The Social Gravity of Corruption from the Perspective of Czech Citizens

In the context of corruption, the offering or providing of bribes is a crucial issue. Bribes are defined by Czech law as “unauthorized advantages consisting in direct asset enrichment or another profit”. In this respect, the attitude of the public towards both forms of corrupt behavior, i.e. the offering and acceptance of bribes, is worthy of attention. An important factor characterizing the public’s attitude on corruption is the consensus that such behavior is harmful; proof of this can be seen in the identification of a group of citizens that tolerate corruption to a greater degree than others. Finally, the estimate of the seriousness of corruption in the context of other socially pathological phenomena is also significant

In March 2013, the Institute for Evaluations and Social Analyses (INESAN) carried out a research survey entitled “Feelings of Safety and Life Satisfaction in One’s Place of Residence”, which explored public attitudes toon selected pathological phenomena including corruption. The quota sampling technique was used to select respondents, and the research sample included representatives of the general adult population of the Czech Republic from 18 to 64 years old. Within the research survey, a total of 1,211 interviews with respondents were carried out. Respondents were selected via quota sampling so that they represented the general population in regard to sex, age, education, region and size of their place of residence.

Firstly, it should be stated that the public differentiates between the seriousness of individual types of pathological behavior, as the difference between behavior which is evaluated as serious by the greatest number of respondents and behavior that is seen as serious by the lowest number amounts to 75 percentage points. Specifically, fleeing the scene of a traffic accident without providing first aid to the injured is viewed as a serious social problem by 91 % of interviewees, while sharing films and music on the internet is considered to be serious by 16 %. Approximately three fifths of respondents consider corruption to be a serious social problem. Accepting or offering a bribe is considered acceptable by roughly 4 % of respondents, and two fifths of respondents lack a clear opinion on the issue. When comparing the seriousness of corruption with some other pathological phenomena, it is clear that offering and accepting bribes is seen as a social problem, the seriousness of which is comparable to acts such as spraying graffiti on a building or the failure to report a crime. Thus, it is clear that corruption is not viewed as a marginal or petty issue; on the other hand, however, the public attributes an even greater seriousness to several other phenomena.

A more detailed analysis of corrupt behavior clearly shows that the public does not differentiate between active and passive forms of bribery. Thus, accepting bribes and offering them are seen to be equally serious issues. This similarity is visible in the comparison of the seriousness of both forms of corrupt behavior and also in the analysis of the individual sociodemographic groups who consider individual forms of corrupt behavior to be serious.

In regard to differentiation in perceiving the seriousness of corruption itself, completed research has shown that inhabitants of Moravia are more tolerant of the acceptance or offering of bribes than those living in Bohemia. In Bohemia, roughly sixty percent of inhabitants disapprove of corruption, compared to half of the respondents in Moravia. The view of corruption in regard to the economic standing of the respondents is interesting, as the research has shown a similarity in attitudes among respondents from households with the highest and lowest incomes. The similarity between these otherwise disparate groups stems from a high internal polarization, in which a large share of the individuals who see corruption as a serious problem combine with a large portion of those who tolerate corruption. On the contrary, the evaluation of the seriousness of corruption does not differ among respondents from households with average incomes.

Graph: Evaluation of the seriousness of corrupt behavior

A deduction can be made based on the results of the completed survey that there is general agreement among Czech citizens on the fact that corruption is a serious social problem. At the same time, no specific social group can be singled out that might perceive corruption in a significantly different manner than other groups. Furthermore, it is evident that the public considers both forms of corrupt behavior to be equally serious and thus does not differentiate between the degree of guilt of the parties providing bribes or accepting them.