The majority of Bulgarians still had a positive opinion of Russia, but the annexation of Crimea and the ongoing conflict in Ukraine has led to “reduced sympathy”, according to a public opinion survey by Alpha Research, made public on March 16.
More than half of the respondents, 54 per cent, said that their positive opinion did not change and seven per cent said that their opinion of Russia improved as a result of the events. On the other side, nine per cent said that their negative opinion was unchanged and 30 per cent said that they had a worse opinion of Russia than before.
By age groups, respondents 60 or older “remain the nucleus of support for Russia’s policy”, while Moscow’s image suffered the most in the 18- to 30-years-old demographic.
“Bulgarians continue to like Russia but they do not believe that it can be a model for [Bulgaria’s] development and offer more secure guarantees for prosperity and development than membership in the EU and Nato,” Alpha Research said.
A total of 44.1 per cent of respondents said that Nato membership was a positive aspect for Bulgaria’s defence and security, nearly double the 22.4 per cent who qualified membership in the alliance as a negative. Some 52 per cent of the interviewees said that Bulgaria should honour all its commitments to Nato, versus 15 per cent who said that Bulgaria should leave the alliance, and the rest said Bulgaria should not meet commitments it found “unacceptable”.
Overall, Bulgaria’s policy on the Russia-Ukraine conflict was a moderate and balanced one, according to 76 per cent of the respondents, while 13 per cent described Sofia as a “Nato and EU hawk” and 11 per cent said that Bulgaria was “too loyal to Russia.”
On the issue of new sanctions against Russia, 39 per cent were in favour, versus 61 per cent opposed, likely due to long-established trade and other bilateral relationships with Russia, Alpha Research said.
However, if asked at a referendum to chart Bulgaria’s foreign policy course, 63 per cent of respondents said that they would pick EU and Nato, versus 33 per cent who would opt for Russia.
Alpha Research’s opinion poll was carried out on a representative sample of 1000 people between February 23 and March 4, at the request of the European Council on Foreign Relations.
(Photo: Anastasia Vlasova)