CIVIC EMPOWERMENT INDEX 2022

The Civic Empowerment Index research carried out at the end of 2022 showed that Lithuanian society continues to be actively involved in civic activities, especially in helping Ukraine and Ukrainians suffering from war. Two thirds of Lithuanians have contributed in one way or another to this cause. However, despite this high level of activity, the overall Civic Empowerment Index for 2022 has declined.

Public civic engagement, although down from the very high levels of engagement in the pandemic year 2020, remains very high compared to the pre-pandemic period. In 2022, 46% of respondents reported having made a donation to improve their society, 39% had participated in environmental clean-ups and 31% in local community activities. More respondents than at any time since 2007 (when the Civic Empowerment Index was launched) said they boycotted (27%) or bought (23%) for moral or political reasons, took part in social organisations and movements (14%), or took part in a demonstration, support action, rally or picket (13%).

The survey showed that two-thirds of Lithuanians have contributed in one way or another to support Ukraine or Ukrainians. Most (58%) did so by donating money or goods. Almost 10% of respondents volunteered in helping organisations or cared for Ukrainians personally. The level of support for Ukraine and Ukrainians is higher in large cities, among higher income groups, and in more highly educated populations.

Despite this high level of civic engagement, the overall Civic Empowerment Index for 2022 has declined. The index measures the public’s actual and potential participation, perception of its influence and assessment of the risks associated with civic engagement. The estimated average value, 35.9 out of 100, is below the record highs seen in both 2020 and 2019 (41.3 and 39.7 respectively).

The main contributor to this change compared to the first pandemic year of 2020 is the decline in potential civic engagement: an increase in the number of people who do not know what they would do in the event of a political, economic, or local problem, and a decrease in the proportion of those who would actively take action in such situations. In the case of a local problem, 67% of respondents say they would take action, compared to 47% in the case of an economic problem, 37% in the case of a political problem and 55% in the case of a security problem (2022).

Compared to 2020, people’s belief in the power of the public to influence important decisions in public life – civic influence – has also decreased. On a ten-point scale, the assessment of the influence of ordinary people dropped by 0.6 points, while the assessment of the influence of the media dropped by 0.5 points. At the same time, public authorities have regained the influence that was “numbed” in the eyes of the population during the pandemic – for example, the influence attributed to members of the Seimas increased by 0.8 points, while the influence of mayors, municipal councils, and “officials” increased by 0.5 points each. Correspondingly, personal influence on decisions of importance to society as a whole was rated by respondents in the 2022 survey at 3.0, by ordinary people at 3.2, by NGOs, public organisations and communities at 5.1 and by the media at 6.4. The highest scores were given to the influence of members of the Seimas (8.6), the President (8.3) and civil servants (8.0).

Risks associated with civic engagement were higher in 2022 than in previous years as well. The risk of being suspected of selfishness; being perceived as a weirdo; being verbally attacked, being slandered, being subjected to group bullying, or being subjected to attempts to undermine one’s authority, are seen as likely by 63%, 59% and 58% respectively. 47% would also see the risk of losing their job, and the risk of threats of reprisals would be seen as equally likely.

The opinion of the Lithuanian population on the protests and support actions that have taken place in recent years also was asked in the survey. The majority of respondents (67%) expressed their support for the ideas behind the Ukraine support actions (e.g. “Freedom Shines”). The Big Family Defence March, which took place in Vilnius Vingis Park in May 2021 and the protests in Vilnius against the COVID-19 management measures strongly differentiated the population, with about one third of the respondents indicating support and the same proportion indicating non-support for the ideas behind these protests. The Baltic Pride marches organised by the LGBTQ+ community in Vilnius in 2022 or Kaunas in 2021 were the least supported, with only 11% of respondents supporting and as many as 66% indicating that they did not support the Baltic Pride ideas.

Analysis of the support for protest ideas reveals that people who support the LGBTQ+ community’s Baltic Pride march are less likely to support the protests of the Big Family Defence March and the protests against the COVID-19 governance measures, and vice versa. Older residents (50+), those living in rural areas and smaller towns, those with less education (secondary and lower education), those with lower incomes (up to €700) were more likely to support the ideas of the Big Family Defence March and the protests against the measures taken to control COVID-19.

Despite differences in values and ideology, Lithuanians support the civil rights enshrined in the Constitution and agree that all these actions have the right to take place. It is worth noting that the strongest support for this statement came from those respondents who had the strongest attitudes towards supporting or not supporting specific protest ideas.

The Civic Empowerment Index 2022 survey showed that if Lithuania was attacked by another country, 50% of Lithuanians are ready to defend Lithuania with weapons or other means, 13% are likely to leave Lithuania, 15% would stay away, and the remaining 22% did not know or did not answer how they would act in such a situation. There was a fairly clear gender difference in the answers to this question, with men being much more likely to defend the country with arms, while women were more likely to stay away or withdraw from Lithuania. There are also marked differences by age: people over 60 are less likely to defend Lithuania with arms or to withdraw from the country and more likely to stay away. There is almost no difference between age groups in their willingness to defend the country in other ways.

The level of people’s civic power is clearly linked to their willingness to defend the country: those who would go to defend Lithuania by arms or other means have a civic power index score of 44, those who would leave Lithuania or who are unsure of their actions have an average civic power index score of around 30, and those who would stay away have the lowest civic power index score of around 24.

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More about the results of the Civic Empowerment Index 2022 research:

Summary of research results (pdf);
Presentation slides (pdf, in Lithuanian).

Ministry of Social Security and Labour of the Republic of Lithuania financed the Lithuanian Civic Empowerment Index 2022 research. Representative survey of the Lithuanian population was carried out by the public opinion and market research centre “Vilmorus”.

More about the Civic Empowerment Index Research.