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*“Socialism needs to pull down wealth; liberalism seeks to raise up poverty. Socialism would destroy private interests, Liberalism would preserve [them] … by reconciling them with public right. Socialism would kill enterprise; Liberalism would rescue enterprise from the trammels of privilege and preference. Socialism assails the preeminence of the individual; Liberalism seeks … to build up a minimum standard for the mass. Socialism exalts the rule; Liberalism exalts the man. Socialism attacks capitalism; Liberalism attacks monopoly.” ― Winston S. Churchill
Eastern and Western Europeans Differ on Importance of Religion, Views of Minorities, and Key Social Issues
People in Central and Eastern Europe are less accepting of Muslims and Jews, same-sex marriage, and legal abortion
- The Iron Curtain that once divided Europe may be long gone, but the continent today is split by stark differences in public attitudes toward religion, minorities and social issues such as gay marriage and legal abortion.
- Compared with Western Europeans, fewer Central and Eastern Europeans would welcome Muslims or Jews into their families or neighborhoods, extend the right of marriage to gay or lesbian couples or broaden the definition of national identity to include people born outside their country.
These differences emerge from a series of surveys conducted by Pew Research Center between 2015 and 2017 among nearly 56,000 adults (ages 18 and older) in 34 Western, Central and Eastern European countries, and they continue to divide the continent more than a decade after the European Union began to expand well beyond its Western European roots to include, among others, the Central European countries of Poland and Hungary, and the Baltic states of Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania.
- The continental divide in attitudes and values can be extreme in some cases. For example, in nearly every Central and Eastern European country polled, fewer than half of adults say they would be willing to accept Muslims into their family; in nearly every Western European country surveyed, more than half say they would accept a Muslim into their family. A similar divide emerges between Central/Eastern Europe and Western Europe with regard to accepting Jews into one’s family.
- In a separate question, Western Europeans also are much more likely than their Central and Eastern European counterparts to say they would accept Muslims in their neighborhoods.
- For example, 83% of Finns say they would be willing to accept Muslims as neighbors, compared with 55% of Ukrainians. And although the divide is less stark, Western Europeans are more likely to express acceptance toward Jews in their neighborhoods as well.
Defining the boundaries of Eastern and Western Europe
The definition and boundaries of Central, Eastern and Western Europe can be debated. No matter where the lines are drawn, however, there are strong geographic patterns in how people view religion, national identity, minorities and key social issues. Particularly sharp differences emerge when comparing attitudes in countries historically associated with Eastern vs. Western Europe.
In countries that are centrally located on the continent, prevailing attitudes may align with popular opinions in the East on some issues, while more closely reflecting Western public sentiment on other matters. For instance, Czechs are highly secular, generally favor same-sex marriage and do not associate Christianity with their national identity, similar to most Western Europeans.
But Czechs also express low levels of acceptance toward Muslims, more closely resembling their neighbors in the East. And most Hungarians say that being born in their country and having Hungarian ancestry are important to being truly Hungarian – a typically Eastern European view of national identity. Yet, at the same time, only about six-in-ten Hungarians believe in God, reflecting Western European levels of belief.
In some other cases, Central European countries fall between the East and the West. Roughly half of Slovaks, for example, say they favor same-sex marriage, and a similar share say they would accept Muslims in their family – lower shares than in most Western European countries, but well above their neighbors in the East. And still others simply lean toward the East on most issues, as Poland does on views of national identity and Muslims, as well as same-sex marriage and abortion.
Researchers included Poland, the Czech Republic, Slovakia, Hungary, the Baltics and the Balkans as part of “Central and Eastern Europe” because all these countries were part of the Soviet sphere of influence in the 20th century.
Although Greece was not part of the Eastern bloc, it is categorized in Central and Eastern Europe because of both its geographical location and its public attitudes, which are more in line with Eastern than Western Europe on the issues covered in this report. For example, most Greeks say they are not willing to accept Muslims in their families; three-quarters consider being Orthodox Christian important to being truly Greek; and nearly nine-in-ten say Greek culture is superior to others. East Germany is another unusual case; it was part of the Eastern bloc, but is now included in Western Europe as part of a reunified Germany.
Attitudes toward religious minorities in the region go hand in hand with differing conceptions of national identity. When they were in the Soviet Union’s sphere of influence, many Central and Eastern European countries officially kept religion out of public life. But today, for most people living in the former Eastern bloc, being Christian (whether Catholic or Orthodox) is an important component of their national identity.
In Western Europe, by contrast, most people don’t feel that religion is a major part of their national identity. In France and the United Kingdom, for example, most say it is not important to be Christian to be truly French or truly British.
To be sure, not every country in Europe neatly falls into this pattern. For example, in the Baltic states of Latvia and Estonia, the vast majority of people say being Christian (specifically Lutheran) is not important to their national identity. Still, relatively few express willingness to accept Muslims as family members or neighbors.
But a general East-West pattern is also apparent on at least one other measure of nationalism: cultural chauvinism. The surveys asked respondents across the continent whether they agree with the statement, “Our people are not perfect, but our culture is superior to others.” While there are exceptions, Central and Eastern Europeans overall are more inclined to say their culture is superior. The eight countries where this attitude is most prevalent are all geographically in the East: Greece, Georgia, Armenia, Bulgaria, Russia, Bosnia, Romania and Serbia.
People in Central and Eastern Europe also are more likely than Western Europeans to say being born in their country and having family background there are important to truly share the national identity (e.g., to be truly Romanian; see here.).
YOUTUBE: at how Eastern Europe is leading the nationalist cause and why we should put our own movement’s problems into perspective.
The publication is not an editorial. It reflects solely the point of view and argumentation of the author. The publication is presented in the presentation. Start in the previous issue. The original is available at: Way of the World