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Life in Transition: Poland

Key findings (%, weighted)

Poland Average Transition region Average Western Europe
Satisfied with life 56 43 72
Trust in others 39 34 42
Perceive less corruption than four years ago 28 21 9
Concerned about climate change 38 54 54
Support both market economy and democracy 26 34 42
Households affected by the crisis 30 49 31

Impact of the crisis

  • Less than one-third of Polish households have been affected by the economic crisis. The impact is clearly wealth-related, as over one-third of the lower-income population bracket has been affected adversely compared to only about 13 per cent of the higher-income section. Among the age ranges, the crisis has hit the middle-aged group of respondents the hardest.

Life satisfaction

  • Poles are among the most satisfied people in the transition region. Well over one-half are happy with their lives. This percentage has risen by over five points since 2006. The level of satisfaction nevertheless varies considerably according to income. Only one-third of the poorest people are happy, compared to three-quarters of the wealthiest.


    Over one-half of respondents believe that their children will fare better in their lives than themselves, which is a five per cent increase since 2006. Whereas the richest third of the population has the same outlook about the future as before, 8 percentage points more people in the lowest income bracket are optimistic now than four years ago.

Attitudes towards democracy and market economy

  • Support for a market economy is rather low compared with the transition region average. Preference for a market economy over any other economic system has fallen from 40 per cent to 30 per cent over the past four years. The proportion of people with a positive attitude towards democracy has also dropped, with fewer than half of respondents claiming that it is their unequivocally favoured political system. Nevertheless, as is the case in the transition region overall, more people choose the combination of a market economy and democracy than any other.


    Poles are confident that most of the basic democratic institutions exist in their country. The percentage of the population believing this is within 15 points of the average in the western comparators in most instances. The exception is law and order, which is perceived not to exist by over half of respondents (20 percentage points cent less than in the western comparators). Also, less than one-half believe in the presence of a strong political opposition, protection of minority rights, or a court system that protects individuals from abuse by the state.

Generalised and institutional trust

  • The level of generalised trust has significantly increased to almost 40 per cent since 2006, exceeding the transition region average by five percentage points. Trust has risen across all age and income groups within the population and particularly the richest one-third, implying a positive correlation between the level of trust and wealth in the country.


    Trust in most public institutions has increased since 2006, and in some cases dramatically so. Politicians especially seem to be earning people’s trust more than before. The proportion of respondents who trust the presidency, the government, parliament and political parties have all more than doubled and narrowed the gap with western European comparator levels. The armed forces and the police remain the most trusted institutions for over half of respondents. In addition, banks and foreign investors both merit more confidence than is common in western Europe.

Corruption perception

  • Irregular payments to various institutions are relatively low and there is a decreasing trend. Just over eight per cent of respondents believe that the health care sector most commonly attracts such payments, but this figure has halved since 2006. In the case of the traffic police, 3.5 per cent of respondents believe that irregular payments are an issue, as opposed to the western European comparator average of 0.5 per cent. For all other public services, however, figures for Poland are less than one percentage point higher than in the western countries.

Priorities for government spending

  • Health care is the primary government spending priority for over 40 per cent of respondents. Almost 18 per cent believe that the government should provide additional finances for pensions, while only 10 per cent think that education deserves priority attention (which is well below the western European comparator average of 25 per cent).

Full report

  • The Life in Transition Survey provides vivid evidence of precisely how lives have been affected by the global economic crisis and its aftermath.

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