Собствено Търсене

TRUST AND WELL-BEING:bulgarian case in a comparative perspective

Nikolai Tilkidjiev



      The prevailing conclusions of sociologists and political scientists regarding the latest parliamentary elections in Bulgaria, those of July 5, 2009, are that the voters have unequivocally and categorically credited the new political formation “GERB”(CEDB) [1] with confidence for a mandate in government. The subsequent steps of the new government are yet to be commented, but certainly this electoral success was likewise a “punishing vote” against the previous government and the result of widespread popular discontent with the quality of life, the level of people’s well-being and prosperity, an expression of widespread mistrust in the previous administration and the official government institutions. As we will see further below, survey data fully explain the obtained election results. The complete picture of the explanation for this vote must naturally include a number of additional aspects, such as the all-encompassing corruption of government institutions under that administration, the pro-national vote arising in response to the lack of a consistent state national doctrine or policy on ethnic issues, the cynical attitudes of certain party leaders while they were in power, etc. But what remains essential in the conclusions drawn from this small segment is this: the exceptional importance of trust in social life, its actual force as an invisible power, and the importance of trust in social relations, how decisive public loss of trust can be with regard to what the government has done for the people to improve their quality of life, to enable them to live better today than yesterday, to see better prospects for their lives and for developments in society.

Together with this, election success holds risks; it would be short-lived if the messages sent by the voters are not correctly interpreted. It is not at all accidental that Bulgarian citizens have a sustained and exceptionally low level of assessment of their well-being and quality of life compared with all other EU member-states, as shown, among others, by the authoritative European Social Survey, conducted in Bulgaria in 2006 and 2009. According to data from various international surveys carried out since the early 1990s and until the present, Bulgarians have, overall, the lowest level of satisfaction of all EU countries, and the lowest satisfaction with the work of the main state institutions. Typical for us Bulgarians is pessimism, not optimism: fewest are the people in Bulgaria that would call themselves “satisfied”, “happy”, “successful”; the horizons of our future seem the most restricted, in our country people have the lowest degree of trust in institutions and in other people. The low, or, frankly speaking, bad, quality of life induces us to “close” ourselves to the outside, to mistrust not only the state institutions but also the people that surround us, suspecting they mean to cheat us. Bulgarian society has turned into a low-trusted society – as displeasing as this may be to our patriotic self-esteem. Obviously, whatever government is willing to face this state of society, of public opinion, of individuals, and to undertake bringing some order and setting some priorities, will be tackling serious challenges; hence political determination and will for change are of prime importance. People voted for Mr. Boyko Borisov[2] precisely because they saw in him just such a will and determination.

Further below I will attempt to show: 1) why most people in Bulgaria feel they are “at the bottom” and to what degree they feel the quality of their life, of their well-being, is too low; 2) what is the degree of trust among Bulgarian citizens in other people (the so-called social or interpersonal trust) and in official institutions (designated as “political trust”); 3) How we should interpret and measure trust viewed in a general European and a Bulgarian context, how trust is dependent on quality of life and on well-being? 4) What the causes are of Bulgarians’ fears which impact on their unsatisfactory self-evaluations; 5) “Where are we?” as compared with other EU countries on the scales for self-assessment of trust and well-being. The answers to these questions can facilitate the search for better variants of perspectives on well-being and trust for Bulgarian citizens.

All the following reasoning is based primarily on the data from two surveys representative for the adult population, both conducted within the general methodological framework of the ESS and in comparison, firstly, as regards the time of the survey, with the data for Bulgaria in 2009 as compared with those for 2006, secondly, in an international aspect, in comparison with other EU member-states[3]. Regarding some separate questions, I make comparisons with the answers for other important international comparative surveys conducted in Bulgaria, such as the two successive waves of the European Quality of Life Survey-EQLS (2003 and 2007)[4], the European Values Study - EVS (2008)[5], and the two research modules of the International Social Survey Programme ISSP (2008)[6]. Thus, we can say that the empirical basis for the following discussion is quite sufficient.


1. Why are we “at the bottom”?


The low assessment of their personal well-being and quality of life is not just one more “catastrophic” picture of the situation of people in our country, but has been entirely drawn in closely following the data from the above-mentioned empirical surveys, starting with those from the 1990s and including the latest ones. There are many facts confirming the assessment that, as regards the basic social indicators, Bulgaria is indeed “at the bottom” in the EU. This low position and extreme pessimism have long ceased to be news and have become a permanent characteristic of Bulgarians’ self-assessment regarding the development of their society in the last 20 years. Let us try to go “behind the data” and explain the deeper causes for this continuous Bulgarian dissatisfaction and discontent.

Various attempts have been previously made to explain this negative and pessimistic self-assessment and the “lack of faith and mistrust among Bulgarians, their low self-confidence. Here it would be fitting to sum up some of the most often used lines of explanation and discussion, for this situation goes back far enough in time and there are certainly not one but many different reasons, grounds for it. The usual analytic explanatory framework of the “exceptional Bulgarian negativism and pessimism” includes emphases, or combination of emphases, on:

·        The hard legacy of the communist past;

·        The role played by, and the reproduction of, the former secret services;

·        The transformation of the nomenklatura from a political into an economic elite;

·        The lack of radical de-communization;

·        The old link with, and dependence on, Russia;

·        The disadvantageous new relations with the West, USA, NATO, and the EU;

·        The unsuccessful reforms in the course of post-communist changes;

·        The lack of clear and longsighted national priorities;

·        The disadvantageous attitudes in the national psychology and mentality;

·        The objective difficulties, the lack of inner material resources;

·        Subjective mistakes of the various governments;

·        The non-transparent and unfair privatization;

·        The over-hasty liquidation of agricultural production;

·        The inconsistent policy towards the basic ethnic minorities;

·        Corruption at all levels of management and administration;

·        The ties of state power with organized crime;

·        The criminalization and mafiotization of the post-communist transition;

·        The lack of powerful political leaders, of politicians with a sense of responsibility to the nation;



It could hardly be disputed that, as regards the unsuccessful development of our country, including the overall low quality of life of Bulgarians and their mistrust in other people and institutions, most or even all of the listed factors have played a certain role. Evidently what we are dealing with is not a bleak outlook, a distorted perception of the people assessing, is not what would almost amount to a socially pathological “super-fixation” on the negative aspects, on the failure of Bulgarian citizens. What we have is facts registered using various methodological tools, from various research perspectives, in various time spans during the last approximately twenty years. It is thus a question of agreement and of selected context which factors and causes will be focused on in the analysis as decisive and crucial for the failures that occurred during the post-communist transition in Bulgaria.


2.Quality of life - well-being - trust: the European doctrine


In order to delve deeper into the problem field of trust, to understand its nature and its empirical indicators, in a comparative European aspect at that, it proves especially fruitful to set a “coordinate system” in the context of the very broad concept of “quality of life”. There are three basic dimensions of the generic concept of quality of life: 1) the objective living conditions, including living standard, 2) the subjective well-being, including the cognitive component of self-assessment as to “degree of satisfaction” with life overall and its most important aspects and areas (healthcare, education, employment and economy, family and community life, leisure, etc.), the emotional component: the self-assessment of one’s achieved level of “happiness”, respectively of anxiety about life; 3) the societal quality of life, referring to the indicators of cohesion and sustainability, in following the discussions, especially, of Wolfgang Zapf, Heinz-Herbert Noll, Ruut Veenhoven, and their colleagues: Veenhoven 2000, 2003; Noll 2002.[7] The key distinctions here are between the objective and subjective aspects of quality of life, between the individual level of a separate person and the societal level, that of society as a whole, as well as between the cognitive, emotional, and evaluation aspects.[8]

Well-being is a subjective feeling of satisfaction harbored by the individual, his/her self-perception of the degree to which his/her quality of life, well-being, and prosperity are good or very good, to which his/her personal and family living standard is good, to which relations with the people around him/her are good, the conditions, achievements, and prospects of his life and work are satisfactory. Although it is a feeling and self-definition at the individual level, it is directly and indirectly connected with the objective life conditions (the assessment of which is part of well-being itself) and with the individual’s appraisal of the state of society, the general quality of life of society, the latter’s stability, security, sustainability, cohesion, integratedness. More concretely, well-being is a subjective self-perception of the person as to how successful he/she has been in life, both in terms of interiorized objective social conditions of one’s life and as a perceived balance between work and family life (partner, children, friends, relatives), and of satisfaction with what has been achieved, with the security and prospects for today and for tomorrow.

The role of well-being grows in importance in the “post-materialistic postmodern world (in the sense of the term used by R. Inglehart), where the stress is on “individual freedom and self-expression, not so much on wages and material acquirements as on quality of life and personal relationships, on participation and self-definition, freedom and community;… the more people come close to material satisfaction, the less they attach importance to it and the more they turn to the non-material values, to the quality of life and self-expression, …satisfaction with work, self-realization, participation, and environment protection” (Kaase and Newton 2003: 55, 104)[9].

According to the new European view, a synthetic manifestation of the subjective emotional evaluation of well-being is people’s feeling of happiness – how happy they feel when summing up their lives. According to this generalized indicator, Bulgarians self-assessment indicates they are the least happy of all Europeans, according to the data of ESS-2009. The comparison is ambiguous in an international comparative aspect. People in Bulgaria feel even less happy than Russians, whose standard of living could hardly be considered worse (this suggests that there is no direct correlation between well-being and objective life conditions).   Incomparably higher (almost 2-3 times) is the subjective feeling of happiness in the old member-states of EU (France, Germany, UK, Spain, Belgium), and nearly 4 times happier than the Bulgarians are the Scandinavians (Denmark, Finland, Norway, Sweden).

Trust is also an important part, aspect of well-being, of the general feeling of satisfaction. The specifics of trust can be reduced to the following four aspects:

·        Connectedness-integratedness. Trust is the support structure of legitimacy of social relationships, it plays the role of “social magnet”, “social glue”, connecting people to each other and to other communities and institutions. Without trust there is no connection, cohesion, solidarity, and integratedness in society. As Georg Simmel pointed out, trust is one of the most important synthesizing, cohesive forces in society.

·        Reliance-predictability. Trust is to have confidence in someone or something; if confidence means accepting ideas and values, trust is “con-fiding”, i.e. imparting a subject-object direction to confidence – in and toward an individual, community, institution. Trust is to rely on someone (a person, community, institution), on his/her promises and agreements concluded – being confident in the performance of assumed commitments, that a given conduct and performance of certain social roles is adequate, relevant, predictable; all this makes social relationships and cooperation possible and predictable on the basis of shared, mutual interests and dependency (to paraphrase Max Weber).

·        Security-care. Trust means being sure with regard to the other or others, not suspecting others might deceive you, beguile you, double-cross, take advantage of you, betray you. Trust is being convinced that a person, people, a community, institutions are interested in you, consider you and your problems positively, that they take care of you. Trust is to recognize a person, a community, an institution as being “good”, “just”, “correct”, “normal”, acting in accordance with your positive expectations or the expectations of your reference environment. It is being able to share your concerns, problems, ideas, and values, including the intimate details of your life. Without trust, social relationships are perceived as the result of accidental or imposed circumstances, or even as a result of a violation of order, of the accepted norms and standards.

·        Reliability-orderliness. In fact, trust makes our lives more reliable, more secure, more orderly, more coordinated, it creates an overall feeling that there exists and functions a certain recognized and sustainable social order, one with explicit and tacit rules, norms, dependencies, where everyone has a place and role.


I will briefly discuss the core of the views on “trust”[10] proposed by Jan Delhey and Kenneth Newton; a discussion of their views would give greater methodological and empirical coherence and homogeneity to the discussion in this text, for their standpoint and concepts are evidently part of the doctrine underlying the main questionnaire of the ESS (the so-called ‘core module’), whose data we are analyzing in this text.[11]

In an article (Delhey and Newton 2005: 311-327)[12] the authors sum up the findings of surveys in 60 countries and point out that “social trust” is an integral part of the social, cultural, political, and economic conditions, and is defined as the belief, the conviction that others would not intentionally or consciously harm us if they could avoid it, and would look after our interests if they could. High-trust societies are primarily those that have: a prevalent ethnic homogeneity, most often with Protestant religious traditions, with good state management, with considerable economic prosperity (a high GIP) and without large income differentiation. This combination is characteristic for the five Nordic countries, Iceland, Denmark, Sweden, Norway, and Finland, regarding which researchers share the opinion they are exemplary for “enlightened trust”, a concept known since the age of the European Enlightenment (in the sense of Kant’s categorical imperative: man is an exceptionally moral being, with a strong sense of duty, which implies trust), whenever there is enough individual freedom to permit personal self-assessment. The five

Nordic countries are “based on trust; they all benefit from the social economy in a way that is not necessarily based on religious or national forms of trust, and their feeling of stability, sustainability, “transforms trust into an educated, reasonable decision, into “reasonable trust (O’Hara 2004: 8-9, 53)[13]. The same general model is characteristic for the other 55 countries in their quality of post-modern societies, though to a lesser degree and in modified forms. Finally, “rural societies”, i.e. the less industrially developed countries, have generally lower levels of overall trust. These generalizations are fully confirmed by the ESS data from the third (2006) and fourth (2009) waves.

In order to obtain a more thorough idea of the presence or absence of trust, we would require “not only trustworthy people and institutions but also measurable criteria of trust or mistrust ’Hara 2004: 8). These are dimensions and aspects that could be successfully used to establish the causes and factors influencing trust in contemporary societies: economic prosperity (primarily measured by GDP); religious, linguistic and ethnic (including racial) heterogeneity, differences, conflicts[14]; the attained modernization (urbanization, industrialization, life expectancy, educational level of the population); political rights and civic liberties; government expenditure (for healthcare and education as percentages of all social government expenditure); good management (index of political stability and lack of violence: the destabilization caused by ethnic tension, military conflicts, terrorist threats, constitutional changes, fragmentation of the political specter; index of application of the lawblack market, corruption in banks, blue-collar crime, predictability; index of government efficiencyquality of the administration, stability of government);  corruption among government officials (measured by: Corruption Perceptions Index - Transparency International) – assessed by experts from the sphere of business, science, and NGOs; income inequalities; divisions and conflicts in society; incidents related to deaths and suicides in the country; membership and activity in volunteer organizations (syndicates, professional, political, environmental, sport, church, donor, and other such organizations); the predominant religion (Delhey and Newton 2004: 30-33)[15].

As Delhey and Newton explain in one of their studies, three basic forms of trust can be distinguished: partial (personal) -  in small communities; instrumental – based on rational, practical interests; and generalized social trust – related to week but frequent social ties. Hence, there can be various approaches to the study of trust. For a number of authors, such as Luhmann, Bourdieu, Coleman, Giddens, trust is a collective characteristic of social relations and is determined by cultural, community, and social institutions. It is particularly important to interpret trust as based on how people evaluate the society in which they live; in that sense, trust is a collective phenomenon and can be comprehended and explained precisely at the collective level. Trust is the feeling, the sense, the conviction, that we will not be assaulted or become victims of violence in the street, that we will not be cheated when making a purchase in the store, that we will not be exploited at our work, that we will not be treated unfairly by the police, the court of law, or other authorities, that we will not be deceived by politicians or the national elite, and not double-crossed by our neighbours; the confidence that others will probably behave towards us in a positive way, without malice and with shared, mutual interests uniting us. The basic question is what social circumstances engender trust or distrust (For a detailed account, cf, ibid: 28, 4).

In assuming this view as a basis, we should make the generalization that the quality of life, and well-being and trust in particular, are closely connected, directly or indirectly: people with low trust in others and in institutions are most often those with a low level of well-being and prosperity: the low living standard and bad quality of life, the sense of insecurity for their daily existence and that of their family, determine the negative attitudes: suspicion regarding the success and enrichment of others, regarding the risk of being taken advantage of, cheated. Inversely, people with a better quality of life and a higher self-assessment of their well-being are also more optimistic, more sure of their future, look upon the people around them more positively.

Despite this general rule, here too a more special relation between well-being and trust may occur, especially in the East European post-communist context. Under conditions of illegitimate enrichment, the successful people surround themselves with a narrow circle of people highly trusted for their loyalty. The “new rich” and the “new elites” talk about the details of their prosperity only to a very restricted circle of trusted people, with whom they are related or have an informal tie – close relatives and friends; discretion and distrust towards others is a characteristic mark of their social contacts. Only in the narrowest social circle can they share the fine points and secrets of their personal prosperity, such as the “attaché case full of money” that they were given to start a business, or some strange facilitations they enjoy in their business, achieved through lobbying in parliament or thanks to promising contacts and connections with already well-established businesspersons, politicians and other influential people, etc.

Of course, such facts are not susceptible to wide-scale quantitative surveying, including representative surveys. But this model of explanation based on a feeling of lack of social justice is widespread  in the mass consciousness in Bulgaria today. There is in fact a tendency not to recognize success as “fair and square” in its attainment, and denial that it has been achieved through hard work, honestly, in a normal way, according to the meritocratic rules. This is a fundamental, crucial problem of the post-communist transition in Bulgaria: the non-legitimacy of social inequality. For the stability and sustainability of society “depends on social trust in the legitimacy of the democratic order”(Kaase and Newton 2003: 24)[16]. According to the European Values Study for Bulgaria, half the people (49.9%) in Bulgarian society today attribute the fact that there are poor and needy people to the fact that “there is injustice”(EVS-2008).


3. Bulgaria – a low-trusted society

3.1. Trust in others – “social” or interpersonal trust


With regard to the question about trust towards other people (i.e. “social trust” in interpersonal contacts), a question that in ESS is studied using three basic indicators, the answers show that we indeed have reasons to believe that present-day Bulgarian society is a low-trusted society. The first question refers to a more generalized type of information: whether the respondents feel that, in their social contacts with other people, they “should be cautious”, i.e. have reservations about the sincerity and good intentions of others, or else that most people can be trusted. Let us divide the 11-point scale of responses (from 0 to 10), used for all three indicator questions, into three parts: in order to obtain a more distinct separation of the more negative and more positive answers, we will separate a sufficiently wide intermediate range, i.e. a balanced view (the five intermediate positions: 03, 04, 05, 06 и 07)[17].

The accumulations obtained indicate that in the middle of the year 2009 42.2% of Bulgarians were definitely inclined to answer that a person should rather not trust others too much, and should always be cautious, have reservations towards others (positions 00-02), while only 8.6% felt that most people deserve to be trusted (positions 08-10). Confirming this finding are the answers to the second indicator question regarding trust: the prevalent expectation is that other people rather want to double-cross you or to take advantage of you - 26.2%, while quite a small share of respondents (10.7%) believe that most people try to be honest and sincere towards you; here the major part of respondents (61.2%) take an intermediate, balanced stand on the question (03-07) – in my opinion, this could possibly call for criticism regarding methodology.[18] Similarly, with respect of the third trust indicator, 43.8% definitely believe that most people are interested mostly in themselves and only 4.3% indicate that most people try to be helpful to others[19].(Cf. Table 1)

The quoted results are far from representing a snapshot of a decreased trust at one point in time. Comparison with data on the same questions formulated in the same words three years earlier (ESS-2006) confirms the sustained low level of trust; deviations of percentages of the different categories of answers in the two surveys (2009/2006) are within the limits of statistical error.

Table 1

Trust in other people in Bulgaria – ЕSS-2009/2006 (%)



Low trust

(positions 00-02)

Middle, balanced

(position 03-07)

High trust

(position 8-10)

Don’t know













А8. Trust І: you should always be cautious, or, most people can be trusted

(Mean: 3.43-2009; 3.34-2006)











А9. Trust ІІ: most people would want to cheat you, or, most people try to be honest

(Mean: 4.28-2009; 4.52-2006)











А10. Trust ІІІ: most people are interested only in themselves, or, most would like to be helpful

(Mean: 3.13-2009; 3.26-2006)











* The mean values are calculated for the three 11-pointscales (positions 00 to 10 inclusive).


No doubt, a large share of people in our country have, for years, been distrustful of one another; prevalent in their expectations is the suspicion that they will be cheated or taken advantage of, that everyone is interested only in him/herself and not in being helpful towards others. Social distrust is a permanent characteristic of mass consciousness in Bulgaria. What is more, within certain limits a clear trend is emerging towards a decrease of trust between Bulgarians in this interpersonal, social aspect, as indicated by the data from EVS 1990/1990/2008[20]. This is a sad finding and, most probably, its deep underlying cause is in the low level of satisfaction in the quality of life overall and with regard to its separate aspects, in the low level of well-being and prosperity, the definite lack of security in everyday life and in prospects for the future.

What are some other factors of distrust among people? Going into greater detail in the ESS data (in analyzing in a comparative aspect for the different years the data for the two-dimensional and three-dimensional distributions by various traits), we find there are several persistent dependencies, which are confirmed by two other similar surveys, EVS and the European Quality of Life Survey (EQLS):

·        Both in the years 2006 and 2009, “low trust” is indicated mostly among people who do not hold a paid job, such as pensioners, people occupied in housework, unemployed, and other such categories.

·        Distrust is met with more often among those living in large cities (where people are often unknown to one another, anonymous, and face greater risks and insecurity); on the contrary, in smaller towns and villages most people trust one another (there they often “do not lock their doors” or “leave the key with the neighbours”).

·        Orthodox Christians are lest trustful than Muslims, which can probably be explained by the fact that the latter live predominantly in smaller, ethnically homogeneous settlements, in large communities of relatives. Those who declare themselves to be “Orthodox Christians” are, in fact, most often atheists, and the lack of solidarity-promoting religious faith, “godlessness”, is widespread among most Bulgarian citizens, which probably contributes to distrust (only 15-17% of people of age indicate they more or less regularly attend religious services or perform prayer rituals).

·        The lower the incomes, the lower the degree of trust in others.

·        The family and marital status is of serious importance for the level of trust: married people, including those with children, indicate perceptibly higher levels of trust in others compared with divorced, separated, and widowed respondents.

·        Greater distrust is displayed by people having less social contacts, those who very rarely (less than once monthly) meet with friends, relatives, or colleagues in their spare time, who very rarely share with others their personal and intimate problems, who less often take part in social activities compared with the average level of activeness among people of their age; such people are also less sensitive to the problems of others.

·        Respondents who indicate that they have been subject to discrimination (especially on the basis of ethnicity, language, religion) display lower levels of trust than others.

·        The Roma respondents display stronger distrust in others, and are accumulated at the extreme negative range of the 11-point scale.


Let us compare the low trust Bulgarian citizens have in one another with the European context. Let us see where we are situated  and find out to what extent the distrust situation in our country is unique or occurs in other countries as well. The data from 2006 and 2009 are also persistent, and the percentages and trend remain the same. (See Figure 1) [21]

Figure 1

Social or interpersonal trust by countriesESS-2009

(low levels of trust 00-02 – „Most people cannot be trusted”)


This European survey clearly shows that Bulgarians are indisputably the Europeans with the lowest level of social trust, i.e. the lowest interpersonal trust (comparing the data for the three indicators, Trust I, II, and III); in our country the opinion is more predominant than in all others that one should always be cautious, suspicious, and have reservations about the true intentions of other people. Comparatively close to these attitudes are some other Eastern European countries, Russia and Poland, as well as the EU “Southerners”, Portugal and Cyprus. In the old EU member-states, Germany, France, UK, Belgium, Spain, people mostly have a balanced and rather positive attitude towards other persons. In the strongly positive range of the trust scale, where social trust is high, are people from the Scandinavian countries, Denmark, Norway, Sweden, Finland (Swiss respondents give similar answers); among these, the share of suspicious respondents (in positions 00, 01, and 02) is insignificant, while those with high trust in others (positions 08. 09, and 10) is very high: these respondents expect that others are mostly honest, positively concerned, and helpful. These findings once again categorically support the conclusions of Delhey, Newton and O’Hara, quoted above, about the five “trust-based countries (here we lack data about Iceland), where the widespread feeling of stability “transforms trust into an educated, reasonable decision, into a “reasonable trust”. There is an unquestionable correlation between trust and level of quality of life, respectively well-being, of people and their respective societies[22].


2.3.2. Trust in institutions – “political” trust


Trust in institutions (i.e. “political trust”) is, in fact, the degree to which people are willing to accept the institutions, procedures, norms, and values of their society’s system of government   (Kaase and Newton 2003: 216)[23].

While “social trust” towards others is harder to register inasmuch as it is at the same time a self-assessment of one’s own communication qualities, of the qualities of one’s relations with others, the assessment of trust in institutions, “political trust”, is displayed more directly and is more accessible to registering. In social trust respondents might possibly be embarrassed inasmuch as their own capacity for social communication is also being evaluated; in political trust what is being registered is an attitude to something objective, external to the respondent. That is why here we have reasons to rely on obtaining more expressive assessments at the extremes of the scales.

In the third and fourth waves of ESS-2006/2009 trust in institutions is also measured on an 11-point scale; the respondents are asked about their trust in 5 national and 2 international institutions. The data for 2009 clearly show the drastically low level of trust among a large portion of Bulgarians in the nation’s politicians, political parties, the parliament, the judicial system, and the police. We should specify that the fieldwork for the survey was conducted in the spring of 2009 and the answers are valid for the situation at that time. The basic government institutions do not meet with the trust of people. Let us compare these assessments with the previous wave, ESS-2006, in order to compare dynamics of responses over time.(Cf.  Table 2)

Тable 2

Trust in institutions in BulgariaESS-2009/2006 (%)



Low trust

(positions 00-02)

High trust

(positions 08-10)

Don’t know

В4-В10. To what degree do you trust the following institutions?








(Mean: 1.61-2009; 1.77-2006)







Political parties

(Mean: 1.70-2009; 1.77-2006)








(Mean: 1.88-2009; 2.18-2006)







Judicial system

(Mean: 2.23-2009; 2.45-2006)








(Mean: 3.21-2009; 3.82-2006)







The European Parliament

(Mean: 4.56-2009; 4.63-2006)







The United Nations Organization

(Mean: 4.73-2009; 4.84-2006)







The remaining answers to 100.0% on the horizontal level are in the intermediate positions (03-07).

* The statistical mean values have been calculated for the results of answers on the 11-pointscales (from 00 to 10 inclusively).


Several conclusions can be drawn from the comparison between the data of the two ESS – waves, 2009 and 2006:

Firstly, trust is categorically low among a large portion of Bulgarians with respect to the official state institutions in the country; the lowest degree of trust goes to representative political institutions – politicians, political parties, and the parliament[24];

Secondly, this distrust is a continuous attitude among people, registered in two separate periods in time over the last three years (deviations of data from the two waves are below or very close to the statistical error limit)[25];

Thirdly, external, international institutions, the European Parliament, and the UN, although not familiar to a large part of the population, enjoy higher trust, and the share of respondents with low trust in them is smaller (in the three years between ESS waves, the share of those who indicate they “don’t know” has decreased; some respondents seem to feel they have grown more familiar with the activity of these international institutions). The difference between the degrees of trust in Bulgaria as compared with international institutions makes the low trust in national institutions here stand out even more starkly. The relatively higher trust in the two international institutions also indicates that for quite a few Bulgarians the country’s membership in the EU is a definite guarantee for the correct course of the transition and that we are moving in the right direction, that our following the well-established principles and rules applied in the developed countries is a condition for a successful transition to normality. The general conclusion is unambiguous: people do not have trust in the activity of the official national institutions.[26]

Let us assess this low degree of trust in institutions in a wider European context. How are Bulgarians situated in this respect against the backdrop of the attitudes of other Europeans towards their respective institutions: What are the comparative dimensions of “political trust”?

Figure 2

Trust in institutions by countriesSS-2009) – mean values


The compared data categorically affirm that in Europe Bulgarians are in the lead with regard to political distrust” in the five official national institutions. In no other EU country is there such a high percentage of respondents indicating low trust in the institutions of their country. Comparable very low degrees of  trust are 8 to 10 times smaller in percentage among the Finns, the Danes, the Norwegians, the Swedes, and the Swiss. The acute disappointment in political representatives in Bulgaria is something unique, exceptional. This mistrust appears to be our country’s “trademark” and “exceptionalism” against the European backdrop. At the other extreme, things stand quite differently: the particularly high degree of trust indicated by the Finns, Danes, Norwegians, Swedes, and Swiss in their police and judicial systems, i.e. in the most important law-enforcing and judicial authorities of the state clearly delineates the higher “political trust” felt within these countries; the respondents there assess the work of these institutions as useful and effective. Along with this, their rather middling, balanced assessments of the European Parliament suggest that, being confident in their own force and stability as societies and in the successful work of their own institutions, they are not extreme enthusiasts as regards the EU. They look upon the EU as a necessity, but they also feel their participation in the EU implies some redistribution of their achieved prosperity to other, less developed member-states.


4.      Trust and satisfaction


As pointed out by Jan Delhey and Kenneth Newton, good governance is the essential causal and structural basis of trust. Governance without grave corruption and that observes democratic norms creates the base structure whereby individuals can act with trust and expect that most others will do the same (Delhey аnd Newton 2004: 28)[27]. Trust depends on the degree of satisfaction the assessing person feels in respect to the activity of official state institutions and the positive result of the activity of those institutions for the individual, for people, and for society. Probably, it is precisely this satisfaction that serves as a transmission, whereby low or high levels of trust in institutions exert a direct or indirect influence on, respectively, low or high levels of “social”, interpersonal trust, and hence on the overall, generalized trust amidst society and individuals.

This important explanatory framework is fully supported by the results of ESS waves for Bulgaria. It is confirmed by the obtained data about the low degree of satisfaction in the activity of the government, in the state of the economy, of healthcare and education, and of the democratic processes. The activities and results in this respect have a direct or indirect impact on the well-being and prosperity of people; this is what the confidence of people in a good quality of life today and tomorrow depends on, people’s satisfaction with there present life as a whole, and their feeling about how happy they are.

Тable 3

Satisfaction with the work of the institutions and personal satisfaction in Bulgaria -

ESS-2009/2006 (%)



Low trust

(positions 00-02)

High trust

(positions 08-10)

Don’t know

В24-В29. How satisfied are you with the following...?







How the government is doing its job

(Mean: 2.23-2009; 2.79-2006)







The present state of the Bulgarian economy

(Mean: 2.31-2009; 2.60-2006)







How democracy in our country is “working”

(Mean: 2.42-2009; 2.66-2006)







The state of the healthcare system

(Mean: 3.14-2009; 2.56-2006)







The state of the education system

(Mean: 3.82-2009; 3.53-2006)







Your present life as a whole

(Mean: 4.31-2009; 4.66-2006)







I feel happy

(Mean: 5.22-2009; 5.23-2006)







The remaining answers to 100.0% on the horizontal level are in the intermediate positions (03-07).

* The statistical mean values have been calculated for the results of answers on the 11-pointscales (from 00 to 10 inclusively).


The data lead to the following conclusions.

First, the majority of people in our country definitely and very clearly do not approve of the work of the government, the state of the economy, the course of democracy, and what has been achieved in the most important social spheres – healthcare and education. It is not strange then that, given this low degree of satisfaction, government leaders at that time (during the mandate of the triple coalition between Bulgarian Socialist Party, Movement of Freedom and Rights of Bulgarian Turks, and National Movement of the Simeon the Second, the previous monarch) lost the trust of the voters at the time of the parliamentary elections in July 2009. The data were gathered in fieldwork that took place 2-3 months before the elections.

Second, it is evident that the degree of satisfaction is considerably lower in comparison with that on the same issues three years previously, in 2006.

Тhird, the general result that over one fourth of the people are not satisfied with their present lives as a whole (the situation was similar in the wave three years previously) is indicative in a comparative aspect as well, as we shall see. Dissatisfaction is the logical consequence and summary result of the other, more partial dissatisfactions with the work of state institutions.[28]

Fourth, comparative data show the stability of the processes, which have accumulated in the previous three years, and the conviction that this is not a case of some deliberate or subjective interpretation[29].

And how do things stand in a comparative European aspect, when data for the same questions in other European countries are set side by side? What is the degree of satisfaction with the work of the state and state organs in other EU member-states? What is the level of personal satisfaction and of the feeling of happiness?





Figure 3

Satisfaction with the work of institutions and personal satisfaction by countries according to ESS-2009 data, mean values


Comments on the data:

First, the low degree of satisfaction is a stable phenomenon for the mass state of mind of Bulgarian citizens. For all seven traits, respondents in Bulgaria indicate the lowest values compared with other countries. The old member-states of EU, the West European ones, including Slovenia, are twice as satisfied by these indicators, while the ones with the highest values, Denmark, Finland, Norway, Sweden, Switzerland, are three-and-a-half times as satisfied.

Second, it is not surprising that all the countries with highest values should be highly satisfied with the state of their educational systems, since, for them, education is not merely an officially declared priority, but an actually pursued top priority. For instance, education is the cause of the “Finnish miracle”, of the impetuous progress of Finnish society by many indicators of social-economic development in a comparative aspect with countries of the world, especially in the last approximately 20 years[30] (in Bulgaria only 5.6% are satisfied with the education system). Whereas half the Finns are highly satisfied with their healthcare system, only 5.4% of Bulgarians feel that way about ours. While 2/3 of Danes assess the state of their economy very positively, only 1% of Bulgarians give such an estimate to their own economy. The differences in survey results are simply overwhelming and speak for themselves.

Тhird, as a synthesized result of these data comes the general conclusion about the satisfaction with life as a whole in our country, respectively, the feeling of happiness. As we could have expected, the Bulgarian respondents are the ones for which the lowest degree of satisfaction with their lives is registered (over ¼, 26.4%); among the Nordic and Scandinavian countries and the Swiss, only 1% or less are so dissatisfied. In addition to the latter and other West Europeans, other nations indicating high satisfaction with life in general and the feeling of happiness are the Slovenians, the Cypriots, and even other East Europeans such as the Poles, Estonians and Russians. Among Bulgarians, the highly satisfied and happy ones are respectively only 11.8 and 21.8%. The curves of “satisfaction” and “happiness”, as for other countries, are generally parallel realities of the same order (which is especially obvious in Figure 3 and Figure 4); of course, “happiness” reflects a mostly emotional, spontaneous evaluation, while “satisfaction” is a cognitive and more lasting assessment.

Figure 4

Satisfaction and feeling of happiness


Dissatisfaction as a special Bulgarian trademark is very distinct on the figure for separate low values (Figure 4). Here the values for dissatisfied and unhappy Bulgarians stand out categorically against the European backdrop. Whereas for the Nordic countries – Danes, Finns, Norwegians, Swedes, and for the Swiss, and for the Mediterranean countries Spain and Cyprus, dissatisfaction and the feeling of unhappiness is an exception (under 2 and even under 1 percent), the Bulgarians dissatisfied with their lives in general are over ¼ of all surveyed - 26.4%, and nearly 17% indicate they are not happy.

The detailed analysis of the empirical data on the profile of “dissatisfied” and “unhappy” Bulgarians reveals a considerable heterogeneity in their social characteristics. Among them are residents of villages and of large cities; in general they have a lower level of education, most of them have not worked for pay in recent years, most of them are married, but there are some who have not never been married; a large portion of the dissatisfied self-assess themselves as poor or rather poor; most of them have little interest in politics. In brief, the “dissatisfied Bulgarian” does not have a distinctive social-professional profile, because he/she more or less belongs to different social and professional groups, being a widespread type throughout the nation.

The correlation between degree of satisfaction and the degree of “social” and “political” trust is very strong. The data categorically show that the people highly satisfied with life as a whole and with the work of institutions are also the people with a high degree of trust towards others around them and towards the official institutions. On the contrary, as in the case of a large part of Bulgarian citizens, the low degree of satisfaction underlies low trust. Recalling what has been said about trust, when there is low satisfaction, the cohesive role of trust is lost or becomes questioned; a person cannot rely on others or on the official institutions, he/she does not feel that other people care; the sense of social order is lost, and one imagines the world around as chaotic. How, under such conditions, can one have high trust?!...


5. The fears of Bulgarians as a factor of distrust


Another specific aspect should be added in our discussion, for without taking this into account, the explanation of the unique level of distrust among Bulgarians would be incomplete: the fears that serve as a basis for distrust.

The Bulgarian seems to be ridden with fears. Among other reasons, he/she is suspicious because many fears weigh upon him/her. This is a person fearful for his/her survival and livelihood, fearful of being short of the money necessary for leading a normal life, of being able to get by on his/her salary or pension, not to be a burden for his/her relatives and friends. Bulgarians are afraid they might find themselves without a permanent job, without regular income. That they might fall seriously ill, which would deplete their income if they had to pay expensive treatment or medicaments. They are afraid of the constantly rising household expenses – electricity, water, heating. In brief, these are fears for his/her own well-being and that of his/her family. In addition to this, Bulgarians feel insecure at home and outside, in the street, in public places: they are afraid of house robbery, of having stolen the little money they have saved up to cover their daily expenses and pay taxes; afraid of being the victims of house burglary, which would be a heavy blow to their material status. They are also afraid of being physically assaulted  and robbed in the street. They are afraid of “other ethnic groups”, of Roma raiding their farms and winter preserves, of the aggressiveness of ethnic Turks in the administration and public services in the regions with mixed Turkish and Bulgarian population. They are even afraid of external threats, of terrorist acts that might befall Bulgaria...

These are not groundless claims, but facts learned from the empirical data gathered in ESS 2206 and 2009. How is it possible, with all these many kinds of fears, for Bulgarians to live calmly and trustfully? It is understandable then that such people will vote to be governed by politicians who are expected to show strictness, to provide order, discipline, observance of laws, justice…

Let us go on to the concrete data. By the middle of 2009, 69.7% (in 2006 the percentage was 71.8%) of respondents indicated they were afraid that their home might be robbed; 50.7% in 2009 (47.1% in 2006) admitted they felt insecure to walk in their neighbourhood at night; 69.1% in 2009 (67.6% in 2006) frankly declared they were afraid they might become victims of crimes jeopardizing their health and lives.

Evidently these are lasting fears among people, and the high values have remained almost unchanged over the 3 years. There are also fears related to external threats: in 2009 69% (in 2006 – 63.2%) believed that a terrorist attack could occur in Europe in the next 12 months, and 58.5% in 2009 (51.1% in 2006) indicated this could happen in Bulgaria. Tension and anxiety have not only taken firm hold in the mass consciousness in recent years, but have even grown amidst this turbulent world.

Fears are maintained and nourished also by a certain “social-structural pessimism amongst Bulgarians, through their personal subjective representation about the state of things; this too has increased pessimism by the middle of 2009: according to 1/3 of respondents, about 50 or more percent of the people in our country do not have enough money for basic necessities; according to 22% of the respondents, more than ¼ of the people in our country are invalids or are people with serious physical or mental disabilities, a situation that would give rise to dramatic problems; according to over 40% of respondents, the unemployed in our country, looking for work, are over 25% of the able-bodied population. For 77.2% of respondents, the living standard of pensioners in Bulgaria is “exceptionally bad” (positions 00-02 on the 11-point scale); 79% believe such is the standard of the unemployed; for 42.5% the opportunities of young people to find work in our country are “exceptionally bad”; 32.1% feel there is a probability they themselves might become unemployed in the following months and within a year; 59% feel it is possible they may find themselves without money for the household’s basic needs within a year; 42% believe they might soon be left without healthcare, etc. …

There is no doubt that fears, anxieties, worries play quite an important role in the everyday lives of a large part of Bulgarians today and in their thoughts about tomorrow. Fears acquire a predominant role in mass consciousness and cannot be neglected in analyses of trust and well-being.

But there is one other thing. In comparing the data on fears and anxiety registered in different European countries in 2009, we find that there is an exceptional disparity between, on one hand, the fear of robbery and assault and, on the other hand, the actual distressing experience of actually having been a victim of robbery and assault.[31] It is a telling fact that Bulgarian respondents have the greatest fears, but at the same time, Bulgarians are not the ones who have most often been subjected to robbery or assault. Compared with Bulgarians, in the past 5 years, according to comparative data from ESS-2009, victims of such crimes have far more often been the citizens of Belgium, Denmark, Estonia, Spain, Finland, France, UK, Norway, and Sweden. Despite this, Bulgarians are much more afraid that this might happen to them. What is the reason for so much greater fear? This disparity between fears and actually falling victim to deviant behaviour is easily seen on Figure 5 in the distance between the percentage of people with fears and the actual victims of robbery and assault: for Bulgarians this distance is greatest, amounting to about 55%; a similarly great distance between fears and actual cases of violence occurs in other East European countries, for instance among the people of Russia. The distance is least for respondents in Denmark and Norway – about 20%. As we see in the figure, the fears of people are in all countries greater than the actual incidence of robbery and assault. This is evidently a general dependency amidst the generally insecure and risk-ridden life in Europe today.

Figure 5

Fears of robbery and assault and actual victims in the last 5 years


But this distance between fears and the realities is especially typical for Bulgarians today. This is not merely a result of preventive fear, by which we hope to ward off evil in expecting it. We may presume that the main cause for excessive fear in our country is in the low trust in state institutions, and in the weak or at least unsatisfactory work of the basic national institutions directly or indirectly related to observing public order and maintaining the security of people: the police, the judicial system (according to data from the middle of 2009). In Belgium, Denmark, Estonia, Spain, Finland, Germany, UK, Norway, Sweden, far more people have actually been victims of robbery and assault in the last 5 years compared with the numbers in Bulgaria, but the fear in those countries is much less, probably due to the more effective work – according to the assessment of citizens – of their law-enforcement and judicial systems, the police and courts of law. These organs, as we saw, enjoy high trust on the part of citizens, and for the most part people are satisfied with their activity, feel sufficiently safe and protected, and hence, are far less worried about their personal security, being confident in the stability of public order.


6.      Any grounds for optimism?


Nevertheless, there are grounds for optimism. Some of the expectations of people are positive, even though related to the future. People expect that, say, in ten years public healthcare will be improved – this is the opinion of 41.6% of respondents; 44.5% expect that pensions will increase after this period of time. These are good reserves of optimism.

What is the way out of this unenviable, disadvantageous, for a large part of the people, position “at the bottom”; is there hope that things will change for the better, that we have taken the “right” path to greater well-being and trust? Naturally, one of the positive variants is the strict observance of the requirements of EU membership. This is perceived as the means of deliverance by quite a few East Europeans at present. It seems that the most promising grounds for optimism are in the irrevocable openness of Bulgarian society and in its irrevocable European perspective. That is why we may assume that Euroscepticism  will not have many adherents at least in Bulgaria in the visible future, simply due to the lack of a sufficiently reliable alternative in the inner resources for development (natural, economic, political and governmental, ideological, cultural, religious, etc.), the lack of variants of our own[32]. Of course, we cannot expect full and universal applicability of the European models of public organization. There are a number of local, specific conditions and factors that cannot be bypassed and which modify the generally valid rules, local aspects that could be used rationally. Variants should be sought for combining the generally valid with the specific. But, I feel, such attempts at “social engineering” in the post-communist context of Southeastern Europe is of doubtful promise, even taking into account its success in the completely different cultural context of East Asia, discussed by M. Kaase and K. Newton.

In view of the dead end at which society finds itself, the expectation of a solution from outside or solution outside is far more frequent among people in Bulgaria: a considerable portion of families and households here today rely on economic emigration and migration. These are young people (students) and highly qualified people of young or early mature age, or people from the larger mass of working-age population (unskilled, low-skilled, or with a wide profile of qualification). A large part of these two migration flows in addition to supporting themselves also help out their families and relatives in Bulgaria. [33]

True, in restricting our view within the circle of the practical, the pro-European and the emigration perspective, we will not see particularly optimistic and enthusing horizons for the nation. But any larger-scale therapy for increasing trust among Bulgarians would not yield great results if not based on a considerable improvement of the work of the institutions. Will we be able to find new ideas and a powerful impulse for our “late modernization”, as belated as it may be?...


[1] “GERB” (CEDB – a political party “Citizens for European Development of Bulgaria”).

[2] The Bulgarian prime minister now (since July 2009).

[3] For more details on the large-scale European programme for social surveys Еuropean Social Survey-ESS cf. http://ess.nsd.uib.no/ and the introduction to the cited above collectively authored book by Lilia Dimova, ESS national coordinator for Bulgaria -  (www.ess-bulgaria.org): Tilkidjiev, N.(editor and co-compiler) and L. Dimova (co-compiler). 2010. Well-being and Trust: Bulgaria in Europe? (Comparative Analysis after ESS Rounds 2006/2009). Sofia: East-West Publishing House: 15-28.

[4] The data for the two waves of EQLS have been published on the Internet site www.eurofound.eu.int

[5] EVS data for 2008 were supplied to me by the head of the Bulgarian survey team Georgy Fotev. For data by countries, see also http://www.europeanvaluesstudy.eu/

[6] I am referring to the modules “Sport and Leisure” and “Social Inequalities”, conducted in the field in Bulgaria in December 2008 as part of the widest-scaled survey, International Social Survey Programme-ISSP, including research teams from 43 countries on the 5 continents (http://www.issp.org). Since 1993, L. Dimova has been ISSP national coordinator for Bulgaria (http://asa-bg.netfirms.com).

[7] Veenhoven, R. 2003. Measuring Human Well-Being. New Hampshire : Houndmills; Noll, H.-H. 2002. Social indicators and quality of life research: background, achievements and current trends. In: Genov, N., ed. Advances in Sociological knowledge over half a century. Paris: ISSC. The start of interest in the problems and study of quality of life is not a European but an American initiative that began in the early 1960s with the participation of eminent social scientists. Since then the field has developed with its high and low points and has formed a widely branched operative research network throughout the world (see for instance: http://www.isqols.org/); but it was in the mid 1990s that the topic experienced a strong revival within the framework of the EU research units, such as the European Foundation for the Improvement of Living and Working Conditions, under the European Commission (for details, see: Tilkidjiev, N. 2006. Quality of life and happiness: European renaissance of one tradition”. In: Grekova, M. and P. Kabakchieva, compilers. Beyond Disciplinary Limitations. Sofia: Publishing House of Sofia University).

[8] It is exceptionally important to achieve research consensus on the dimensions and comparisons of the state and development of European societies by studying the quality of life, in order to place them in solid theoretical and methodological frameworks in the broad “integrative and holistic” context (Fahey, T., B. Nolan, C. Whelan. 2003. Monitoring Quality of Life in Europe. European Foundation for the Improvement of Living and Working Conditions. Luxembourg: Office for Official Publications of the European Communities)  and for making measurements and comparisons more pragmatic and rational. Societies and social structures are compared according to criteria of usefulness, inasmuch as the situation today is better than yesterday (in terms of the better-ness of well-being.) Such a unity of criteria implies universalizing the public openness of comparisons, which were essentially impossible in previously “hermetic”, “closed” societies. The development of each member-state of the EU takes place literally before the eyes of all, including of the citizens of the states themselves; development is measured against the others, and homegrown, “provincial” criteria and assessments are becoming impossible. This guarantees the assurance of leaders and researchers and is especially promising for the adequate assessment of the Bulgarian case.


[9] Кaase, М. and К. Newton. 2003. Trust in Management. Sofia: GAL-IKO, in Bulgarian.

 [10] Works by Adam Seligman (Seligman, A.B. 1997. The Problem of Trust. Princeton: Princeton University Press), Piotr Sztompka (Sztompka, P. 1999. Trust. A Sociological Theory. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press), Kieron O’Hara (О’Hara 2004. Trust. New Crisis in Society. Sofia: Krugozor – in Bulgarian: 56-95) are specially devoted in detail to the history and definitions of the concept.

[11] In the Internet site for the ESS programme, the following clarification by Kenneth Newton is provided: the “social and political trust” module contains three chapters (origins of social trust, explaining social trust, and political trust).   Central questions in this module are: What is social trust? Why are some people more trusting than others? What is the main difference between social trust and political trust? Social and interpersonal trust are based on direct, first-hand experience in interacting with other people, while political trust is more generalized, based on indirect, distanced experience. (http://essedunet.nsd.uib.no/cms/topics/2/)

[12] Delhey, J. and K. Newton. 2005. „Predicting Cross-National Levels of Social Trust: Global Pattern or Nordic Exceptionalism?”. In: European Sociological Review,  Vol.21.

[13] О’Hara 2004. Trust. New Crisis in Society. Sofia: Krugozor, in Bulgarian.

[14] Some authors have tried to prove that at the aggregate level of EU countries the claims of the quoted authors as to the negative impact on ethnic heterogeneity are not confirmed. Delhey, J. and K. Newton. 2005. „Predicting Cross-National Levels of Social Trust: Global Pattern or Nordic Exceptionalism?”. In: European Sociological Review,  Vol.21.  But a number of other statistically significant conclusions prove the generally one-way impact of ethnic origin, in the direction of lower social trust, on US immigrants: Uslaner, Е. М. 2008. Where You Stand Depends Upon Where Your Grandparents Sat: The Inheritability of Generalized Trust. Public Opinion  Q. (72). Christian Bjørnskov believes that it would be more adequate to generalize that the strongest impact on trust is, in general, that of the fractionalization factor, especially the differentiation by income and by political distinctions: Bjørnskov, C. 2008. “Social Trust and Fractionalization: A Possible Reinterpretation”. In: European Sociological Review. 2008 (24).

[15] Delhey, J. and K. Newton. 2004. „Social Trust: Global Pattern or Nordic Exceptionalism?”. In: WZB Discussion Paper, June 2004, Bestell-Nr./Order No.: SP I 2004 – 202.

[16] Delhey, J. and K. Newton. 2002. „Who Trusts? The Origin of Social Trust in Seven Nations”. In: FS III 02-402.

[17] Author’s methodological note: Here and below we use the group data from the 11-point scale used in the fieldwork; for a low levels of trust we assume the aggregate of respondents who have indicated positions in the lower or left end of the scale (00+01+02), and for a high degree, the sum of those who have indicate positions in the upper, right end (08+09+10). The intermediate, balance answer, which is often a conformist or evasive answer, includes the sum of the five positions (03+04+05+06+07). The 11-point scale commonly used in ESS is a more appropriate way of registering the primary answers and regrouping them, unlike the option of only two possible answers, used in EVS-2008.

[18] Here I will take the liberty of making some critical methodological comments: the second indicator of level of trust contains a more extreme verbal form, which predetermines and to some degree moulds the accumulation of answers around the middle of the scale. In answer to the question “would you say that most people would try to cheat you or take advantage of you if they had the chance, or that most people would try to be honest with you?”, the respondents would answer that “most people would try to cheat me” only if they had personal and recent experience with such “deceivers”; otherwise it may be expected that most people would rather give more balanced, evasive, intermediate answers. Thus a greater artificial accumulation is formed in the middle area, and this is somewhat misleading. My remark is confirmed by the data for Bulgaria and also for other countries, as we shall see further below; the problem is also evident in the “fork-shaped” figure of the answers in Figure 1.

[19] The data for similar questions asked in EVS-2008 for Bulgaria yield similar results: about 68.5% have low trust, 12.4% have high trust, and 16.9% of the answers are balanced.

[20]Comparisons between the results of the three EVS waves – 1990, 1999 and 2008, clearly show the downward trend of trust in others among Bulgarians. In 1990, 30.4% of respondents felt that most people could be trusted, in 1999 this was the view of 26.9%, and in 2008, of only 17.7%. …Contemporary Bulgarian society is ridden with interpersonal distrust, which is tearing apart the social “tissue” and thus undermining the integrity and identity of society.”(Boyadjieva, P. 2009. Trust – invisible axis of society”. In: Fotev, G., comp. European Values in Contemporary Bulgarian Society. Sofia: Publishing House of Sofia University – in Bulgarian: 34).

[21] The figure clearly reveals the reasons for my criticism above of the methodological tools as regards the formulation of question А9 (Trust II) - the “fork-shaped” figure of the answers.

[22] It is not by accident that the Scandinavian countries are called the welfare states, the countries of prosperity and well-being.

[23] Delhey, J. and K. Newton. 2002. „Who Trusts? The Origin of Social Trust in Seven Nations”. In: FS III 02-402.

[24] The fact that respondents are less competent about the work of the judicial system may explain why assessments of it are more lenient.

[25] The conclusion about the low trust in official institutions as a stable, long-lasting tendency is confirmed by many analyses by other colleagues. Boryana Dimitrova, a head of a private sociological agency, for instance, sums up her surveys: “All three waves (2002, 2006, 2007) of the study establish the exceptionally low values of trust in political parties and institutions with high party representation: parliament, government, municipal councils. …The causes of this permanent erosion of trust…can be look for…in the alienation of citizens from the pseudo-representative institutions at the time of the communist regime,  …[then passing through] the artificially generated weakness of institutions in the years of transition, which made room for the connection of representatives of shady business and organized crime with state officials, and down to the impossibility of the state to ensure equality before the law, fairness in the judicial system, and an acceptable quality of public services. As a result…the rapid deterioration of trust in state institutions has taken on the features of a permanent social phenomenon, and the deficit of trust generates…an even higher degree of alienation from the state[In this situation, a positive fact is] the emergence of the discontented democrats” – citizens who are displeased with the way politics are done in the country, but do not question the need for a liberal democratic order of the state.” (Dimitrova 2008. “About social attitudes: political, economic and status changes in  2002-2007. In: The State of Society. Sofia: Open Society Institute: 15-16)

[26] Of course, all this is in the context of the fact that Bulgarians, as a rule, do not set politics at the top of their value priorities. According to EVS – 2008, the clearly top values are “the family”(“very important” for 85.1%), followed by “work”(60.5), “friends”(38.3), “leisure time”(27.2), “religion” (17.6), while “politics” is rather far behind them(7.4).

[27] Delhey, J. and K. Newton. 2004. „Social Trust: Global Pattern or Nordic Exceptionalism?”. In: WZB Discussion Paper, June 2004, Bestell-Nr./Order No.: SP I 2004. Sociologists have concluded that there are statistically significant correlations between “generalized social trust” and the confident action of political institutions as well as the satisfaction with how democracy works in society (Zmerli, S. and K. Newton. 2008.  Social Trust and Attitudes toward Democracy. Public Opinion Quarterly 2008. 72(4).  

[28] We should also take into account the important trend, that “an enormous amount of surveys on quality of life indicate that general satisfaction with life, as well as satisfaction with its specific aspects, is much less dependent on objective and external factors than on internal and subjective ones. Once some level of health and security has been attained, people turn to personal and subjective standards when assessing their material and spiritual conditions. This is why the capacity of reference groups to draw the individual to them is important… It is well-known from previous surveys that there is a considerable difference between satisfaction with personal life on one hand and with public life on the other… people are more pessimistically minded about public than about personal issues”(Кaase, М. и К. Newton. 2003. Trust in Management. Sofia: GAL-IKO (in Bulgarian):196, 225).

[29] Often the main Bulgarian daily newspapers publish the results of surveys by Eurostat and other international agencies, which shed ample light on the position of our country in the comparative aspect. For instance, on May 25, 2007 the official report was published of the European Foundation for the Improvement of Living and Working Conditions, under the European Commission: there Bulgaria is at the bottom of the EU as regards the minimal monthly salary (82 euros). At the other, extreme among EU member-states is Luxembourg, with a minimal monthly salary of 1503 euros, which is 18 times as much (www.news.dir.bg). Similar data have been published in the daily Trud on August 28, 2009. These and other separate facts have an added effect for the formation of the realistic assessment of all Bulgarian citizens regarding the place of our country in the EU family.

[30] For details, see: Tilkidjiev, N. 2007. Why they, why we not? Finnish miracle: a reading for researchers and politicians. In: Journal of the Bulgarian Academy of Sciences. Sofia: Academic Publishing House, 2, in Bulgarian.

[31] L. Dimova pointed attention to this early on, at the first press conference about the Bulgarian ESS-2009 data in December 2009.  

[32] In connection with “local variants” it is worth considering a rather rhetorical question raised by Kaase and Newton: whether there are other “political systems that might ensure more liberty, justice, security, economic prosperity, and mental satisfaction than liberal democracy? For instance, encouraging results are shown by countries like the four small “tigers”, South Korea, Singapore, Taiwan, and Hong Kong,… which seem to have found a way to harmonize economic growth with religious attitudes (Confucianism) and with some form of political authoritarianism”(Кaase, М. and К. Newton. 2003. Trust in Management. Sofia: GAL-IKO, in Bulgarian: 210).

[33] According to calculations by Bulgarian economists, there are nearly 1 million Bulgarian economic migrants, working mostly in EU countries (Greece, Cyprus, Spain, Italy, Great Britain, Belgium, Denmark, the Netherlands, etc.). The share in the GIP coming from the bank transfers made by migrants to their relatives in Bulgaria has also been growing in the period 2003-2009. 6.16 billion euro have been transferred by them, which is 30% of the volume of foreign investments in our country for that period; here the amounts handed over personally and sent through transfer institutions like Western Union are not even taken into account. (http://www.temanews.com/index; http://money.ibox.bg/news/id_1917407093 )




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