Volunteering represents the most popular form of civic engagement, unless holding a political office, according to UNDP study

May 29, 2024

The higher the interest in socio-political life and the level of civic activism are, the greater the citizens' trust in public institutions is. While nine out of ten people think it is important to be honest, responsible, independent, and useful to the community, just every second person thinks it is important to engage in volunteering, every third believes it is important to be active in politics and only a quarter considers it important to participate in civic actions such as protests and petitioning public authorities. Readiness to hold political office is low, with only 4% of the population strongly expressing a desire to do so. Furthermore, 67% of Moldovans would not want to hold political office.

These are some of the findings of the sociological study assessing knowledge gaps in the electoral field and the level of civic engagement, presented on 29 May 2024. The research was carried out by the Centre of Sociological, Politological and Psychological Analysis and Investigations CIVIS, within the "Enhancing democracy in Moldova through inclusive and transparent elections” project, implemented by UNDP, with the financial support of the British Embassy in Chișinău and the United States Agency for International Development (USAID).

The research included face-to-face at-home interviews with a nationally representative sample of 1,158 people in 160 localities. An additional sample of 192 Roma and 157 people with disabilities were interviewed. The estimated margin of error is 3%. For the qualitative research component, focus groups with 45 participants were organized. Data was collected between 27 October and 30 December 2023.

According to the survey, the general population scored 6 out of 10 points in terms of average level of awareness of politics and current events, people with disabilities scored 5.7 points, and Roma people scored 5.2 points, indicating a moderate level. People showing low levels of interest are particularly those belonging to groups with low levels of education (37%), low income (29%), ethnic minorities (30%), civically inactive individuals (34%), and those with low trust in public institutions and the media (28%).

88% of respondents are determined to take part in elections, believing that their vote matters. The top three barriers to participation in elections, almost equally popular, are: skepticism about changes for the better in government policy (27%), being abroad (26%), and lack of interest (23%).

The least trusted institutions are political parties (66%), the justice system (64%), the Parliament (60%), and the Government (59%). At the same time, the church (65%) and local public authorities (52%) are among the most trusted institutions. 

People with low-trust in institutions are mostly from the South (78%) and North (76%), from groups with low levels of education and income (75%), and from ethnic minorities (88%).

Every second adult respondent in the overall sample supports the idea that democracy is the most appropriate system of government for Moldova. In the category of strong supporters of democracy, the majority are highly educated, urban inhabitants, residents of the South, people with medium and high incomes, those showing high interest in social and political life, civically active individuals, and those showing high levels of trust in state institutions and the media.

Nine out of ten people believe that young people should be involved and represented in political life in Moldova and they advocate for equal involvement of women in politics.

Additionally, almost every second respondent considers themselves moderately or insufficiently informed about the electoral process in terms of five aspects measured: voting procedure, candidates and electoral programs, voting conditions, and involvement in the organization of elections. The lowest level of knowledge pertains to the right to request a mobile ballot box and the possibility to vote online. 69% of respondents say they know about the possibility to check their data at the polling station, but only about a third know that they can also do this online.

People's most popular channels of information are news and TV programs (used almost weekly), friends/neighbors, and family. One in ten respondents do not watch TV news and programs or communicate about current events with friends/neighbors and family. Every fourth person does not use social media or online news portals at all. Every second respondent does not listen to news on the radio, and two-thirds do not read newspapers.

The civically inactive population accounts for 52% of the adult population. The population with a low level of civic activity has a share of 11%, 19% have a moderate level of civic activity and 18% have a high level of civic activity. For three-quarters of respondents, volunteering is the most popular form of civic involvement. The least popular form of participation is contributing money or resources to non-governmental organizations or social causes (55%).

Significant differences were identified between the general population on the one hand, and people with disabilities and Roma on the other, on most analyzed aspects. One in three persons with disabilities and Roma people do not use social networks and online media. At the same time, the level of appreciation of the accessibility of information about the electoral process is significantly lower.

To increase the level of civic engagement, especially of under-represented groups, the study recommends:

  • Identifying feasible and practical actions in the short, medium, and long term that would steadily and gradually contribute to increasing citizens' level of interest in social and political life, civic activism, and trust in institutions.
  • Organizing various forms of civic engagement at the community level and stimulating the involvement of residents in these civic activities, with a focus on vulnerable groups in this respect (people with low levels of education and income, young people, ethnic minorities).
  • Ensuring that engagement will have tangible results for participants, as among the main reasons for apathy in civic activism are a lack of confidence in their own strengths and a lack of trust that citizens' participation would have any impact.
  • Organizing activities outside working hours, which is another reason for non-participation in civic actions.
  • Identifying feasible and practical short-, medium-, and long-term actions that directly target vulnerable population groups.