Surveyors meet in Lithuania | Inquirer Opinion
Social Climate

Surveyors meet in Lithuania

VILNIUS, LITHUANIA, 5/4/16. This week, three of us from Social Weather Stations attended the annual general assembly of the International
Social Survey Programme (, held at Kaunas, which is the second largest city of Lithuania after Vilnius, the capital.

The ISSP is a network of some 50 organizations that continuously collaborate in doing annual national surveys on important social science topics. SWS became the Philippine member of the ISSP in 1990, six years after the ISSP was established, and has done all the 26 ISSP surveys of 1991-2016.
The Baltic states of Lithuania, Latvia and Estonia had all been occupied by the Soviet Union for about 50 years, from the onset of World War II until 1990 when they were able to break away and regain their independence. All three, as well as Russia itself, are now members of the ISSP. What they had lacked was not scientific expertise, but the academic freedom, to do social surveys.

Kaunas Technological University (KTU) became the Lithuanian member of the ISSP in 2009. It has done all the ISSP surveys since then: Social Inequality (2009), Environment (2010), Health and Health Care (2011), Family and Changing Gender Roles (2012), National Identity (2013), Citizenship (2014), Work Orientations (2015), and Role of Government (2016).


The ISSP is based on voluntary cooperation, with each member self-funding its own survey and its own attendance at the assembly. The ISSP makes its major decisions on survey topics and questionnaires on a one-country-one-vote basis in the general assembly. It has very strict standards of survey methodology.


The payoff to a member is the access to the survey data of all the other members also. Most of the comparisons between Filipinos and other nationalities that I have described in this column are based on ISSP data. Filipinos can be compared to Lithuanians on the basis of exactly the same questionnaire, applied to surveys of equally high quality, starting with the ISSP survey of 2009.

Comparing Lithuanians and Filipinos. Lithuania has only about 3 million people, in 60,000 square kilometers, whereas the Philippines has over 100 million people, crowded into 300,000 square kilometers.

For the 2013 ISSP survey on national identity, KTU took a sample of 1,194 adults in Lithuania and SWS took a sample of 1,200 adults in the Philippines. In the United States, with a population of over 300 million, the National Opinion Research Center took a sample of 1,274 adults. These surveys are of equal accuracy because their sample sizes are equal; the differences in the populations of the countries do not affect their accuracy.

Lithuania appears much better off than the Philippines, according to its very high Human Development Index (HDI), which was 0.834 in 2013, ranking it 35th among 187 countries. On the other hand, the Philippines’ 2013 HDI was only a medium-sized 0.660, ranking it 117th of the lot.
On the other hand, we Filipinos give ourselves much higher ratings on happiness, according to the 2011 ISSP survey of Health and Health Care done by SWS, which found 87 percent of us feeling “completely” or “very” or “fairly” happy, 6 percent feeling neither happy nor unhappy, and 7 percent feeling “fairly” or “very” or “completely” unhappy.

The same ISSP survey, done by KTU, found only 51 percent of Lithuanians feeling completely/very/fairly happy, with 36 percent feeling neither happy nor unhappy, and 13 percent feeling fairly/very/completely unhappy. Thus, HDI and happiness are not the same.

The two religions of Lithuania. Lithuanians and Filipinos are both about 85-percent Roman Catholic. Last Sunday the church of Saint Michael the Archangel in Kaunas was quite full. There were people of all ages, unlike in Western European churches, which tend to be patronized mainly by the elderly.


Their second religion, say the Lithuanians, is basketball. The standard brochure given to Kaunas visitors has two welcome statements: one from the mayor of Kaunas and the second from Arvydas Sabonis, president of the Lithuanian Basketball Federation.

Arvydas Sabonis had been on the national teams of both the USSR and Lithuania, and was a Most Valuable Player in the European leagues, before being drafted as a Portland Trail Blazer in the National Basketball Association. At seven feet, three inches, he was the tallest NBA player of his time.
Lithuania’s largest basketball stadium is the Zalgirio Arena in Kaunas, home court of BC Zalgiris Kaunas, and the cathedral of Lithuanian professional basketball. When we went there for a gala dinner, we found the words “Welcome to the Members of ISSP” running in lights all around the basketball court.

Back to business. Every ISSP survey goes through a three-year cycle. Last week, the assembly finalized the questionnaire for 2017 (Social Networks). Then it approved the outline for 2018 (Religion). Then it decided that the topic for 2019 would be Social Inequality—the same as in 2009, but keeping only two-thirds of the old questions, and changing one-third. Elected to the questionnaire drafting group were France, the Philippines, South Africa, Sweden, the United Kingdom, and Venezuela. We must prepare a topic outline for approval in 2017, and a draft questionnaire for approval in 2018.

The 2017 assembly will be in Istanbul. In 2018 it will be in Guadalajara. For 2019 the choice is between India and Iceland. What’s wrong with mixing surveys with a little tourism?

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