What is more important than freedom

Study: Freedom is more important than more security

The majority of Austria's citizens are against expanding telephone surveillance and restricting the right to demonstrate. The majority feel free, but many also locate a global conspiracy against themselves.

Vienna. It is a discussion that has just gained new nourishment in the past few years. Should the state expand surveillance measures to ensure more security? Or is it more important to preserve citizens' freedom?

According to a study published on Tuesday, Austria's population is more on the side of freedom. A clear majority is against new measures to monitor telephone calls or to restrict freedom of expression. The politically repeatedly discussed restriction of the right to demonstrate was also clearly rejected. On the other hand, there is a clear majority for the expansion of video surveillance in public places.

Specifically, the citizens were confronted with the question: “Suppose the federal government announces the following measure to increase security / restrict freedom. Do you agree very, fairly, little or not at all? ”The results (see graphic) are part of the study“ Freedom Index Austria 2018 ”. It was created by the polling institute Sora on behalf of the Neos Lab, the educational academy of the Pink Party. In the previous year, a total of 2,153 people living in Austria were surveyed (by phone and online).

The study shows that 54 percent of those surveyed feel free, 22 percent feel free. However, only a slim majority of 51 percent regards democracy in Austria as free. 16 percent feel they are not free, the rest cannot decide.

The tide turns when one asks “whether politics can solve the challenges of our time”. 58 percent do not trust the representatives of the people or tend not to trust them. In the opinion of the citizens, they can still rely on themselves. The statement “Everyone is the maker of his or her happiness. If you make an effort, you can also achieve something ”, more than two thirds can agree.

Many feel that they are being kept small

Unfortunately, a global conspiracy hampers you on your way up. At least that is what the majority of respondents think. The statement "The mighty in the world conspire to keep people like me down" 56 percent agree very or fairly. A majority also affirms the statement: “Some are up, others down.” Almost two thirds also complain that everything is so uncertain today “that you often no longer know what to look for”.

However, the EU fundamental freedoms are seen as positive again. Six out of ten respondents consider it an advantage that citizens from other EU countries work in Austria, eight out of ten are in favor of waiving customs duties, and 53 percent consider it an advantage if there are no border controls within the EU.

And how does the citizens' desire for freedom in the study fit together with election results in which parties with the issue of security recently scored highly? Addressing fears “certainly has a mobilizing force, while mobilizations for freedom actually do not exist,” Sora study author Günther Ogris analyzed when asked.

The pink party leader, Beate Meinl-Reisinger, was also present at the presentation of the study on Tuesday in the Neos Lab. She explained that the subject of fundamental rights had been politically discussed in the debate surrounding Interior Minister Herbert Kickl (FPÖ). The feeling of many citizens that they are at the mercy of the powerful, she explained by ignoring concerns that come from the population, such as the protection of non-smokers in pubs. “Citizens need to feel that they can make a difference. It shouldn't be participation like in the most recent referendums, in which the citizens are then run over, ”said Meinl-Reisinger.

People want the EU to solve problems

And the European Union must also do its part so that citizens have more confidence in politics again. “People want the EU to tackle big issues. But it is precisely with these that she is often unable to act ”, analyzed the Neos club boss.

The Liberal boss was naturally pleased that freedom is very important to the Austrians, according to the study. However, she did not go into the question of why the Neos could not win more votes with this topic in elections. In any case, the pink academy will commission follow-up studies on the subject of freedom over the next few years. In this way, one also wants to know in future in which direction the population's feeling of freedom is shifting.

("Die Presse", print edition, February 13th, 2019)