From 2017 to 2020 the number of Poles who believe that the judiciary reforms by PiS are aiming at judges' privileges goes significantly down. Now it is only 31 percent, three-quarters of which are PiS voters. 55 percent of people believe that these changes are an unacceptable attack on the rule of law

In surveys conducted in 2017 and 2020 by the renowned pollster Ipsos, OKO.press asked Poles to evaluate the changes in the justice system made by the ruling Law and Justice party (PiS). 

During the presidential election campaign conducted at the turn of 2019 and 2020, President Andrzej Duda said that judges „pretend to be fair and honest” and alleged that it is they – and not the government – that are spoiling the justice system. He demanded that Poland become a „clean country” through strict accountability of judges under the new system of disciplinary responsibility of judges.


Publikujemy teksty po angielsku o praworządności w Polsce, aby pełna informacja o sytuacji w naszym kraju docierała do czytelników i czytelniczek za granicą. Udostępnij znajomym mieszkającym poza Polską. #RuleOfLawPL 

Anna Wójcik  w tekście „Propaganda PiS przegrywa bitwę o sądy” wyjaśnia, że większość osób w Polsce uważa, że większość rządząca dopuszcza się niedopuszczalnego ataku na sądy i państwo prawa.


Duda has been a fervent supporter of the changes in the courts cooked up by PiS.

Despite the persistent propaganda efforts of candidate Duda, who needs to expand his base beyond PiS party supporters in order to be re-elected, it turns out that the narrative about the government’s struggle with the „judocracy” has failed to enthrall the majority of Poles.

Even Duda’s voters and supporters of PiS are having second thoughts. And these doubts are growing, which is clearly visible when comparing the results of the 2017 and 2020 polls (both conducted by Ipsos).

In the poll conducted for OKO.press by Ipsos in 2020 – which was undertaken before the breakout of the COVID-19 epidemicin Poland – we asked respondents about their assessments of the changes to the court system being made by PiS.

The answers available to respondents boiled down to the following:

  • „PiS’s policy towards the courts is an attempt to limit the privileges of the judicial community, which answers to no other authority and cannot reform itself”;
  •  „PiS’s policy towards the courts is an unacceptable attempt to infringe the rule of law and take control of the judiciary by politicians”;
  •  „Don’t know/ hard to say.”

The same question was asked in the Ipsos survey in March 2017.

Back then – even before the announcement of new laws on the National Council of the Judiciary, the Supreme Court and the common courts, which are the backbone of PiS changes into judiciary in Poland – 51 percent of people believed that PiS policy constituted an unacceptable attack on the courts. 39 per cent felt that it was an attempt to limit the privileges of the judicial community.

Three years later, after purges and the introduction of a new model of disciplinary responsibility for judges, crowned by the adoption of the “muzzle” law, supporters of the view that PiS is fighting against the privileges enjoyed by judges has spectacularly decreased – in 2020 this number has declined 8 percent compared to 2017 (down from 39 to 31 percent).

On the other hand, a significant majority of 55 percent – 4 percent more than three years ago – think that PiS is engaged in an unacceptable attack on the courts.

Assessments of the changes to the court system by PiS

2017
 
2020

Rounding of figures in the charts means they may not always add up to exactly one hundred percent.

Some of Duda’s voters choose him despite his support for PiS-led changes to courts

Judgements on changes in the courts being carried out by the ruling party remains strongly correlated with electoral preferences, i.e. voting for PiS – and for Andrzej Duda in the first round of the presidential election.

Only among voters expressing support for Andrzej Duda and for Krzysztof Bosak, the candidate of the extreme-right wing Konfederacja, is the belief that PiS is taking on the privileges of the judicial caste prevalent.

However, as many as 43 percent of Duda’s voters either think that PiS is undertaking an assault on the courts or have no opinion about it. They vote for Duda despite– not because of– his support for changes in the judicial system being rammed through by the ruling party, which he is not only not vetoing, but is even publicly supporting as the most faithful of the Zjednoczona Prawica (United Right) camp.

Political polarization in Poland

Poles think – rightly – that the changes being carried out by PiS in the courts are a political matter. Differences of opinion about the nature of these changes are clearly visible when we examine party preferences and support for presidential candidates.

89 percent of voters backing Koalicja Obywatelska (Civic Coalition) and Lewica (The Left) believe that PiS party is attacking the judiciary, while 69 per cent of PSL (People’s Party) voters think so too.

Voters backing extreme-right wing Confederation are divided: 43 percent think that PiS is attacking the courts, but another 43 percent think that the ruling party is cracking down on the privileges enjoyed by the “caste”.

19 per cent of PiS voters consider the actions of the ruling party to be an unacceptable attack on the courts. 20 percent have no opinion on this issue.This shows the relative weakness of the government’s propaganda against the courts and judges, even among the party’s base itself. 62 percent of PiS voters believe that the party is cracking down on judicial privileges.

Assessments of the changes to the court system by PiS

Konfederacja
 
Prawo i Sprawiedliwość
 
PSL i Kukiz '15
 
Koalicja Obywatelska
 
Lewica

Every fifth voter for Duda believes that PiS party is attacking the courts

Support for the incumbent President Duda, as other surveys for OKO.press show, is strongly correlated with support for PiS, the party he was originally associated with and whose policy towards the courts he has openly supported during the campaign.

We could assume that the same voters who would vote for PiS in parliamentary elections (under the banner of the United Right) would support Duda in the first round of the presidential election.

Among Duda’s supporters, the distribution of responses to the question about judgements on PiS’s policy towards courts is almost the same as the distribution of responses among PiS voters.

21 percent of those who declared that they would vote for Andrzej Duda in the first round believe that PiS is engaged in an attack on the courts, while 22 percent have no opinion and 56 percent think that PiS party is cracking down on judges’ privileges.

Apart from Duda voters, only the majority of voters supporting Krzysztof Bosak (Konfederacja) believe that the changes in the courts constitute a crackdown on the privileges enjoyed by the judiciary.

The largest numbers of those convinced that the PiS is assaulting the court system are among voters backing Robert Biedroń (The Left) and Małgorzata Kidawa-Błońska (Civic Coalition) – 9 out of 10 see the matter this way.

Similar opinions are held by 3/4 of voters backing Wladyslaw Kosiniak-Kamysz (PSL + Kukiz ’15) and 69 percent of those supporting Szymon Hołownia.

The highest percentage of those who do not have an opinion on PiS party policy towards the courts can be found among supporters backing Duda and Hołownia, 22 and 19 percent, respectively.

Youngsters support free courts

In every age group, the opinion that PiS has carried out an unacceptable attack on courts prevails.

All in all, a slightly higher percentage of women (58 percent) than men (52 percent) is convinced that changes in the court system constitute unacceptable interference by the executive in the judiciary.

Assessments of the changes to the court system by PiS

18-29 years old
 
30-39 years old
 
40-49 years old
 
50-59 years old
 
60 years old and more

The youngest respondents, aged 18-29 (and thus those born after 1989, in a democratic Poland), are the most likely to hold this opinion – as much as 72 percent. At the same time, 20 percent consider the changes in the courts as an attempt to limit the privileges of the judiciary, while 8 percent have no opinion.

The view that PiS has attacked the courts is – in comparison with other age groups – the least common among the oldest segment of the population, as 46 percent of those over 60 years of age think so. But this is still more than those who consider the changes in the judicial system as a form of struggle against the privileges of judges – 38 percent. 16 percent have no opinion.

We may draw an optimistic interpretation from this that most Poles – especially Polish women – who grew up or were born in democratic Poland are attached to the idea that courts should be independent and out of political control.

Especially young women

Young women between the ages of 18 and 39 consider the changes being made by PiS party in the courts to be unacceptable interference by politicians (78 percent).

Every seventh young Polish woman, however, believes that PiS is cracking down on judges’ privileges (14 percent). 8 percent have no opinion.

The majority of young men between the ages of 18 and 39 (55 percent) also think that PiS’s campaign against the courts is impermissible, but this percentage is noticeably lower than in the case of young women – the difference a shocking 23 percent!

In addition, almost every third young man in Poland (32 per cent) thinks that PiS is working to combat judges’ privileges. 12 percent have no opinion.

Assessments of the changes to the court system by PiS

women 18-39 years old
 
women 40-59 years old
 
women 60 years old and more

Assessments of the changes to the court system by PiS

men 18-39 years old
 
men 40-59 years old
 
men 60 years old and more

Education slightly decisive for opinions

Regardless of education, the highest percentage in each group believes that PiS is waging an unacceptable attack on the courts.

Assessments of the changes to the court system by PiS

primary education
 
vocational education
 
secondary education
 
higher education

This is most often the opinion of people who formally enjoy the highest education, having completed at least a bachelor’s degree (65 percent). In this group, every fourth person (26 percent) believes that PiS is fighting against the privileges enjoyed by judges, while 9 percent have no opinion.

Those least likely to think so are people with vocational education (43 percent), but this is still more than those who think that PiS is fighting against the privileges of judges (39 percent). 18 per cent have no opinion.

Criticism of PiS changes in courts rises along with salaries

If we analyse responses in terms of declared earnings, it also turns out that regardless of earnings, in each group the opinion that PiS is attacking the courts prevails.

Assessments of the changes to the court system by PiS

up to 1,500 PLN / month
 
1,501-2,500 PLN / month
 
2,501-4,500 PLN / month
 
4,501-7,000 PLN / month
 
more than 7,000 PLN / month
 
No income declared

The percentage of those sharing this opinion gradually increases as earning levels increase. It reaches 50 percent among those earning up to PLN 1,500 per month, rising to 64 percent among those earning over PLN 7,000 per month. It is also high (60 percent) among those who declare no income.

At the same time, every fourth person earning more than PLN 7,000 a month believes that Law and Justice is cracking down on judicial privileges (24 percent).

This is also the opinion of 35 percent of those who are in the middle of the pack in terms of monthly earnings (2501-4500 PLN) and those earning the least (up to 1500 PLN).

Regardless of location, most people think PiS is attacking the courts

Living in the countryside, in a small or medium-size town, or large city (over 500 thousand inhabitants) makes no significant difference in opinions about PiS policy towards courts.

Assessments of the changes to the court system by PiS

countryside
 
town > 20 K inhabitants
 
town 20-100 K inhabitants
 
city 100-500 K inhabitants
 
city > 500 K inhabitants

At least half of the respondents in each of these groups believe that PiS has engaged in an unacceptable attack on the courts.

This response was most frequently given by residents of the largest cities (66 percent) and medium-sized towns (63 percent), but also by half of those living in villages and small towns. Residents of villages, however, had no opinion on this issue twice as often as city dwellers.

Roughly every third person living in villages and small towns felt that Law and Justice was striking at judges’ privileges. This is also the opinion of every fourth person living in the largest cities in Poland.

IPSOS survey for OKO.press 20-22 February 2020, via the CATI method (telephone), on a nationwide representative sample of 1013 respondents.

Translated by Matthew La Fontaine. The article appeared also at Rule of Law in Poland.

In the picture from the left: PiS Chairman and MP Jarosław Kaczyński, President of the Constitutional Tribunal Julia Przyłebska, PM Mateusz Morawiecki.

Najpierw sądy, potem media. Nie pozwólmy na to władzy.
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