DEMOSCOPE Bureau for Express Monitoring of Public Opinion has conducted a public opinion poll to find out what people in Kazakhstan think about the Initiative to Rename Astana.
3,607 respondents from Astana, Almaty and 14 regional centers of Kazakhstan participated in the poll. 67% of women and 33% of men aged over 18 were interviewed. The maximum statistical error did not exceed 1.63% with 95% possibility.
1,898 respondents were interviewed by phone, and 1,710 online between 24 and 28 November 2016.
The absolute majority of population do not support the initiative on Astana renaming. 91% of the respondents interviewed by phone and 97% – online do not agree with the parliament members who on 23 November 2016 proposed to name the capital after the president.
The clear position of Kazakhstan people which is opposite to the opinion of PMs gives reason to doubt if the way the society perceives the reality corresponds with the way it is perceived by those who represent this society in the Parliament. While Majilis and Senat unanimously voted for the idea, the population unanimously voted against it.
The poll results vividly demonstrated strong skepticism of the society about the autocratic discourse that is so often used by the parliamentarians in their speeches. Obviously, the pathetic initiatives aimed at immortalization and similar things do not correspond with the economic crisis, which annoys the Kazakhstan citizens.
It is also important to mention low level of trust among the population towards sincerity of the parliamentarians’ inspiration. 34% of the respondents considered the renaming idea as excessive flattery and attempt to favor the president. The same number of people thought it is unwillingness and inability to take real actions. 26% of the interviewees saw it as an attempt to withdraw attention of the population from the real problems. Only 10% of the people interviewed by phone and 1% – online believed the parliament members were sincere about the initiative.
The majority of respondents interviewed by phone were peopled aged 18-29 (34%), 30-39 (23%) and 40-49 (19%). As for city split, the interviewees were mainly from Almaty (17%) and Astana (16%). The respondents interviewed online were mainly people aged 30-39 (42%), 18-29 (26%) and 40-49 (21%).
An interesting thing is that 76% of young people (18-29) were skeptical about the idea of renaming Astana: they carefully chose a neutral argument stating that “the country has problems that are more important than renaming of the cities”. 73% of women and 35% of men who were interviewed preferred this point.
More tough position, saying “It is totally absurd, expensive and out-of-date idea. We should not act like the authoritarian countries”, was mainly preferred by the respondents aged between 50-59 (almost 40%). This option was also selected by internet users (67%) and male respondents interviewed by phone (60%).
61% of the respondents are seriously concerned that in case Astana is renamed the authorities will get involved into further renaming process to honor the president of the country. These concerns were mostly expressed by young people aged 18-29 (74%).
37% of the poll participants answered the idea of renaming is irrational as it would be related to irrelevant expenses. 34% of the respondents mentioned there would be funny situations such as “Nazarbayev arrived to Nazarbayev”.
Within the poll, the respondents were also offered to choose an option of new name. Out of 9% of the respondents interviewed by phone who agreed with the renaming initiative, 4,6% preferred Nursultan, and 2,2% – Nazarbayev.
In Astana only 5% of the interviewees agreed with the opinion of the parliament members.
The idea to rename Astana was proposed by PM Kuanysh Sultanov when the parliament was considering the project of Declaration “25th Anniversary of Kazakhstan’s Independence” which proposed to rename the capital after Nursultan Nazarbayev.
In 2008, similar initiative was proposed by Sat Tokpakbayev (former Minister for Defence and Member of Majilis) who suggested that Astana should be renamed to Nursultan.