Only one third of citizens believe in free elections in BiH

Only one third of citizens believe in free elections in BiH

According to the recent poll “The media and citizens in elections”, only one third of BiH citizens believe that elections in the country are free and fair, the other two third don’t believe in fairness of elections but 86 percent of participants in the poll said they were never involved in or witnessed electoral irregularities.

These findings are included in the results of a public opinion poll presented at Thursday in Sarajevo on the theme of “Media and citizens in elections”, conducted by BORAM and the BiH Journalists’ Association in cooperation with the Ipsos agency for the “Pod lupom” Coalition.

This does not mean that election irregularities do not exist, but may indicate instead that citizens do not know how to recognize irregularities – which means in turn that citizens have to be better educated in this respect. Those who do identify and report irregularities are mostly educated and come from higher-income categories. Two-thirds of respondents said they would report electoral fraud, and of these a quarter said they would do this anonymously.

The survey shows that citizens frequently vote for the same political option and only a small proportion choose candidates based on results delivered. For young people, the Internet is the most credible source of news, while population aged 50+ rely on television for information. Most respondents say they do not trust anyone, and most are not interested in politics.

The research was conducted on a sample of 1,006 respondents aged 18 and above throughout BiH using Computer Assisted Telephone Interviewing. Among those who participated, 52 percent were women and 48 percent were men; education levels varied.

On the issue of interest in politics, a very high number (about 53 percent) of respondents said they were absolutely uninterested. A preponderance of these respondents are in the low income and low education category. Of the 1 006 respondents, 21 percent said they did not vote in the last local elections (2016). Among those who voted (79%) there is a significantly lower share of young people (18 to 29).

As it was said at presentation, the survey also touched on choice of political options and it was concluded that as many as 17 percent of respondents always vote for the same political party or candidate. This is most common among those in the lowest income and education categories. Only one fifth of respondents base their choice of who to vote for on personal acquaintance with a candidate or on results that the candidate has delivered. Young people attribute considerable importance to results that have been delivered by candidates and also on candidates’ biographies. A fewer  number of respondents base their decision on the programs of political parties rather than on the profiles of individual candidates. Of those surveyed, 90 percent said they are against the selling of votes in return for money or some other type of reward or service.

Discussion programs and those that bring competing candidates face to face attract better educated middle-aged respondents, while young people prefer political analysis and information presented through press releases and press conferences as a basis for selecting political options.

The “Pod lupom” Coalition and the BiH Central Election Commission are trusted most by citizens in election periods, though it may be a source of concern that a fifth of those surveyed said they do not trust anyone.

As for possible mechanisms to ensure greater transparency in the electoral process, and ultimately reduce manipulation, young males with a secondary education said this could be achieved by using ballot scanners or transparent ballot boxes. Women said the most appropriate way of ensuring greater transparency is to strengthen financial controls on political parties./IBNA