Moldovans socialize less, while acceptance of vulnerable groups depends on the social closeness to them

June 26, 2024

The crises that Moldova has faced recently, from the pandemic to the refugee influx, have affected people's trust in each other. While most Moldovans would accept neighbours of different ethnicities, there is still reluctance towards alcohol and drug users, LGBTIQ+ individuals, people living with HIV, former prisoners, and people with mental disabilities. These are some of the conclusions of the 2024 study on perceptions and attitudes towards equality.

Such studies are conducted every three years, with the first edition initiated in 2015 with the support of UNDP. The 2024 research was conducted by IMAS, in collaboration with the Equality Council, supported by the Government of Japan through the United Nations Trust Fund for Human Security, as part of a UNDP project. The study was carried out from 25 March to 17 May 2024, on a sample of 1100 people over the age of 18. The margin of error is ±3.0%.

The research evaluates the attitudes and perceptions of the population towards different vulnerable and marginalized groups in Moldova. To ensure that measurements are comparable both nationally and internationally, the social distance scale was used (one of the most used methods to measure a person's willingness to accept members of a social group), along with many other indicators present in similar studies. The survey and focus group techniques were used to obtain both quantitative and qualitative data about respondents' attitudes and perceptions. The use of the same questions and response scales was intended to ensure the consistency of the collected data, to observe social dynamics both with studies conducted in Moldova and those conducted in other European countries.

The multidimensional crises that have affected Moldova—economic, energy, refugee influx—have led to low trust in people, with 9 out of 10 respondents stating that one must be careful in relationships with others. The same trend is observed in Albania, Georgia, and Armenia. Only one in three interviewees trusts their neighbours, and 9 out of 10 are sceptical when meeting someone new, needing time to accept others. On average, respondents can discuss personal topics with two people in their entourage. The level of sociability is comparatively lower than in the European Union.

According to the study, the majority of respondents would accept as neighbours people from various vulnerable groups: people who speak a different language (79%), people with physical disabilities (76%), people of a different religion (69%), refugees from Ukraine (66%), people of a different race (63%), and less so LGBTIQ+ people (17%), alcohol consumers (16%), and drug users (7%). Among ethnic groups, the lowest acceptance is for Roma (40%) and people from African countries (47%).

Comparing the 2024 data with that from 2015 – 2021, we see a relative increase in acceptance levels for most groups and a return of trust levels in Muslims, Roma, Jews, and people from African countries. However, the acceptance level of people dependent on alcohol, drugs, and those with mental and intellectual disabilities has decreased.

Regarding gender equality, the study finds that the majority prioritize men’s presence in the labour market, with 7 out of 10 interviewees believing that women actually seek family fulfilment, although they can have a job. However, every second person considers that women can be leaders in politics. The legitimacy of women as political leaders is moderate, similar to Estonia, Serbia, Romania, and Poland.

The survey also shows that people are concerned about the living conditions of the seriously ill and people with disabilities (83%), older people (79%), the unemployed (43%), and refugees from Ukraine (34%).

Opinions on the integration of people with mental and intellectual disabilities are divided. Half of the respondents believe they should be integrated into society and two-thirds believe that society has the responsibility to provide them with adequate living conditions or that they should be placed in specialized institutions.

Regarding people with physical disabilities, respondents believe that employers should provide special jobs for them (84%) and society has the responsibility to ensure they have adequate living conditions (66%).

Respondents were asked their opinions on LGBTIQ+ individuals. Every second person believes that LGBTIQ+ people should have equal access to goods and services, but only a little over a third support equal right. Additionally, 9 out of 10 respondents support strengthening the role of the traditional family through law.

Regarding people living with HIV, two-thirds believe they should go to separate doctors. A significant percentage of undecided responses in questions about equal access to schools, medical institutions, and public transport indicates a need for information in this field.

Most respondents believe in the negative stereotypes attributed to Roma. However, 8 out of 10 people are open to accepting Roma children in schools.

The attitude towards refugees from Ukraine is moderately reserved, with 36% believing that Moldova should accept them all.

To increase the level of social cohesion and acceptance of vulnerable groups, the study recommends:

  • Developing and promoting policies that support the active participation of vulnerable groups in all aspects of social and economic life.
  • Ensuring that all forms of discrimination are sanctioned.
  • Promoting intercultural and intracommunity dialogue.
  • Implementing programmes that provide economic and social support to vulnerable groups, such as vocational training, medical assistance, and affordable housing.
  • Promoting diversity and inclusion in workplaces through policies and practices that support the employment and professional development of people from vulnerable groups.
  • Conducting awareness campaigns that promote diversity and combat stereotypes and prejudices.