Poll finds Bulgarians evenly divided on Nato membership, as support drops

Were a referendum to be held in Bulgaria immediately on Nato membership, 50 per cent would vote to remain in the Alliance and 38 per cent to leave, according to a poll done for the Globsec Trends annual report.

The poll found that support in Bulgaria for Nato membership had dropped in the past year.

In 2021, in a hypothetical referendum, 54 per cent of Bulgarians would have voted to remain in Nato and 25 per cent to leave.

Support for Nato in Bulgaria was lowest among nine Central and Eastern European countries polled – the others being the Czech Republic, Estonia, Poland, Latvia, Lithuania, Romania, Hungary and Slovakia.

In a commentary on the findings, the report said: “Bulgaria appears to be a regional outlier on Nato with the opposition to Alliance membership increasing by 13 percentage points over a year.

“This decline in support leaves the population evenly divided between backers of membership and those either opposed to it or holding no opinion on the subject,” the report said.

“The finding goes against the grain and realpolitik situation – even traditionally neutral countries including Sweden and Finland want to join Nato following the Russian invasion of Ukraine.”

The poll found that were a referendum on remaining in the European Union held now, 70 per cent of Bulgarian would vote to stay, while 23 per cent would vote to leave, the latter up from 17 per cent in 2021.

This made Bulgaria, among the nine countries polled, the most Eurosceptic, the report said.

In eight of nine countries, a majority trust the armed forces of their own country, whereas in five of nine, the trust exceeds 70 per cent.

A lack of confidence in the armed forces is particularly striking in Bulgaria at 40 per cent – an 18 percentage point decline from 2021).

“While the decrease in trust in four of nine countries is a striking finding at times of war it may be explained by scepticism towards the combat readiness of troops and the capacity of the militaries to defend their respective countries,” the report said.

Asked if they agreed that “My country’s membership in Nato makes it less likely that a foreign nation will attack us,” 50 per cent per cent of Bulgarians said yes.

In seven out of nine countries the perception of the US being a strategic partner increased, while it stayed the same in Hungary and declined in Bulgaria, from 27 per cent in 2021 to 21 per cent in 2022.

Asked if they perceived Russia as a strategic partner, 30 per cent of Bulgarians said yes, down from 45 per cent in 2021.

The percentage of Bulgarians who had a positive image of Russian ruler Vladimir Putin dropped from 70 per cent in 2021 to 29 per cent in 2022.

The report said that an overwhelming 78 per cent of Central and Eastern Europeans perceive Putin negatively.

Bulgarians who saw Russia as a security threat rose from three per cent in 2020 to 33 per cent in 2022. Those who saw the US as a security threat from 16 per cent in 2020 to 33 per cent in 2022.

Asked if they believed that Russia would not stop with its invasion of Ukraine but would go on to attack other European countries, 64 per cent of Bulgarians said no and 21 per cent said yes.

The report said that in seven of nine countries polled, a majority perceived Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy positively.

“The impact of the Kremlin’s war propaganda, disinformation narratives and smear campaign, however, are taking their toll in numerous countries including Bulgaria, Slovakia and Hungary,” the report said. “A total of 50 per cent, 42 per cent and 40 per cent in these three countries, respectively, view Zelenskyy negatively.

Asked who was responsible for the war in Ukraine, 50 per cent of Bulgarians said that it was the result of Russia invading Ukraine, 26 per cent the West that had “provoked Russia” and 12 per cent that “Ukraine had oppressed the Russian-speaking part of the population”.

Among Bulgarians, 45 per cent considered Ukraine to be an independent country, 35 per cent a “puppet of the West” and 12 per cent considered Ukraine to be part of Russia.

Asked whether Ukraine should join Nato or the EU or both, 29 per cent of Bulgarians said yes, while 47 per cent said that Ukraine should be a neutral country.

Asked if they agreed with the statement “EU countries should impose the strongest possible sanctions on Russia to stop it from waging further conflict even if it means the price of fuel or other products increase in my country,” 38 per cent of Bulgarians said yes.

As to whether Nato countries should send own troops to Ukraine to help them fight against Russian invasion, 15 per cent of Bulgarians said yes and 75 per cent said no.

Fifty-eight per cent of Bulgarians with the statement that webpages and actors spreading disinformation about the war in Ukraine should be banned from social media. 58

In Bulgaria, Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania and Poland, an average of 20 per cent were unsure whether liberal democracy as a system based on equality, human rights and freedoms, and the rule of law is good for their country.

Bulgaria and Slovakia, once again, confirmed their status as most prone to believing in various conspiracy theories about democracy in the CEE region and having a high societal vulnerability.

“A majority in Slovakia and Bulgaria believes that democracy does not exist, because in reality, hidden elites rule the world,” the report said.

Sixty-two per cent of Bulgarians agreed with the statement that “world affairs are not decided by elected leaders but by secret groups aiming to establish a totalitarian world order,” the poll found.

Trust in the national government in Bulgaria was at 35 per cent, and in the media, 30 per cent.

(Photo: US Air Force)

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