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What Do Russians Really Think? The Truth Behind a Polls

The champagne corks were already popping for New Year’s Eve celebrations when several thousand Crimeans perceived an unexpected phone call.

The voice on the finish of the phone was a pollster from the Russian Public Opinion Research Center (VTsIOM).

The pollster had usually dual questions:”Do we or do we not support the signing of a agreement with Ukraine for the supply of electricity to Crimea if it describes Crimea as partial of Ukraine?” And: “Are we peaceful to endure proxy problems caused by minor disruptions of  energy reserve in the entrance 3-4 months?”

As was announced on state television, the poll had been conducted on the obligatory orders of Russian President Vladimir Putin. Crimea had by that indicate already gifted months of power shortages following the destruction of power lines from the Ukrainian mainland. Moscow was in talks with Kiev over a deal that would save Crimea from further blackouts.

But VTsIOM reported that 93 percent of Crimeans had deserted the deal to bring energy behind to their homes. Moreover, 94 percent pronounced they would bear “temporary difficulties” rather than accept Kiev’s direct to label Crimea — annexed by Russia in March 2014 — partial of Ukraine.

With this widely advertised charge in his behind pocket, Putin incited his behind on the negotiating table, and left Crimeans in the dark.

Russian state media unanimously portrayed the results of the VTsIOM check as explanation of Crimeans’ faithfulness towards Moscow. But many sociologists and commentators poured doubt on that conclusion, criticizing the poll’s timing and methodology. First, it was conducted on what is arguably Russia’s biggest inhabitant holiday, lifting questions over the reliability (and sobriety) of the respondents. Second, the respondents had been interviewed by phone, causing difficulty over either pollsters had reached those indeed experiencing energy shortages.

Yet some-more worrying was the poll’s heading phrasing, which, some said, showed that the questions could usually have been penned verbatim by the Kremlin.

The head of the VTsIOM pollster Valery Fyodorov arguable to The Moscow Times that they did not write the questions themselves. He also pronounced VTsIOM had warned opposite the phrasing of the second question — “temporary difficulties” and “minor disruptions”— yet that the feedback had been ignored.

But he shielded his organization’s work, observant that such conflicts of opinion were a “common occurrence with clients” and what mattered was not who systematic a poll, yet how it was carried out.

Grigory Yudin, a sociologist at the Higher School of Economics, questioned either a poll plainly consecrated by Putin could ever furnish arguable results. He pronounced respondents were doubtful to be open in their replies if a theme of their critique — a Kremlin — was also a celebration seeking a question. “It’s not usually dangerous, it’s generally useless,” he said.

The image portrayed by state media of polls providing Russians with a direct hotline to the Kremlin for their bland concerns is also skewed, he said. The Kremlin communicates tip down, not bottom up.

Sociology or Propaganda?

Interpreting polls in Russia is mostly like battling a hydra: for every doubt answered, another dual lift their head.

And yet suggestive what people in Russia are unequivocally meditative is of crucial importance: for foreign media and officials who are perplexing to gage renouned support for Putin’s rhetoric, for Kremlin critics who wish the numbers will behind their cause, and for the Kremlin itself which, forward of parliamentary elections this year and presidential elections in 2018, wants to nip open displeasure in the bud.

Within a context where there are few other mechanisms of feedback in the form of free elections, giveaway media and public protests, polls published by state-funded pollsters VTsIOM and the Public Opinion Foundation (FOM) as good as the independent Levada Center make weekly headlines.

“Polls have turn the only approach for [Russian] multitude to know itself,” says sociologist Yudin.

Sociologists, pollsters and political analysts separate in their views of what the polls indeed mean. But they mostly determine that Russian polls can't be taken at face value.

“Their charge is simply to supply the informational credentials for a certain account [in support] of the authorities,” says domestic researcher Gleb Pavlovsky.

No Hope

Russians need small call to remember a time when vocalization plainly could lead to decades in exile or in a labor camp. In a check published in January by Levada, 26 percent of those questioned pronounced they were demure to express their views in polls. Considering those who pronounced so indeed non-stop their doors to the pollsters anyway, the real figure of people who punch their tongue is substantially higher.

Numbers in support of the Kremlin are widely publicized in state media, and herein lies another vulnerability, says domestic scientist Yekaterina Schulmann: “The Kremlin seeks an artificial strenuous infancy to intimidate dissenters into believing they are zero yet ‘random error.'”

The effects of this are two-fold: As good as cajoling even some-more Russians into joining the pro-Putin camp, it could also make those who don’t toe the Kremlin line reduction expected to open their doors to pollsters.

“During normal times, people who select not to talk to pollsters do so given they don’t feel like it or don’t have the time. But in a duration of ‘political mobilization’ the reason to actually respond becomes politically motivated,” says researcher Kirill Rogov. That could serve crush the results in Putin’s favor.

Even Levada’s work is in danger of being politicized following attempts to label the organization a “foreign agent” for receiving appropriation from abroad.

Though Levada has dodged the label as of yet, it has already led some informal authorities to cut off team-work with the pollster, conduct of Levada Lev Gudkov said. Levada has also refused all unfamiliar funding, serve augmenting the gap between the resources at its ordering and that of state-funded pollsters.


The argument that Russians are exposed to self-censorship leaves Gudkov, of Levada, unfazed.

“I unequivocally don’t caring what Ivan Ivanovich thinks in his kitchen while articulate to his mother about Putin’s politics or cost increases. What is critical is what he says in the open space,” he said.

He believes that as prolonged as factors such as a series of respondents stays some-more or reduction constant,  polls carried out over time can still give suggestive belligerent for sociological analysis.

“Rather than guileless or distrusting check numbers, it is critical to understand what they indeed mean. Now they magnitude the belief in Putin’s ability to control the situation among those who respond,” says sociologist Yudin.

In the deficiency of competing sources of information, many Russians obtain their news by state television. On the surface, therefore, “public opinion” monitored in polls mostly reflects the dominant Kremlin narrative.

But a closer demeanour at poll formula also shows respondents mostly give opposing answers, a state of cognitive cacophony Gudkov labels “doublethink” — in reference to George Orwell’s dystopian novel “1984” where people concurrently reason dual discordant beliefs.

Russians will, for example, concurrently demonstrate vast dread of government officials — suspecting them of corruption and pursuing their possess goals — or malign specific process decisions, such as the destruction of food criminialized for import in retaliation of Western sanctions, while stability to pledge their support for the same government.

That proof of loyalty total with high levels of distrust is a survival plan suggestive of Soviet times, says Gudkov: “We’re recording a relapse to a Soviet-style total consciousness.”

Teflon Putin?

Polls uncover that reports of widespread crime in Putin’s middle circles have cemented widespread dread of the government. Yet scandals such as those surrounding Russia’s General Prosecutor Yury Chaika — damning his sons in a operation of untrustworthy business deals — seem to be H2O off a duck’s behind for Putin’s ratings  famously referred to in Russia as “the 86 percent [of Putin supporters.]”

In fact, yet instability reigns in all other sectors of Russian life — mercantile crisis, militant threats, domestic standoffs, wars — Putin’s ratings given Russia’s cast of Crimea have been a beacon of stability.

But it would be a mistake to conclude Russians ardently support the leader, says Gudkov, given a large shred of the race conjunction adore Putin nor hatred him: “As most as 65 percent contend they have zero bad to say about him, or contend they usually ‘mostly’ support him.”

The dominant mood in Russia is asocial apathy. Respondents contend conjunction Yes or No, yet OK to most politically-themed questions, including those on their president.

Information Bubble

The effectiveness of state promotion and the ensuing unity among check respondents is a double-edged sword for the Kremlin, says domestic researcher Schulmann. She pronounced that carrying burst down on civil society, the Russian care finds itself in an information burble where it has no approach to gage a possess population, solely by “obsessing” over polls.

The Russian chosen mostly falls plant to the same informational landscape as a subjects — forgetful that the propaganda trap was set adult by its possess officials. “[It is] a case of propaganda operative inwards, a case of the poisoner inhaling his possess poison,” says Schulmann.

It is common believe that the Kremlin also monitors open opinion by a possess tip polls. But the more sublime Russians turn at doublethink, the less ominous their answers can ever be — even in closed polls.

Former mayor Yury Luzhkov presumably enjoyed widespread support among Muscovites, notwithstanding his purported impasse in corruption scandals, until he was suspended from his post in 2010. Within weeks, his recognition plummeted. His drum coaster ratings showed how fast Russians can desert boat in order to stay in tune with the general celebration line.

Or, in a difference of sociologist Yudin: “In a democracy, initial a ratings go down, and afterwards there is a change of power. In Russia, it is a opposite: if a ratings go down, it would meant that a energy has already changed.”

Article source: http://www.themoscowtimes.com/article/558537.html