Financial crisis and political attitude of citizens in Cyprus: a quantitative analysis based on primary data

by Konstantina Briola, member of the Social Issues Research Team

Introduction 

The purpose of the analysis at hand is -on the basis of primary data obtained from the European Social Survey (ESS) for Cyprus in 2008- to draw some conclusions on: how satisfied the people were with the economic situation of their country, with the life as a whole, the possibility of putting their trust on political parties and whether they have expressed any interest in politics.

Methodology

1.Participants 

In the current study, the sample size is 1215 cases. More specifically, it consists of 613 men (50.5%) and 602 women (49.5%), ranging in age from 25 to 34 years (21.8%, mean = 44.81, standard deviation = 1,668). Of these, they are married (63.3%), have completed secondary education (40.2%) and are employed (56.4%).

2. Procedure

This is a survey conducted in Cyprus in 2008 by the European Social Survey (Round 8), which included a total of 1215 cases. In particular, the purpose of the research was based on the social and demographic characteristics of the respondents, in order to draw a series of conclusions about: their trust in the media and society, their interest in politics, their subjective well-being, their views on the welfare services, the possibility of racist tendencies-perceptions, as well as their general social and demographic physiognomy.

Also, it should be noted that the research was conducted in accordance with the International Statistical Institute code of ethics.

3. Measurement 

In this subsection, a complete description of the measurements used in writing the analysis will be made.

Specifically, the measurement used is from 0 to 10, where 0 represents “Overly dissatisfied”, while 10 represents “Overly satisfied”. In addition, the measurement level of the variable “How satisfied are you with the current economic situation of the country” is considered to be pseudo-interval.

Thereafter, the measurement used is from 1 to 4. More specifically, 1 represents “Very interesting”, 2 “Quite interesting”, 3 “Low interest” and 4 “Not interesting”. At the same time, the level of measurement of the variable “Age” is considered to be nominal, while the level of measurement of the variable “Frequency of interest in politics” is considered ordinal.

Finally, the measurement used is from 0 to 10, where 0 represents “Absolutely no confidence”, while 10 represents “Absolute confidence”. The level of measurement of the variable “Level of education” is considered to be ordinal, while the level of measurement of the variable “Frequency of trust in political parties” is pseudo-interval.

4. Statistical Analysis 

The statistical analysis (univariate and bivariate) was performed with the use of IBM SPSS Statistics Version 20.

Results 

Table 1 shows the frequency of satisfaction of the respondents with the current economic situation in the country. According to the data from the table, a reasonable percentage of respondents express neither very satisfied nor very dissatisfied, thus expressing a neutral attitude.

Table 1. Frequency of satisfaction with the current economic situation of the country

Table 2 shows the frequency of respondents’ satisfaction with their lives as a whole. In fact, according to the data presented in the table, a significant percentage of respondents state that they are relatively very satisfied with their life as a whole.

Table 2. Frequency of satisfaction with life as a whole

Table 3 shows the frequency of interest in politics, based on the age group of respondents. According to the data from the table, this frequency varies according to the age group of respondents, expressing a relatively small interest in politics at younger ages.

        Table 3. Frequency of interest in politics by age

Table 4 shows the frequency of trust in political parties, based on the level of education of respondents. Specifically, according to the data presented in the table, the frequency of trust in political parties varies depending on the level of education. However, through the data we observe that individuals generally express a neutral attitude. 

     Table 4. Frequency of trust in political parties based on the level of education

Conclusion

It is well known that a financial crisis causes chaos on international markets, creates the stock market‘s downfall, currency crises, foreign loans, leads a sharp decline in economic activity and has a potential to cause an economic recession (Terazi & Şenel, 2011). 

The global financial crisis started in mid-2007 engulfed almost every country across the globe (Terazi & Şenel, 2011; Dhameja, 2010). In Europe, large population groups experienced unemployment, loss of homes, decreased income, loss of benefits such as pensions, and a number of other major life events (European Commission, 2009). 

At that time, all the economies of European countries entered a deep recession. Within a year (2008-2009), the gross domestic product (GDP) of Germany decreased by 5%, of France by 2.6%, of the Netherlands by 4%, of Sweden by 5.2%, of Ireland by 7.1%, of Finland by 7.8%, Denmark by 4.9% and Spain by 3.5% (Βαρουφάκης, Πατώκος, Τσερκέζης & Κουτσοπέτρος, 2011). At the same time, as expected, tax revenues collapsed. The global economic crisis which had a significant impact in most European countries, also found a significant negative impact on the economy of Cyprus. Specifically, in the period 2009-2015, the economy showed serious structural weaknesses and significant deficits. In fact, the public debt as % of GDP moved from 50% in 2008 to 120% – 130% in the years 2014 – 2015 (Ζωγράφος, 2019). Such situations of political and economic turmoil often shape individuals’ perceptions of politics and life in general. Based on the results we obtained from the tables, we are able to draw a number of conclusions regarding the questions we asked at the beginning of this analysis.

First of all, regarding the question of how satisfied the people of Cyprus are with the economic situation of their country in the period of 2008, we observe a neutral attitude, since, based on the data in Table 1, the respondents are neither very dissatisfied nor very satisfied with the economic situation of their country, reaching 18.0%. Their attitude is justified by the general situation that prevailed, both economically and politically. More specifically, it is known that the economic crisis in Cyprus during the period 2008-2011 brought a series of changes (Ζένιος, 2013). An example of this is the exclusion of Cyprus from the markets, due to the deterioration of public finances.

In general, life satisfaction (an indicator of wellbeing) is of obvious importance for people on a personal and emotional level. Also, life satisfaction is associated both with greater productivity and effectiveness and with improved interrelationships between individuals (Clench-Aas & Holte, 2017). Positive wellbeing is connected to better physical health and longevity, partially through improved focus on preventive health measures (Diener & Seligman, 2004). When Europe abruptly and surprisingly ran into a severe financial crisis in 2008, a second recession followed in many countries in the period 2010–2012 and eventual negative effects on life satisfaction might intensify the negative economic impact of the crisis (Clench-Aas & Holte, 2017). 

Nevertheless, in the question how satisfied they are with life as a whole, 26.2% answered that they are indeed very satisfied. Therefore, we can easily conclude in that the economic situation of the country did not affect the general perception that people have for life as a whole. However, we should not overlook the fact that in the period 2006-2007, in an effort by the government to avoid the effects of the economic crisis, a number of policies to boost the economy and employment were adopted (Παχουλλάρας & Ρούσσος, 2014).

At that time, the EU institutions and Member States took strong political decisions to reduce the crisis, safeguard the integrity of the euro and avoid the worst possible consequences. The EU made efforts to regulate the financial sector and improve economic governance, such as support new and common institutional and legal frameworks, establish a financial protection wall for the euro, support countries in financial difficulty, improve Member States’ public finances, continue structural reforms and encourage investment, increase the capacity of managing and better preventing potential crises etc (Ευρωπαϊκή Επιτροπή, 2017).  As a result of these actions, Economic and Monetary Union of the European Union has undergone a major overhaul and the European economy -and in particular the euro area economy- has recovered (Ευρωπαϊκή Επιτροπή, 2017). The European recovery is sustainable and unemployment is steadily declining (Ευρωπαϊκή Επιτροπή, 2017). 

Regarding the trust in the political parties, there is no noticeable difference depending on their educational level. Since, individuals have either completed primary, secondary or tertiary education show a neutral attitude towards the parties with 23.7%, 28.2% and 19.2% respectively. Indeed, an economic crisis can lead to the alienation of individuals from politics and therefore to express a neutral attitude or even a negative attitude towards the trust they have in the political parties (Σαρρή, 2015).  

Finally, regarding the interest of individuals in the field of politics, there is a relatively indifferent attitude depending on the age level, showing a low interest. Exceptions to this are ages 15 to 24 who have absolutely no interest in politics, and ages 55 to 64 who are quite interested, with 48.1% and 34.1% respectively. One of the dominant beliefs is that the youth no longer hesitates to express their political view, to demand and protest (Κόλλια, 2017). On the other hand, there are beliefs that argue that society is characterized by injustice and inequality. These two act as catalysts in the political point of view of the people, and especially young people, forming a non-political attitude (Χαλέβας, 2012). 

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