Albanian Public Perceptions of Socio-Cultural and Foreign Policy Issues

February 13th, 2012

For the entire ninety-nine year history of the independent Albanian state, no project or survey with the specific aim of inquiring into the opinions of Albanian people on foreign policy has been published. This project seeks to remedy that situation.

The overall goal of the project “Albanian Public Perceptions of Socio-Cultural and Foreign Policy Issues” is to provide a primary academic source for academicians, foreign-policy makers, civil-society organizations and think-tank institutions by providing the first large survey on the opinions of Albanian people on foreign policy.

The project is further motivated by the need to democratize the process of formulation, conduct and implementation of Albanian foreign policy by taking into consideration the real opinions of Albanian society on these issues. To this end, the project aims to be unique in providing a platform that determines the impact of socio-cultural and religious identities on the views of Albanian people on foreign policy.

To achieve this goal, this project employs a scientific methodology based on surveys carried out in May through July 2010, with a valid representation sample of 1084 people above the age of 18, located in all districts of Albania. Particular attention is devoted to the gender, age-group and geographical distributions of the sample in order to realize the above mentioned goal of properly understanding the impact of socio-cultural and religious status of the Albanians on their perceptions on foreign policy. 

The survey consists of 27 questions in which eight independent variables are employed: gender, age, education, profession, political affiliation, religion, urban-rural status, application places—i.e. names of the cities and regions where the survey was conducted. Although 10 percent of the randomly selected samples were double checked by the SPSS data coordinator, an error margin of 1.5% - 2% remains inevitable.

As a second step of this project, some additional interviews were held with three intellectual elites or the so-called “people’s leaders”. During the interpretations of results that follow in this report, the questions in which these intellectual elites agreed or disagreed with the opinions of the general survey sample are noted.

Key Findings

The project focuses on two main spheres: (1) understanding Albanians’ perceptions on their socio-cultural backgrounds; (2) comprehending the issues and international relationships that Albanian people prioritize in foreign affairs.

The survey shows that two out of three Albanians or 68 percent of the respondents affirm that relations with the European Union (EU) should be prioritized in the foreign policy of Albania; furthermore, the overwhelming majority of respondents—around 92 percent—strongly support the country’s EU membership. When asked about the reason behind their choice, 49 percent of the respondents expected that EU membership would at most bring economic improvement, which corresponds to the 33 percent of the respondents who think that the EU is more successful in the area of economy and the 53 percent of the respondents who define the lack of economic development as the main problem in Albania.

Another interesting finding is that respondents  consider the United States to be the country with the greatest influence on Albanians politics (64% of the respondents),  and the third biggest country impacting Albanians economy (15% of the respondents), although as a matter of fact the USA is not on the list of Albania's foreign trade partners. On the other hand, although 70 percent of the respondents consider Turkey to be the most powerful country in the Balkan region, only about 8 percent think that Turkey has the greatest influence in the Balkans. In addition to it, only 13 percent believe that Turkey has the greatest impact on Albanian economy and only 4 percent agree on that it has the greatest impact on Albanian politics. Nevertheless, most of the Albanian people, around 37 percent of the respondents, think of Turkey as their friendliest state.

From another perspective, Albanian people perceive the freedom of religion to be the second most successful achievement of Albanian state in 20 years of democratic experience; however, two out of three persons in Albania have never attended or have attended only once in their lives the religious congregations. Nevertheless, the Albanian public agrees on an existing harmony between religions in the country, which is perhaps why less than 4 percent of the respondents think that the religious diversity will lead to problems in the future.

To conclude, it is crucial to reemphasize that the Albanian Political Culture Project is unique in providing an overview of the opinions of Albanian people on foreign policy. In addition, we should restate that although some questions in the survey were asked to determine the preferences of Albanian society towards political parties, that domestic political analysis is not the objective of the survey. The questions are simply used as independent variables to understand whether various political preferences make a difference in the opinions on Albanian foreign policy. Lastly, it is hoped that this project will not only serve as a valuable source of information for scholars, policy makers and civil-society organizations but will also benefit those who aim to undertake other similar or more advanced works on the same subject.  


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