of public is susceptible to such propaganda and the extent to which Romania’s relation with the West (and with the US in particular) is solid enough to withstand any challenge.


Is the military relationship between Romania and the US enough to guarantee the Western partnership with Romania? Our analysis shows that it is not! The survey below demonstrates that, while Romanians feel protected from a military point of view, other factors which are more susceptible to change influence the public’s feelings and agenda.


The US perceived influence is weaker than the EU influence, and we tested both current and desired levels. There is fear of Russia, but also admiration for its leader and a clear wish for the development of economic cooperation between Romania and Russia.


We have found that there is a little affinity for Russia or its leader among pro-American Romanians, but the same is not true in reverse: the pro-Russia cluster generally offers high ratings to NATO, the USA and its leader, they are conciliatory rather than conflictual.


The pro-Russian public is not limited to disadvantaged groups (poor, rural, low education) and also includes young politically active internet users. Members of this group may wish for a more harmonious relationship with Russia, however, most of them also have a positive view on NATO and USA.


Although a significant portion of the neutral public is not susceptible to direct pro-Russia propaganda and, at the same time, a good portion of the public is not receptive to an explicit anti-US propaganda (due to the good image of the US in Romania), the neutral segment (almost half of the Romanian population) can be influenced more efficiently by undermining values central to the Western democratic model and elements connected to the European project.

In addition, in light of the finding that affinity toward the US is less ideologically driven than pragmatic in nature (as Romanians adhering to these groups do not exhibit a much stronger attachment to democracy or the ideals of an open society, but only higher levels of political activism), it is a matter of concern that at least the pro-American group that fears the Russian military strength may decline in numbers if perceived military support from NATO decreases, giving rise to nationalist and isolationist sentiments.


The main ideas emerging from the research:


  1. Romanians temper their optimistic tone about EU and NATO membership. Several survey sources indicate a stop of the upward trend regarding these options. Although Romanians in their majority remain pro-Western, there is no more room for growth for these numbers. In addition, the number of Euro-skeptics and Neutrals about the pro-Western orientation is increasing.


  1. There are more pro-Western Romanians than any other category, and the pro-Russian public is a minority. But although there are more pro-Western Romanians than pro-Russia ones, pro-Americans do not outnumber the neutral public. The neutral public is not enthusiastic about the US, but it appreciates the US more than Russia – their vulnerability is not in regards to the relationship with US or Russia, but their regard to Western democratic model and their dependency on the success of the European project.


  1. The pro-US public is about one-third of the population and the pro-Russian public reaches a maximum of 18%. It is interesting to note that the pro-Russian public is not isolated, uneducated and old – on the contrary, it is younger than their pro-American counterpart, more concerned about online communication and unexpectedly well-positioned in terms of education and economic status.


  1. Interestingly, the pro-US and pro-NATO public is not totally incompatible with the pro-Russian public. There are people who want more isolation (from both Russians and Americans), but there are also people who want more conciliation (who appreciate the US, NATO and their positive effect, but who want improved economic relations with Russia).


  1. The reliability of the strategic and military relation with the US is appreciated, but it is not enough to guarantee a pro-Western direction for Romanians. The data shows that Romanians are convinced of Western military support in case of need and of the strong US military influence. But in terms of other areas of influence, the US influence is not as strongly perceived. Romanians perceive and want a greater influence from the EU as compared with the US, in terms of culture, economy and civil society.


  1. The perception regarding civil society and culture is influenced more by the European Union and not by the United States. In addition, ideological developments on the Continent (reaffirming nationalisms, mixed policies toward Russia etc.) also contribute to increasing uncertainty.


  1. Economic perception is also a mix of international and European policy, with a very small and insignificant American influence.


  1. Topics of interest for the national public are linked more to the economic agenda – and this is influenced more by developments on the Continent.


  1. An item that derives from a soft-power component – the image of invincibility and strength, projected through items related to active military resources – in turn, influences the perception of Romanians. Thus, this image of invincibility and strength built in some parts of Europe by Russian leader Vladimir Putin influences the perception of Romanians, generating both fear and a strange kind of admiration.


Romania is a country where pro-Western sentiment begins to be questioned, even though this is still not perceived as a problem – the number of those who do not trust Western institutions has begun to grow and there is no longer an unconditional confidence in the Western model (liberal democracy supported by a free market and two essential Western pillars – the US, which actively supports European security in the face of threats from the East and Middle East, respectively the European Union, which provides prosperity through the free movement of people, goods and capital). This internal report is also useful as a warning – before the trends get out of control.


Romania’s proximity to Russia is not likely to generate positive feelings, on the contrary. The European Union is going through a major crisis, the US is not the same proactive actor as it was and internal developments show that the EU and the US are not necessarily going in the same direction. If for years, even decades (90s and 2000s) Romania, through its elites, supported one project – the strong Westernization of Romania under pressure from the two parts of the Western model (US and EU) – currently we cannot say with certainty that this pressure remains as strong.


Without a proactive attitude from the two components (US and EU), countries from Eastern Europe such as Romania become more vulnerable in the face of new types of threats. As shown below, these threats can be of a non-military or indirect nature. They can be much more subtle, elusive and obviously difficult to counteract. In a society with low levels of civic participation – as is Romania, a feature that has remained characteristic for the post-communist decades – such developments can lead to serious social upheaval and thus distance Romania from the Western project, and even to a weakening of the strategic relationship with the US in the medium term.

Ask for the entire study at office@civicparticipation.ro