World

Few in Baltic States Voice Preferences in U.S. Election

by Ian T. Brown

Latvians, Lithuanians divided over whether election makes a difference

WASHINGTON, D.C. -- Citizens in the Baltic state of Latvia slightly favor Democratic Sen. Barack Obama over Republican Sen. John McCain in the U.S. presidential election, though a majority do not voice a preference. In Estonia and Lithuania, respondents are split between the two candidates, but even more respondents do not have a preference.

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These Gallup Polls were conducted during key moments of the U.S. election season. In Estonia and Lithuania, Gallup surveyed respondents in June and July, shortly after Sen. Hillary Clinton conceded the Democratic nomination to Democratic rival Obama. In Latvia, Gallup polled in July and August, concluding days before the Democratic and Republican National Conventions began.

Access to media is likely not a serious issue for Baltic residents. On the Gallup Communications Index, which measures citizens' connectedness to electronic communications such as telephone and television, Estonia's score of 69 is average for Europe, and Latvia's and Lithuania's scores of 64 and 60, respectively, are not that much lower.

While large majorities in each country do not express a preference for whom they would like to be the next U.S. president, more respondents have an opinion about whether the outcome of the U.S. presidential election makes a difference to their country. Lithuanians and Latvians are more likely than Estonians to say the election makes a difference to their country, but overall are divided as to whether it makes a difference. In Estonia, a majority of respondents (61%) say the election outcome does not make a difference.

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In an editorial published by The Baltic Times in July, Joseph Gerzen argues that the presidential election does in fact have significance for Lithuanians, largely because of President George W. Bush's selection of Lithuania as an alternative host country for the missile defense shield. Gerzen maintains that if McCain were elected president, he would continue to push for such partnership, possibly at the expense of Lithuania's relations with Russia. Nonetheless, Gallup finds Lithuanian respondents split equally between McCain and Obama. Gerzen's argument may not mirror how Lithuanians' view their interests with respect to the election.

As a point of comparison to another former Soviet state, Georgian respondents voice a preference for John McCain and a majority do think the election outcome will make a difference to their country. While Georgia needs continued U.S. support for its bid to join NATO, Baltic nations already have well-established economic and political ties to the West, possibly explaining why the election resonances less with Baltic nations' citizens. Energy ties with Russia and the possibility of a new pipeline through the Baltic Sea likely demand more of their attention.

Survey Methods

Results are based on face-to-face interviews with 601 adults in Estonia, aged 15 and older, conducted in June-July 2008; 513 adults in Latvia, aged 15 and older, conducted in July-August 2008; and 506 adults in Lithuania, aged 15 and older, conducted in June 2008. For results based on the total sample of national adults, one can say with 95% confidence that the maximum margin of sampling error is between ±4 and ±5 percentage points. In addition to sampling error, question wording and practical difficulties in conducting surveys can introduce error or bias into the findings of public opinion polls.

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Gallup http://www.gallup.com/poll/111190/Few-Baltic-States-Voice-Preferences-US-Election.aspx
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