Perception of the neighbouring country

The Polish-German Barometer research has been trying to define the perceptions of the two countries in the eyes of their societies, posing many questions about the key elements that, together, create a multidimensional perception of Poland and Germany. Repeated questions since 2000 about these basic dimensions, from the quality of economic development to the quality of democracy or respect for human rights, allow us to determine how this view has changed over the last 20 years.

Until 2020 the perception of Germany in Poland was good and improving. However, compared to 2018, the percentage of Polish positive opinions about Germany as a country (the economy, functioning of the state) has dropped in Poland, although the percentage of negative opinions has not increased. More Poles than before are equivocal in their assessments.

The results from 2020, also compared to data collected in previous surveys, show a significant decrease in the percentage of positive ratings in most of the surveyed areas. The drop between the 2000-2018 results and the ones from 2020 ranges from about 20 percentage points (economic development, work organisation, profitability of investments) to 30 or more percentage points (democracy, minority rights, media freedom). The decreasing asymmetry in Polish-German relations and potentials also seems to be a good explanation for this tendency. For the Poles, Germany is less and less the country where everything ‘works’, as it used to be over the years.

However, this asymmetry still exists and influences perceptions. It is even more visible if we compare it with the assessment of Polish respondents on the same dimensions of their own country’s perception. It can be said that this assessment is ambivalent in nature, showing, on the one hand, clear divisions among the evaluators and, on the other hand, a fairly large degree of uncertainty, which is even more important in this case as it concerns the assessments of the respondents’ own country. To almost every question, 30 to 40 per cent of respondents chose a neutral answer. Only the tourist attractiveness of Poland is positively assessed by a clear majority of Polish respondents (68 per cent). On the other hand, more than half the respondents (54 per cent) believe that bureaucracy is a big problem in Poland, and almost half (46 per cent) corruption. The respondents were asked questions on their own country after answering the questions on Germany, which might place further emphasis on the role of asymmetry in the perception. In comparison with Germany, Poland seems for the Poles to always be ‘less’: less developed, less organised, less fair, etc.

On the other hand, German respondents assess Poland as a country better than in 2018 (when a regression of positive opinions was noted), but still about a half of Germans have no opinion or have ambivalent opinions about

Poland when they assess the functioning of Polish democracy, freedom of the media or the level of corruption or bureaucracy. For example, only 37 per cent of the Germans surveyed are convinced about the positive development of the Polish economy (of whom only 11 per cent strongly agree with such a positive assessment). The picture of Polish democracy is even worse: only 8 per cent of the respondents are definitely positive about it, and, in total, only 33 per cent of respondents give a positive answer. Worse still is the assessment of respect for civil rights in Poland (31 per cent) or respect for minority rights (25 per cent). The historical asymmetry in knowledge and having an opinion on the other country is therefore very visible and explains the data. The Germans - representatives of a stronger country and bigger population - do not know much and have no opinion about the smaller and weaker Poland. In addition, the second question, with answers assessing their own country, emphasises this. Germans’ assessments of their own country are largely positive and better than of Poland. This is not a new phenomenon. As Szarota has observed in much of his research on the Polish-German caricature, the negative stereotype of a Pole in German eyes has often been contrasted with a positive auto-stereotype of the Germans (Szarota, 2010: 164).

< Prev   CONTENTS   Source   Next >