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Security Policy from the Perspective of Austria’s Youth

According to a recent study of IMC University of Applied Sciences Krems on European security policy from the perspective of Austrian youth, 89% of the respondents assess the situation in Austria as very safe or rather safe. Only 1% classify a war on Austrian soil as a realistic danger. Nevertheless, the majority favours an increase in security spending. However, there is a need to catch up when it comes to information on the role of the various security institutions in Austria.

In April 2022, students of IMC University of Applied Sciences Krems conducted surveys in the Marketing Research course of the study programme Unternehmensführung (Business Management) under the direction of Prof.(FH) Dr. Cordula Cerha. In personal interviews, a total of 172 people between the ages of 16 and 35 were asked about domestic security policy. Despite the overall high sense of security, the respondents are primarily concerned about new pandemics (75%) as well as economic crises (38%) and natural disasters (38%).

Police and EU as security guarantors 

Police, authorities for the protection of the Constitution (Verfassungsschutz) and the European Union (EU) are the main contributors to the high perception of security, whereas less trust is placed in the Austrian Armed Forces and the Federal Government. On a scale of school grades, the Austrian Armed Forces only receive a “satisfactory” grade with a mean value of 2.7. The highest competence is attributed to them in disaster control, the lowest in airspace security and defence against cyberattacks. There is disagreement about whether a professional army would be better to fulfil security tasks: 50% would like to keep compulsory military service, 50% would like a professional army. Compulsory military or civilian service for women is seen rather positively – also by female respondents.

Problematic national defence

In the event of a war on Austrian soil, only 41% of those surveyed would be prepared to defend the country with weapons, whereby there are clear differences in gender distribution. 64% of men and only 19% of women would take up arms to protect their own country. However, in the event of war, 90% of respondents could imagine supporting their country through structural activities such as assistance in logistics, IT or administration.

Valuable neutrality 

Even though almost three quarters of the respondents have a positive attitude towards NATO (North Atlantic Treaty Organization), only 2% would like to join the military alliance. 75% are of the opinion that neutrality protects Austria from armed conflicts. For 88%, it is an integral part of Austria’s identity. 87% believe that it helps Austria to mediate in international conflicts.

Knowledge deficits on security topics 

However, there are information gaps among young people when it comes to the role of security institutions. One in five lacks qualified information to be able to assess whether it makes sense to join NATO. There is also a need to catch up when it comes to assessing the competences of the Austrian armed forces. More than 40% cannot form an opinion on the competences in cyber defence and airspace security. 41% do not know the OSCE (Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe) or cannot make any statements about it.