Public opinion 2016
In November 2016, the public opinion research centre, SKDS, carried out an annual public opinion poll commissioned by the Ministry of Defence of Latvia to clarify residents’ views on the developing situation in state defence and to ask their opinion on current defence issues.
Of those who were interviewed, 45 percent admitted that the situation in national security and state defence in Latvia has improved compared to that of 2015. Reasons for this improvement were explained because of the presence of NATO in Latvia, military training, and the purchase of equipment and technologies. While 29 percent believe that the situation has not changed since the previous year and only 7 percent of the respondents, which is 2 percent less than in 2015, believe that the situation has not changed at all.
Among the interviewed Latvian residents, 59 percent consider that NATO contributes to Latvia’s security. This opinion was expressed mostly by respondents age 17 to 25. The percentage of residents supporting NATO is stable and continues since the previous year.
When asked for their opinion on the permanent presence of a Canadian-led multinational battalion sized battle group in Latvia starting in 2017, 43 percent of respondents said they approved of it. While 17 percent were critical and 30 percent of the interviewed stated that they were neutral on the matter.
Of the respondents, 67 percent noted continued development of the National Armed Forces, and 22 percent among them stated that they were “completely sure that the National Armed Forces is evolving”. If compared with the results of the survey carried out in 2015, the positive evaluation of the National Armed Forces has increased by 5 percent.
When asked if they can be proud of Latvian soldiers, 73 percent of respondents answered positively, which is an improvement from the 67 percent approval rate in 2015.
When asked if they agree that military knowledge should be taught to every resident in Latvia, for example, as a subject in educational institutions or within specially organized classes, 62 percent of respondents agreed. The majority of those who approved lived in the country side or close to Riga, and most of them – 65 percent of the 62– are the younger generation, age 17 to 25.
As one of the priorities in 2016 was the mechanization of the Land Forces Infantry Brigade, the poll participants were asked to state their opinion on the desired purchase strategy of equipment for the National Armed Forces. According to the survey, 45 percent of respondents believed that it is better to buy equipment that is affordable, even if it is not the newest or the most advanced, so that the National Armed Forces can achieve maximum effective combat readiness immediately. Meanwhile, 31 percent stated that if the newest models could not be acquired now, than future purchases of technologies should be void, considering that the National Armed Forces wouldn’t be able to protect Latvia if needed. 24 percent of respondents didn’t have an opinion on the matter.
In connection with the pending deployment of the Canadian Armed Forces into Latvia, people were asked about their associations with Canada. Mostly Canada was associated with hockey and hockey players (33 percent). Of the participants, 9 percent said that it is a rich and developed country, 8 percent associated Canada with maple leaves such as on the flag of Canada, and 7 percent linked Canada to its beautiful nature. Of the poll participants, 5 percent mentioned maple syrup and another 5 percent said that they associated Canada with its military support and military brigade in Latvia.