Earlier this month the European Values Think-Tank in Prague (or Think-tank Evropské hodnoty for the more Slavistically-oriented among you) released findings from a survey on the impact of Russian disinformation operations in the Czech Republic. It’s a worth a read, as is their paper on how and why Russia’s taken such an interest in influencing Czech affairs and why us non-Czechs should actually care.

But what grabbed my attention was a survey question on perceived threats to the Czech Republic (page 8 for anyone following along at home):

Which threats are currently the most serious for our country? List three threats at most, please.

The top three most commonly-mentioned threats?

  1. Refugees: 50%
  2. Terrorism, attacks, assassinations: 42%
  3. Islamic fundamentalism: 21%

Keep in mind the Czech Republic is a country that might have as many as 3,500 Muslims out of a population of more than 10 million (i.e., 0.03% of the population) where a grand total of 134 Syrians applied for asylum last year, according to the UNHCR. It’s a country where you’re more likely to see some dumbass fake ISIS attack/“protest” from a gaggle of far-right clowns than, say, an actual Muslim.

Czeching the data (yes, a “Czech” pun)

To try and understand more about what Czechs think of Muslims, I looked at data from the 2014 version of the European Social Survey, where they asked more than 2,100 Czechs:

please tell me to what extent you think the Czech Republic should allow Muslims from other countries to come and live in the Czech Republic? 

  • Allow many to come and live here
  • Allow some
  • Allow a few
  • Allow none

More than half – 56% – said that no Muslims should be allowed to come and live in the Czech Republic. Less than a third (30%) said “a few” Muslims should be allowed, 13% said “some” and 2% said “many,” for a total of 44%.

  • Allow many to come and live here: 2%
  • Allow some: 13%
  • Allow a few: 30%
  • Allow none: 56%

This isn’t surprising, especially given the data from the European Values Think-Tank and what we already know about Czech politics and President Miloš Zeman’s not-exactly-subtle hostility to Islam and refugees.

Left foot forward?

But Czechs on the left seem to be the least willing to welcome Muslims.

Czechs who told ESS interviewers they voted for the Communists (KSČM) in the last election were more likely than voters of all other parties – 64% versus 52% – to say that no Muslims should be allowed to live in the Czech Republic.

Looking at the parties individually, only supporters of Tomio Okamura’s Front National-linked far right movement were more likely (71%) to say this. Even supporters of the governing centre-left social democrats (ČSSD) were more likely (59%) than members of other centrist/right-wing parties to say that no Muslims should be allowed to live in the Czech Republic.

The ESS also asks people to rank themselves on an 11-point left-right scale (below), which is where things get even more interesting.

2016-09-19-19-41-40

The mean left-right score for those wanting to allow “many,” “some” or “a few” Muslims (5.43) is higher – meaning further to the right – than those who don’t think any Muslims should be allowed in (4.73).

This still boggled my mind so I broke the left-right scale up into a few different permutations to see if this relationship held up:

  • 3 categories
    • Break the left 4 into a ‘left’ category, the middle as its own mushy ‘centre’ and the final four as a ‘right’ category.
      • Left: 63% allow no Muslims
      • Centre: 61%
      • Right: 46%
  • 5 categories
    • Break the left 2 into a ‘far left’ category, the next three as ‘left’, the middle as its own mushy ‘centre,’ the next three as ‘right’ and the final two as a ‘far right’ category.
      • Far left: 77% allow no Muslims
      • Left: 59%
      • Centre: 61%
      • Right: 48%
      • Far right 41%
  • 5 categories, a bit different
    • Break the left one into a ‘far left’ category, the next four as ‘left’, the middle as its own mushy ‘centre,’ the next four as ‘right’ and the final one as a ‘far right’ category. I wanted to try this to isolate that far left/right to each endpoint of the scale.
      • Far left: 81% allow no Muslims
      • Left: 60%
      • Centre: 61%
      • Right: 47%
      • Far right 42%

This totally blows my mind – it looks like the more one identifies to the left, the more likely they are to not support Muslims being allowed to come and live in the Czech Republic.

What’s my age again?

I’ve lost my mind in enough SPSS data tables to know that when a totally counterintuitive finding like this pops up there’s often something else that actually explains it.

Is it age? It could be, given that there’s also a clear relationship between age and (lack of) support for allowing Muslims to come and live in the Czech Republic (case in point: many/some/few Muslims? Mean age 43.1 years. No Muslims? Mean age 46.3 years).

I thought this might be the case, especially when I realized that KSČM supporters tended to be much older than supporters of other parties (a mean age of 60.8 years compared to 47.8 years for all other parties combined). This relationship also holds true for the left-right scale – the average age of those identifying on the left was higher than those identifying themselves on the right:

  • 3 categories
    • Break the left 4 into a ‘left’ category, the middle as its own mushy ‘centre’ and the final four as a ‘right’ category.
      • Left: mean age 52.2 years
      • Centre: 44 years
      • Right: 41 years
  • 5 categories
    • Break the left 2 into a ‘far left’ category, the next three as ‘left’, the middle as its own mushy ‘centre,’ the next three as ‘right’ and the final two as a ‘far right’ category.
      • Far left: mean age 54 years
      • Left: 51.7 years
      • Centre: 44 years
      • Right: 41.6 years
      • Far right 38.4 years
  • 5 categories, a bit different
    • Break the left one into a ‘far left’ category, the next four as ‘left’, the middle as its own mushy ‘centre,’ the next four as ‘right’ and the final one as a ‘far right’ category. I wanted to try this to isolate that far left/right to each endpoint of the scale.
      • Far left: mean age 56.1 years
      • Left: 51.6 years
      • Centre: 44 years
      • Right: 41.1 years
      • Far right 39.7 years

So which is it?

I ran a quick logistic regression analysis to see whether age or placement on the left-right scale was a more accurate predictor of one’s support for allowing “many,” “some” or “a few” Muslims into the Czech Republic.

In short, I found that the placement on the left-right scale (that is, identifying more to the right) was a slightly stronger predictor of supporting allowing Muslims into the Czech Republic than age (that is, being younger).

In other words, it’s more about being on the left than being old.

Caveats:

  • I ran this over a few hours in a basement in a pair of ill-fitting sweatpants, so do hold it up to that standard.
  • This data is from fieldwork done between November 2014 and February 2015 – before the refugee crisis really turned sour.
  • There are many, many other variables I need to look at before drawing some sort of iron-clad conclusion on this. Some I’ve looked at but not ranted on about here (e.g., gender, region, socio-economic status, etc.).
  • I’m no expert on Czech politics, history, society and/or political culture, which is why I’ve really drawn no conclusion here other than “shit, this is interesting!”
  • If you’ve read this far, ask me about your prize.
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