If almost half of Slovaks do not believe that the future will be better, this has an effect on the mentality of society and consequently on the behaviour of its members. Hope is a key emotion in the human psyche. Individuals and societies that have hope are mentally more resilient to crises and obstacles and more successful in achieving their goals.
|Jan/Feb 2022*||August 2022*|
|1 Definitely better||5,4 %||2,1 %|
|2 Much better||8,3 %||3,7 %|
|3 Rather better||31,2 %||20,0 %|
|4 Rather worse||27,4 %||33,4 %|
|5 Much worse||10,8 %||19,8 %|
|6 Definitely worse||8,2 %||13,8 %|
|Sum on scale 4 – 6||46,4 %||67 %**|
The belief that society is progressing and the next generation will be better off is one of the main drivers and the source of the sense of community. If a large proportion of people do not believe that their children will be better off, frustration rises and the demand for change to arrange this grows.
At the same time, the incentive to cooperate on broader and more abstract projects (which are almost all more complex projects at a higher than communal level - from participation in elections, to a willingness to submit to the system of impersonal justice that underpins the judiciary, to ecological considerations) decreases, and the emphasis on the physical and material security of the immediate neighbourhood increases.
This can have both positive and negative effects.
The positive effect tends to be a society-wide upheaval that attempts to remove the source of these frustrations in a constructive way.
The negative effect may be that the population is more easily manipulated by a leader who promises a solution to the situation - but instead of a solution, only delivers emotional reassurance which, over time, when society understands that a real solution has not been delivered, will only reinforce the frustration of the population. At worst, this leads to an upward spiral of growing frustration and ever more radical solutions offered by ever more populist leaders.
The loss of hope is particularly dangerous for societies with low cohesion and without an overarching narrative (metanarrative) and a strong collective identity. In larger groups, these help to cement the group and, even in the event of an erosion of hope, to hold it together. In a society losing hope, lacking a collective identity and a common narrative, groups and individuals begin to ask themselves why they should sacrifice something for the community if they feel nothing onwards the community, and not opt for an alternative - e.g. physical or mental migration (enclosing oneself in one's 'social bubble', where one has essentially mentally abandoned one's community or country, even though one physically lives in it).
Slovak collective identity is one of the weakest in Europe, often the most shared part of Slovak identity is victimhood ("the Hungarians oppressed us, the Czechs didn't give us enough, Brussels is ordering us around,...") rather than a positive shared experience ("this is what we have accomplished together!"). Even key historical events for Slovakia are often more a source of disputes than unity (the wartime Slovak state, the Slovak National Uprising, the fall of the previous regime).
This issue is closely intertwined with the issue of social cohesion and the feeling of control over life (the so-called "Individual Agency").
It should be noted that the dominant emotion in Europe has not been hope for some time - in this sense Slovakia is not in a unique situation, although it is at a disadvantage compared to most other European countries because of its weaker cohesion and identity.
On the other hand, our country is not facing some of the biggest pressures facing Western European countries today, such as the integration of larger groups of migrants from the 2015-2016 refugee crisis, or major changes in the ethnic composition of the population, which always pose a challenge to a country's cohesion, although they also bring opportunities.
Paradoxically, some of Europe's most optimistic residents are some of its newest inhabitants. Many migrants describe amazement at the prosperity and order that prevails in Europe. Several of the 149 Assyrian migrants from Iraq who were granted humanitarian visas by Slovakia in 2015, when they first arrived in Slovakia, described their amazement at how the buses actually followed the same route to where they were supposed to go - and even arrived virtually always on time.
The most optimistic country in Europe today is - Ukraine (6.4 points on a 7-point scale). Again, this seems paradoxical. Perhaps this is a side effect of defiance and a stubborn effort to defend itself, which seems to have led to the building of a strong collective identity and a declared strong optimism for the future. As of March 2023, there are around 70,000 Ukrainians actually residing in the territory of the Slovak Republic, and most have brought their optimism with them.
Sometimes it is people from outside our own community who can help us to appreciate what we already have and not to focus only on what is not working as we want it to.
* January and February 2022 collection was part of the 7th wave of the World Value Survey (representative survey, 1,200 respondents); August collection was part of the omnibus collected by FOCUS (representative survey, 1,000 respondents). The DEKK Institute's intention was to examine shifts in some indicators following the invasion of Ukraine by the Russian Federation troops, which had a significant impact on the social atmosphere. August was chosen as the invasion was fresh in the memory, but emotions were not as turbulent and the situation as opaque as in the first weeks.
** The DEKK Institute, meanwhile, uses measurements from the World Value Survey. But the difference from the summer of 2022 is more than 20%, so very significant. We will repeat the measurement again in the summer of 2023, which will help answer the question of whether the increase in question is more of an emotional surge reflecting the events of the spring and summer of 2022 (a combination of crises ranging from the invasion of Ukraine to energy shortage concerns in the winter of 2022/2023 to the rising cost of living), or a new longer-term sentiment.
Gallup Global Emotions 2022 Report
Gallup Global Emotions 2021 Report
Gallup Global Emotions 2020 Report
Fredrickson, B.L. et al., Open Hearts Build Lives: Positive Emotions, Induced Through Loving-Kindness Meditation, Build Consequential Personal Resources, Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 2008, vol. 95, pp. 1045–1062. doi: 10.1037/a0013262
Rating Group, Seventeenth national survey: identity, patriotism, values, 17-18. August 2022, https://ratinggroup.ua/en/research/ukraine/s_mnadcyate_zagalnonac_onalne_opituvannya_dentichn_st_patr_otizm_c_nnost_17-18_serpnya_2022.html
TREND, Slovenský pracovný trh doteraz absorboval 24-tisíc odídencov z Ukrajiny, povedal minister Káčer, 30. Marec 2023, https://www.trend.sk/spravy/slovensky-pracovny-trh-doteraz-absorboval-24-tisic-odidencov-ukrajiny-povedal-minister-kacer
YouGov, Britain's mood, measured weekly, April 2023, https://yougov.co.uk/topics/science/trackers/britains-mood-measured-weekly
World Value Survey, Wave 2, 1990
World Value Survey, Wave 3, 1998
World Value Survey, Wave 7, 2022