civicness in poland – redux

in two posts last year (here and here) i looked at the uncivicness of eastern europeans, civicness being determined by looking at data from the world values survey regarding membership in volunteer organizations. in those posts, i looked specifically at active members — people who are not just card-carrying members but who actually regularly participate in voluntary activities.

then i revisted this topic last week for poland and germany showing that there appears to be less civicness in poland than in germany and that civicness decreases as you move from west to east across germany to poland. (i’m planning to look at more countries in europe to see if there are any broader geographic patterns to civicness on that continent, so stay tuned!)

szopeno referred me to a very interesting research article — Civil Society Weakness in Post Communist Europe: A Preliminary Assessment [pdf] — in which the argument is made that some of the post-communist european countries are more civic than others. in other words, a population having experienced living under a totalitarian, stalinist regime is not the only explanation for subsequent uncivic behavior. the authors point out, for instance, that former soviet central asian countries are, for the most part, much less civic than anything you find in eastern europe. needless to say, they didn’t consider that central asian societies are generally first-cousin marrying, tribally-based populations whereas the majority of eastern europeans are not either of those, but that’s a discussion for a later date.

the interesting thing i came across in the article was a reference to the CBOS — Centrum Badania Opinii Społecznej or the Center for Public Opinion Research. the good folks at the centrum do lots of surveys of people in poland — some published in english. here’s one in polish that caught my eye: AKTYWNOŚĆ POLAKÓW W ORGANIZACJACH OBYWATELSKICH W LATACH 1998–2010 [pdf] — ACTIVITY OF THE POLES IN CIVIL ORGANIZATIONS IN 1998-2010. (^_^)

by using the data in table 1 on page 3 — and via the magic that is google translate — i’ve been able to compare this polish survey of volunteerism with the world values survey. i thought it would be a good way to check to see if the world values survey is right at all.

the world values survey i looked at in the previous post was conducted in 2005, so i compared it to the 2006 polish study (it was either that or 2004). both surveys looked at active members. i tried to match the categories as best i could, but there weren’t always perfect matches. here’s what i came up with in my comparison:

– WVS = 2005
* Polish survey = 2006

– Environmental organization = 1.6%
* Organizations for environmental protection = 1.8%

– Political party = 1.10%
* Parties or political associations = 0.7%

– Labor unions = 4.4%
* Trade unions = 3.9%

– Sports or recreation = 4.2%
* Organizations (associations, clubs and associations) sports = 3.5%

– Professional organization = 2.6%
* Associations and professional associations = 0.5%

– Church or religious organization = 12.9%
* Organizations, religious movements, church, parish communities = 3.4%

– Charity, humanitarian organization = 3.1%
* 5.6%
* Charities working for children in need = 3.5%
* Charitable organizations that work for people in need – old, poor, homeless, sick, disabled, victims of natural disasters, victims of wars, etc. = 2.1%

– Art, music, educational = 4.6%
* 7.6%
* Organizations for educational, such as committee parent, parent council, a foundation school, college, Social Educational Society, etc. = 4.8%
* Organizations, artistic associations, such as choir, orchestra, band dance, theater = 1.6%
* Scientific societies = 1.2%

– Other = 3.3%
* 24.7%
* Volunteer Fire Department, Mountain Volunteer Ambulance Jackets, etc. = 3.4%
* Associations, gardeners, farmers, fishermen, hunters = 2.5%
* Youth organizations such as scouts, youth clubs, Student unions and associations = 2.3%
* Organizations pensioners, senior citizens clubs = 1.8%
* Society for animal lovers, animal care = 1.6%
* Organizations supporting health care facilities = 1.5%
* Self-help organizations such as associations of persons with disabilities, single fathers, alcoholics, people with unemployed = 1.3%
* Local and district, residential areas, such as council people, House committees = 1.2%
* Veterans organizations, veterans, war victims = 1.2%
* Labour governments (councils) = 1.1%
* Committees are seeking a settlement of the case (eg parking lot), a group protest = 1.0%
* Local governments = 0.9%
* Organizations, tourism associations = 0.9%
* Other organizations, associations, movements, clubs or foundations = 0.9%
* Women’s organizations such as the wheel of the Rural = 0.8%
* Association of enthusiasts of the city, region, such as dealing with historic preservation, development of regional culture = 0.8%
* Associations, clubs, collectors, collectors, hobbyists = 0.7%
* Society for friendship with other countries, nations = 0.6%
* Provincial and district governments = 0.2%

the majority of the results of the comparable categories in the world value survey and the polish survey are within three percentage points of each other. that’s very close. one is quite off — interestingly, church/religious organizations — with a difference of 9.5%.

and then there is the “other” category.

there were lots of types of organizations that were asked about on the polish survey that weren’t touched upon at all on the world values survey, and i can imagine that many people just didn’t think to mention them as “other” when they were taking the world values survey. so, in the polish survey, there is an additional 21.4% of “yes” responses than on the world values survey.

that sounds like a lot — and it IS a lot — and it certainly raises poland quite a bit above the average scores from the arab world. however, poland still scores really low compared to anglo countries, for instance great britain.

if we add together all the percentages of the “yes” responses for poland from the world values survey, we get 37.8%. adding together all the percentages of “yes” responses for poland from the polish suvey, we get an improved 51.7%. but, if we add together all the percentages of “yes” responses for great britain from the world values survey, we get a whopping 143.5%. the two countries are just not in the same league.

so, i think that even if the world values surveys underestimate the true civic participation rates for some or all of the countries involved, they still offer a pretty accurate picture of how civic different populations are relatively speaking.

don’t get the wrong idea, though. lower civicness doesn’t necessarily mean that a population is overall less caring or less kind or less helpful. it’s just that, i think, their energies are directed differently. in the arab world, for instance, i’m sure that individuals are helping out and working with others plenty — it’s just that they help out and work with family members more so than strangers. and the latter is (mostly) what civic organizations are all about.

previously: civic societies and civic societies ii and “civicness” in germany and poland

(note: comments do not require an email. my other favorite polish thing. (^_^))


  1. Hi, I just looked at those posts from last year and being from Serbia some of the numbers seem way off.

    Church membership is listed at 3.90% which is impossible. Religiousness, even if in name only became a social norm after the fall of communism. Virtually everyone who gets married nowdays has a church wedding which requires membership in the Serbian Orthodox Church.

    Sports are very popular and it’s fairly standard for guys to be members of a sports club. Vast majority of workers are members of a labor union. The rest of the numbers look more realistic.


  2. @anonymous – “Hi, I just looked at those posts from last year and being from Serbia some of the numbers seem way off. Church membership is listed at 3.90% which is impossible.”

    hi, anonymous! thanks for your input. it’s really great to get info from people “on the ground” in whatever country we’re talking about around here. (^_^)

    i just double-checked the world values survey (2005-2008 wave) to make sure that the sample sizes for serbia weren’t really small or something — that can certainly throw results off. 1192 people in serbia were asked about their participation in a religious organization(s), though, so that seems o.k.

    keep in mind that the 3.9% reflects those who said they were active members in a religious organization — you know, people who go to church regularly and not just at christmas or to get married. an additional 15.5% said they were inactive members, but that still leaves 80.6% claiming not to be members of any religious organization. don’t know what to tell you. -?-

    there were four regions surveyed in serbia: the belgrad area, vojvodina, central west serbia and south east serbia. the first three have active+inactive membership in a religious organization at or above 20%. south east serbia is the region that seems to be bringing down the total score: active+inactive membership=5%. who lives in south east serbia? any particular group of people?


  3. @anonymous – “Sports are very popular and it’s fairly standard for guys to be members of a sports club.”

    1201 respondents. active members = 6.9%; inactive members = 10.9%; not a member = 82.2%.

    again, south east serbia has the low score: active+inactive=8.2%. the other three regions have scores at or above 17%, and vojvodina has a score of 29.5% (active+inactive members of sports club).


  4. @anonymous – “Vast majority of workers are members of a labor union.”

    1196 respondents. active members = 2.2%; inactive members = 12.5%; not a member = 85.4%.

    south east serbia = active+inactive = 9.7%.
    three other regions = active+inactive = 13.7% or above. belgrad area = 19.1% (active+inactive).


  5. Hi, hbd chick, I finally had some time to look at WVS data and the discrepancy stems from my not reading the question the way it was intended. I initially understood it to be “do you belong to a church” whereas it’s actually “do you belong to an organization that belongs to a church” in which case numbers would look right.
    To answer your question about the southeastern region, not sure why it scores so much lower. Maybe it has to do with the fact that most of the gypsies live there, though their numbers are not that great.
    BTW, I’m from the northern region Vojvodina which seems to score higher as a rule so I guess my estimations are skewed as a result.


  6. @anonymous – “I initially understood it to be ‘do you belong to a church’ whereas it’s actually ‘do you belong to an organization that belongs to a church’ in which case numbers would look right.”

    no, your first reading is correct. the question in english is:

    “Now I am going to read out a list of voluntary organizations; for each one, could you tell me whether you are a member, an active member, an inactive member or not a member of that type of organization? Church or religious organization.”

    i’m pretty sure that means are you a member of a church or some other religious organization. that’s how i would take it if someone asked me that question.

    here it is in serbian (see under 2005-2008 wave) — see what you think:

    “Sada ću Vam navesti nekoliko važnijih dobrovoljnih organizacija. Možete li mi reći, za svaku od njih posebno, da li ste njen aktivan član, ili niste član takve organizacije? (PROČITAJTE I ZAOKRUŽITE JEDAN ODGOVOR ZA SVAKU ORGANIZACIJU):

    “Crkvene, ili verske organizacije.”

    it would be very annoying if the questions were different in different languages!


  7. @anonymous – “BTW, I’m from the northern region Vojvodina which seems to score higher as a rule so I guess my estimations are skewed as a result.”

    yeah, regions matter! (^_^) i grew up in the midwest of the u.s. which is one of the “nice” regions of the country. whenever i was abroad, i would tell people what the united states was like — you know, if they asked. then i lived in los angeles for a while and i thought … gee, i’ll have to revise what i tell people about the u.s. (~_^)


  8. @anonymous – i see on wikipedia that 84% of the population of serbia are members of the serbian orthodox church … so why the world values survey number is so low, i don’t know. something must’ve gotten lost in translation! or maybe your second reading of the question is correct, although like i said before, that’s not how i would’ve understood it (in english, of course).

    the wikipedia reference for that figure goes to this governmental statistics site, but i’ll be d*mned if i can find anything about church membership there.


  9. Hey hbd chick, sorry for the overly late reply. Anyways the literal translation of the question above would be as follows:

    “Now I am going to list several of the more important voluntary organizations. Could you tell me, for each of them separately, if you are an active member of such an organization or not? (READ AND CIRCLE ONE ANSWER FOR EACH ORGANIZATION)

    churchly or faith-based organization”

    So the question as posed in this case seems to differentiate between baseline church membership and ‘extracurricular activities’ examples of which can be seen here:


  10. @anonymous – “Hey hbd chick, sorry for the overly late reply.”

    no problem! and thanks for the translation. (^_^)

    you know, i think your reading of the question is the correct one — and for english, too. i’ve been the one misreading it (and if i had been asked the question, i would’ve answered incorrectly! well, if i were religious.). i’ve always thought it meant “do you belong to a church … or a religious organization,” but now i see that it does, in fact, mean “do you belong to a church organization or a religious organization.”

    the answers certainly make more sense this way. i was wondering why so few poles responded yes to the question! i mean, i thought almost all poles were catholics!

    thanks again! (^_^)


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