UNCLAS SECTION 01 OF 03 VILNIUS 000204
STATE FOR EUR/PPD and EUR/NB
E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: KPAO CVIS PREL LH
SUBJECT: LITHUANIANS LIKE USA BUT GWOT SUPPORT IS TEPID; POLL HELPS
REFINE STRATEGIC OUTREACH OBJECTIVES
Â¶1. SUMMARY: An Embassy-commissioned poll funded by EUR/PPD showed
that a strong majority of Lithuanians continue to view the United
States favorably. The survey also showed a positive correlation
between knowing an American and having a positive image of the
United States. Not all the news was good -- 82 percent of
Lithuanians are opposed to the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, which
feature the participation of Lithuanian troops. Our findings are
leading us to focus on targeted outreach to non-elites while
continuing to emphasize policy outreach to elites. END SUMMARY.
THE GOOD NEWS: TO KNOW US IS TO LIKE US
Â¶2. The survey, done for us by the Gallup agency, had some
-- A solid majority of Lithuanians (71 percent) holds a positive
opinion of the United States. Among all age groups, youth (aged
15-29) view us most favorably (78 percent positive), compared to 65
percent of the oldest demographic (age 50-74). Urban respondents
(77 percent) were more likely than rural residents to view us
-- Respondents who had met an American personally were more likely
to hold a positive opinion of the United States and its importance
as Lithuania's partner.
-- Over two-thirds of Lithuanians expressed a desire to visit the
United States, and well over half of the respondents reported that
they were interested in additional information about the United
-- Over 57 percent have never met an American. Among rural
residents (68 percent) and respondents with the lowest income (73
percent), contact with Americans is particularly limited.
Â¶3. USA: A LAND OF OPPORTUNITY
-- Lithuanians most often associate the United States with
prosperity and economic opportunity. When asked what comes to mind
when considering the United States, over 41 percent of respondents
replied with a variation of "rich" or "opportunity." By contrast,
only 8 percent cited "democracy." Other popular associations
included Hollywood, basketball, and the dollar.
-- While a large majority of Lithuanians want to visit the United
States, the number was even larger among youth: 88 percent of
respondents aged 15-29 would like to visit the United States.
Â¶4. STRONG SUPPORT FOR NATO AND THE EU
-- The policy-related survey questions revealed a steady western
orientation of Lithuanian public opinion. Further, the findings
indicate an enduring recognition of the importance of NATO and the
United States as reliable protectors of Lithuanian security. The
majority of respondents support Lithuanian membership in NATO (67
percent) and the EU (76 percent). Support for both institutions
tends to be strongest among Lithuanians who are urban, young, or who
have met an American.
-- Overall, Lithuanians approve of the role the United States plays
in promoting democracy, peace, and economic growth throughout the
world. Clear majorities voiced their approval of U.S. leadership in
all three spheres.
Â¶5. Thirty-nine percent of respondents view the EU as Lithuania's
most important partner, compared to only 11 percent who think the
United States should be the country's key partner. This Eurocentric
view could become even more pronounced as EU membership becomes
more a part of daily life (i.e., adoption of the Euro currency).
-- Our high approval rating is lowest among older males,
particularly those living in rural areas, with a below-average
income, or identifying with a minority ethnic group (Polish or
-- Almost 18 percent of respondents associate America with
"aggression" or "war." Respondents also mentioned materialism, visa
restrictions, and Iraq when asked for negative associations.
-- Equally large majorities of Lithuanians (82 percent) oppose the
wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. Despite those strong views, over half
of the respondents expressed satisfaction with the efforts of their
own troops in Iraq and Afghanistan, and 50 percent support the
U.S.-led war on terror.
HONING OUR OUTREACH CAMPAIGN
Â¶6. The survey gives us a benchmark by which we can measure our MPP
strategic goal of having American values respected in Lithuania.
The findings highlight the importance of personal outreach and
suggest a two-pronged approach to our outreach plan to target three
different constituents. To use campaign terminology, we want to
fortify our base, win over the undecided, and reduce our negatives.
FORTIFYING OUR BASE
Â¶7. To fortify our base, we plan to:
-- Continue our policy outreach with future leaders. The urban
elite like us and are interested in policy. We should engage them
directly in explaining our policies so that they can see why we have
arrived at the decisions we have taken. This frank approach earns
some converts, but also develops mutual respect for those who still
-- Face-to-face outreach is essential. PAS will continue its
emphasis on generating speaking opportunities for Embassy personnel
throughout the country.
-- As we compete to attract talented young Lithuanians seeking
educational and career opportunities, PAS will continue to deploy a
speech and multimedia presentation specifically designed for high
school audiences. (See detailed explanation below).
Â¶8. The 15-29 age category views us more favorably (78 percent) than
any other age group, but their support could diminish in the future
if we are not proactive. Youth will naturally be drawn toward the
EU as work, study and travel opportunities there are simpler to
pursue than in the USA. One troubling indication of this trend has
been the decline in the participation of young Lithuanians in the
"Work and Travel" program for university students.
Â¶9. To bolster our positives with this critical age group, PAS
prepared and the Ambassador inaugurated a "High School stump speech"
addressing youth issues such as what American youth are up to,
travel and study opportunities in the United States, and
demystifying the visa process. Embedded in the speech is a
five-minute multimedia presentation about U.S. schools using
modified text from an IIP e-journal on studying in the United
States. PAS plans to continue to upgrade the presentation and is
seeking Washington support to make a video that can be used
worldwide. The Ambassador's first two deliveries of this
presentation were very successful, and 200 students enthusiastically
welcomed the DCM when he gave the same speech in February.
WOOING THE UNDECIDED
Â¶10. Over half of all respondents felt "not well enough informed"
about life in the United States. We need to strengthen our message
-- The United States is a friend and partner of Lithuania.
-- We encourage business, travel and study in the USA.
-- We admire Lithuania's achievements and appreciate Lithuania's
commitment to advancing the cause of freedom;
Â¶11. We will target those "non-elites" with low-cost cultural
programming and visits to give them a better understanding of
America and her people. For example:
-- Deploying mission speakers to smaller towns for speaking
engagements and media opportunities;
-- Using the new American Corner, which is located in a mid-sized
city in the northern part of the country, as a platform to reach out
to smaller towns in the area.
-- Recruiting Fulbrighters, local and visiting American artists to
perform in small towns.
REDUCING OUR NEGATIVES
Â¶12. Lithuanians may not support the conflicts in Iraq and
Afghanistan, but they largely approve of their troops' level of
support. Our plan is to highlight the admirable work of Lithuanian
troops in support of coalition operations to promote greater pride
in Lithuanian efforts and accomplishments in Iraq and Afghanistan.
-- One investment that paid great dividends was sending the head of
Lithuanian State Television to visit Afghanistan. He visit so
intrigued him that he returned for two months to film a documentary
of about his compatriots in the Lithuanian-led Provincial
Reconstruction Team (PRT) in Ghor province. The documentary
premiered at the largest theater in Vilnius and is being shown on
-- PAS also produces and distributes a regular fact sheet on Iraq
listing some of the successes Iraq has achieved since its
liberation. The fact sheet compiles for GOL officials essential
building blocks to explain how the Lithuanian deployment in Iraq
contributes to stabilization and democracy.
Â¶13. Small-town older males (especially from minority groups) for
whom life has not greatly improved since the breakup of the Soviet
Union are another group we will target with low-budget outreach
activities. In addition to visits and cultural programming
mentioned above, we will also:
-- Seek more visibility in minority media. The Ambassador did an
interview with a Polish Language radio station in February which
went out to this small-town target audience.
-- Promote civil society and tolerance: Tolerance programming will
help us reach out to non-Lithuanian minorities, who are currently
our weakest demographic in terms of support.
Â¶14. The high level of pro-U.S. feelings in Lithuania reflects the
longstanding friendship between our countries. Preserving our broad
popular support here, however, will require dedicated effort and
resources to maintain. We are grateful for EUR/PPD's support of the
poll, and hope to repeat the poll annually as a measurement tool of
our PD outreach and our MPP strategies.