In Montenegro, nearly 90% of citizens believe that the media tailor their reporting to the politics and ideologies they support, with almost half of them indicating that they are influenced by disinformation when it comes to the political situation, according to a study conducted by the Center for Monitoring and Research (CeMI).
This was the third public opinion survey on citizens' attitudes towards the impact of disinformation and foreign influence on the media, conducted by CeMI from July 21st to August 8th of this year, on a sample of 1,005 adult citizens of Montenegro.
Teodora Gilić, the Program Director of CeMI, presenting the media-related data, stated that 88.9% of Montenegro's citizens, to a greater or lesser extent, share the view that the media adapt their reporting to the politics and ideologies they support.
"Of this, almost one in three citizens (29.3%) fully agree that the media are biased and report in accordance with a specific ideology and politics. Additionally, nearly 60% partially agree with this view," Gilić noted.
She mentioned that respondents were asked to name three entities that have the most significant influence on the media in Montenegro.
"Depending on the specific media outlet, respondents most commonly mentioned the parliamentary majority and the opposition as their first choice, and in one case, the Serbian Orthodox Church was also mentioned," said Gilić.
Regarding the influence of the parliamentary majority, Gilić stated that 24.1% of respondents believe that it has the most significant influence on Vijesti (24.1%) and RTCG (24.1%), while 26.6% believe that the influence is greatest on Prva TV (26.6%). Gilić noted that the parliamentary majority refers to the parties that formed the government in August 2020. At the local level, the "August majority" parties (DF, Democrats, URA, etc.) formed local governments in all municipalities where they had the opportunity, and the leaders of the PES were also part of the government of the "August majority," led by then-Prime Minister Krivokapić. This parliamentary majority adopted all three state annual budgets from 2020 to 2023."
On the other hand, respondents mentioned that the opposition has the most significant influence on various media outlets: Nova M (32.1%), TV E and M-portal (55.9%), Antena M (54.8%), Gradska TV (57.5%), CDM (53.3%), and Standard (43.7%).
"When it comes to the Serbian Orthodox Church, 33.5% of respondents believe it has the most influence on the Borba.me portal. In addition to the Serbian Orthodox Church, 32.4% of respondents also believe that the parliamentary majority influences this media outlet," Gilić noted.
She pointed out that the research showed that citizens believe they are influenced by disinformation.
"Nearly half of the respondents, 48%, believe that the citizens of Montenegro are influenced by disinformation when it comes to the political situation, while 34.8% of respondents believe they are personally influenced by disinformation," said Gilić.
Speaking about trust in the media, Gilić mentioned that citizens have the highest trust in the Vijesti media group, with 53.1% of them trusting it, of which 15.8% have complete trust, and 37.3% have partial trust.
"After Vijesti, citizens have the most trust in RTCG, with 44% of them trusting it, including 12.4% who have complete trust and 31.6% who have partial trust in this media outlet. Nova M and Pobjeda enjoy equal trust from 27.1% of the population. Antena M is trusted by 23.6% of citizens, with 6.7% having complete trust and 16.9% having partial trust in it. 22.9% of citizens trust Gradska TV," Gilić explained.
She mentioned that 22% of citizens trust TV E, while CDM is trusted by 29.1%, with 11% having complete trust and 18.1% having partial trust in this media outlet.
"IN4S is a media trusted by 23.5 percent of citizens, PINK M is somewhat less trusted by 22.8 percent." "According to the survey, citizens have the least trust in Adria TV, 17.5 percent of citizens, followed by Borba.me portal, which is trusted by 18.6 percent of respondents, and RTNK, which is trusted by 19.1 percent of citizens," said Gilić.
Presenting the data related to citizens' views on foreign influence on the media, Gilić said that citizens believe that the CDM portal is under the greatest influence of the EU (59.4 percent of citizens), followed by RTCG and Antena M with 57.7 percent of respondents who think the same way and TV E and M - portal with 56.8 percent of respondents.
"Somewhat less than half of the respondents (48.8%) mention that the EU has an influence on Vijesti (TV, portal, and daily newspapers). Respondents also mentioned the influence of the USA on certain media outlets. The majority of them (25.3%) believe that the influence of the USA is present on the CDM portal. Slightly fewer respondents (23.4%) believe that the USA has an influence on Gradska TV and the Standard portal (23.2%)," Gilić noted.
When it comes to the influence of Serbia on the media, Gilić pointed out that respondents mention that Serbia has the most significant influence on the IN4S portal (45.3%) and Borba.me (43.6%), followed by Prva TV (38.6%) and Vijesti (26.5%).
"When it comes to regional media for staying informed about political events, the majority of citizens, 28.3%, follow Al Jazeera Balkans and Radio Slobodna Evropa, followed by slightly fewer citizens, 26.6%. The fewest citizens get their information from the Danas.rs portal (4.2%) and the Sputnjik portal (4.9%)," Gilić explained.
Vladimir Simonović, the Head of the CeMI Legal Department, stated while presenting the research results regarding citizens' interest in political events in the country, that less than one-quarter of the respondents (21.9%) claim they have no interest in politics and political events, while the vast majority of respondents (78.1%) express some degree of interest.
"The research also showed that 27.4% of respondents claim to be partially interested, 31.3% are both interested and not interested, and 18.2% of respondents state they are quite or very interested," Simonović mentioned.
According to his words, the dominant majority of respondents (81.3%) state that they aren’t members of any political party, while 18.7% state that they are.
"Among respondents who state that they are members of a political party, almost half (44.6%) mention that they are members of the Demokratska Partija Socijalista (DPS). The figure of 18.7% represents a significant increase compared to the results CeMI obtained in 2018 when 12% of respondents stated they were members of a political party," Simonović said.
He explained that they used the "sensitive thermometer" research instrument to measure positive and negative feelings towards specific subjects. In this instrument, respondents rate their feelings toward a person, group, or idea on a scale from 0 to 100, where 0 represents a very cold/negative feeling, and 100 represents a very warm/positive feeling.
"The politician with the highest average rating is Jakov Milatović (49.4), while Danijel Živković received the lowest average rating (27.1). When it comes to parties, the highest-rated party is Evropa Sad (45.5), which represents a significant drop compared to the rating in June, which was 52.1. Bošnjačka partija received the lowest average rating of 22.8," Simonović said.
Speaking about the distribution of voters in the second round in relation to their choice of the presidential candidate in the first round, Simonović pointed out that it was noticed that in the second round, Milo Đukanović's voters were dominated by those who voted for him in the first round.
"On the other hand, the voters of Jakov Milatović are more diverse, i.e. 26.6 percent of respondents who voted for Andrija Mandić in the first round voted for him, that is, 22.8 percent of those who voted for Aleksa Bečić," said Simonović.
He explained that through the research they wanted to examine the motivation of the citizens who voted in the last presidential elections.
"Among those respondents who state that they voted for Jakov Milatović in the second round of the presidential elections, 59.2% say they voted for Jakov Milatović, while 40.8% say they voted against Milo Đukanović. This is the percentage of citizens who wanted Đukanović to lose regardless of who his opponent was," Simonović stated.
Presenting data related to foreign influence, Simonović mentioned that more than two-thirds of respondents (68.1%) believe that Montenegro should align its foreign policy with the European Union.
"This percentage varied significantly during the campaign for the presidential and parliamentary elections. In April, 64.2% of respondents stated that Montenegro should align its foreign policy with the European Union, and in June, this percentage dropped to 57.1%," Simonović explained.
He said that respondents cited Serbia in second place as a country with which Montenegro should harmonize its foreign policy (17.2 percent), i.e. almost ten percent less than in April 2023.
"Looking at the electoral list for which the respondents voted in the last parliamentary elections, 100 percent of the respondents who voted for the electoral list “Preokret za sigurnu Crnu Goru- Srđan Perić” believe that Montenegro should harmonize its foreign policy with the European Union ", said Simonović.
He indicated that over 80 percent of support for alignment with the EU's foreign policy was seen by CeMI among the voters of the electoral lists of the SDP, the coalition DPS, SD, DUA, LP, and the electoral list ZAJEDNO.
"Minority electoral lists state alignment with the EU's foreign policy in a slightly smaller percentage, i.e. 77.8 percent, but voters from minority electoral lists give slightly higher priority to alignment with the foreign policy of the USA (22.2 percent)," Simonović said.
He said that the research showed that there is a high percentage of support for alignment with the EU's foreign policy among the voters of the coalition ALEKSA I DRITAN- HRABRO se broji! (76.3 percent), while 13.7 percent of the voters of this coalition named Serbia.
"Voters of the electoral list PRAVDA ZA SVE! Dr. Vladimir Leposavić, they are most divided on the issue of harmonizing Montenegro with the foreign policy of other countries, so the same percentage of 33.3% states the EU, as well as Serbia and Russia," said Simonović.
He said that alignment with the EU's foreign policy is the least represented among voters of the electoral list SNP - DEMOS - ZA TEBE (17.6 percent), followed by the NARODNA KOALICIJA - SLOŽNO I TAČKA (Dejan Vukšić – Demohrišćanski pokret) with 22.2 percent and the coalition Za budućnost Crne Gore (23.9 percent).
"Voters of these three electoral lists dominantly believe that Montenegro should harmonize its foreign policy with Serbia." "Nearly a fifth of the voters of the coalition Za budućnost Crne Gore cite Russia," said Simonović.
Presenting the data related to the countries that citizens perceive to have the greatest influence on President Milatović, Simonović said that the research showed that the EU has the greatest influence (57.8 percent), followed by Serbia with a significantly lower frequency with 20.2 percent, the USA with 12.4 percent and Russia with 4.1 percent.
"We see a similar percentage in the influence on the Government in the technical mandate and on the Assembly of Montenegro," Simonović said.
Gilić said that the research showed that citizens use social networks in order to inform about political events, stating that more than half of citizens (51.2 percent) are informed to some extent (that is, somewhat or completely) via Facebook.
"Also, the research showed that 38.1 are mostly informed via Instagram, while to a lesser extent (23.9 percent) citizens are informed via Twitter, 21.6 percent via Telegram, and 20.7 percent via TikTok," stated Gilić.
According to her words, research has shown that citizens show a tendency to block or remove content on social networks that is not in line with their political beliefs.
"Both opposition voters and parliamentary majority voters showed this tendency, almost 40 percent in both cases," Gilić concluded.