New Poll Shows Kazakh Citizens Have Positive Outlook on the Country, And Fundamentals Explain Why

So much of Kazakhstan is changing and modernising at an incredible pace: the country has entered into the ranks of the 50 most-competitive states, Astana has grown from a small town to a reputable capital hosting grand events and the people in general are becoming used to living in a market economy. The general attitude of Kazakhstan citizens regarding their homeland is improving, which can be seen not only from national television channels and news outlets but from the recent results of a survey conducted by Ipsos MORI, a leading market research company in the U.K.

The research, commission by the recently established Eurasian Council on Foreign Affairs, used a sample of 1,000 adults aged 18 and over and followed quotas set on gender, age and location to ensure a national overview. The results of the ten-question survey compared answers from a similar study conducted in 2013. According to the report, “respondents display an increasingly positive attitude towards their country across the board, demonstrating growing support and consensus for the general direction of their government’s policies.”

Ninety percent of respondents replied that they feel fairly positive or very positive about their country, an increase of four percentage points from 2013. Only seven percent of those surveyed said they feel neither positive nor negative, down from 11 percent in 2013, and a mere one percent of respondents expressed feeling fairly negative or very negative. It is notable that 95 percent of those under 24 felt fairly positive or very positive, as opposed to 88-90 percent with the same response in other age groups, highlighting the optimism felt by those born in independent Kazakhstan.The highest level of optimism was reported in the northern region of Kazakhstan, where 97 percent of respondents said they felt fairly positive or very positive, compared to 83 percent in Astana and 88-91 percent in other regions.

Given the enormous amount of investment into infrastructure and the broad support provided for entrepreneurs through various incentives, it is not surprising to note an increase of five percent in the respondents’ perception of the country’s economy. Seventy-five percent of participants in the study stated they feel fairly positive or very positive about the economic outlook of Kazakhstan. Only five percent of the sample group reported feeling fairly negative or very negative about the economy, while 18 percent reported they feel neither positive nor negative. In general, respondents in Southern and Northern Kazakhstan were more positive about the economy than respondents elsewhere, with 83 percent and 81 percent respectively saying they felt fairly positive or very positive.

More people noted an improvement in Kazakhstan as a place to live, with 83 percent (up from 81 percent in 2013) saying it has gotten a lot better or a little better, and 13 percent saying it has stayed the same. Only three percent (down from five percent in 2013) said it has gotten a little worse or a lot worse over the last ten years. The number of respondents saying life has gotten a lot better (the highest indicator) rose from 26 percent in 2013 to astonishing 40 percent in 2014.

Respondents were generally fairly satisfied with selected important aspects of life in Kazakhstan ten years ago, although only 15-32 percent said they were satisfied and very satisfied, while 5-16 percent said they were unsatisfied and very unsatisfied.

The categories selected in the research included road and transport infrastructure, prices of everyday goods, education, policing, overall quality of life, healthcare, justice system, the respondent’s own standard of living, identifying and eliminating corruption, opportunities for individuals to progress in society and job opportunities. The percentage of respondents being satisfied or very satisfied went up on absolutely all aspects by 6-15 percent if compared to 2013 results.

Out of the 17 descriptive words the respondents were asked to associate with Kazakhstan, the most correlated ones were all positive, with the top five staying unchanged from 2013. Words like “hospitable” (47 percent), “stable” (39 percent), “peaceful” (37 percent), “improving” (36 percent) and “successful” (32 percent) were all used to describe the country. According to the authors of the survey, there were no noticeable differences in attitudes among men and women.

Furthermore, with the country actively preparing for EXPO 2017 and successfully navigating through Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) and Organisation of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) chairmanships, 78 percent of respondents think that Kazakhstan’s global standing improved in recent years. Almost half (41 percent) believe the country’s standing has greatly improved.

But even with an improvement in the country’s international image, there are still issues the government needs to address to raise Kazakhstan’s reputation even higher. Eighty-eight percent of respondents tend to support or strongly support actively combating corruption to help to raise Kazakhstan’s international profile. President Nursultan Nazarbayev, well aware of the problem plaguing the country, unveiled the new Anti-Corruption Strategy adopted by the Nur Otan party on Nov. 11.

Other popular incentives disclosed by the survey were actively combating social inequality (87 percent), contributing more to combating environmental problems (85 percent) and participation in international trade (84 percent). While 15 percent tend to oppose or strongly oppose contributing more to resolving international conflict, 62 percent believe Kazakhstan should do more.

Whereas 56 percent of respondents either have never heard or have heard, but know nothing about Kazakhstan’s candidacy for a non-permanent seat on the United Nations Security Council for 2017-18, only 12 percent know a great/fair amount about it. This highlights an internal communication issue more than anything else.

Finally, Kazakhstan’s citizens are confident in their security. According to 67-87 percent of survey respondents, Kazakhstan deals very well and fairy well with food, water, energy and nuclear security, the key pillars of its UN Security Council bid.

The results of the poll explain the popularity of President Nazarbayev over the years. With the recent announcement of a new economic policy Nurly Zhol, which emphasises heavy investment in infrastructure and social liabilities of the state, there are reasons to believe such a generally positive sentiment about their country among the people of Kazakhstan will stay on.