Year: 2019

In the grip of authoritarian populism. Polish attitudes to an open society

Report presents findings regarding Poland from the research Voices on Values: How European publics and policy actors value an open society. It shows that the concept of an open society stands at the centre of Polish political debate, particularly when it comes to cultural diversity. It has, more than any other issue, the power to divide Poles. This manifests itself in political preferences, and in whether people are happy or unhappy with the political situation. Gender, age, education levels and acceptance of the presence of religion in political life also have an impact. Arguments that play on fears caused by cultural diversity make it easier to convince Poles that it is worth exchanging some of their democratic freedoms for a better quality of life. 

Moreover, democratic values in Poland have shallow roots, and this gives Polish politicians a ready opportunity to manipulate them. Slogans about reducing cultural diversity and the protection of Polish values are the first stages in a more concerted attack on the values of an open society.

Poles are inconsistent in their support of open society values as they relate to liberal democracy, suggesting that democratic values are not deeply embedded in Poland - and explaining why so many Poles accept a majoritarian model of democracy. This preference is strongest among respondents who are mildly dissatisfied with the political situation, which makes it easier for politicians to bring them over to their side by using slogans about cultural diversity.

Our Voices on Values research also shows the negative influence of the Catholic church in the public sphere. All open society attributes related to cultural diversity and liberal democracy are influenced by the role of the Church in politics. The more people recognise and support the Church’s role in public life, the higher the closed society attitudes. Acceptance of the role of religious values in public life is also in line with a greater willingness to trade off open society values for alternative options. 

The most alarming observation we make is that young Poles (aged 18-24 and 25-34) are the least supportive of all the open society values presented to them, and the closest to closed society attitudes. They also have the least open attitudes to cultural diversity, and are the only social group that prefers living standards to more democratic values.


Information on the research:

1.    The Voices on Values research is based on a survey conducted among over 6,000 respondents from February to March 2018 and interviews with 70 experts held from February to May 2018. All research activities were undertaken in 6 European countries: France, Greece, Germany, Poland, Hungary and Italy.
2.    All study reports can be accessed at Release of the reports was accompanied by two events in Berlin (details: and



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