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By John Helmer, Moscow

Nationwide polls revealed brimming Russian confidence in the future and also in the political leadership of the country in the month of February, before the announcement by President Vladimir Putin of the military operation against the US plan of attack in Ukraine.  

The single largest jump in confidence in Putin and in Prime Minister Mikhail Mishustin was registered in the week of February 20 to 27; that’s between Putin’s speech of February 21 announcing the US plan of attack and Russian recognition of the Donetsk (DPR) and Lugansk (LPR) people’s republics, and his speech of February 24 initiating the full-scale operation to demilitarize the Ukraine.

The first, and so far the only Russian poll to have been taken on the operation itself and published on March 5, shows  84% public support for the army, the highest level ever recorded; and 71% approval for the operation in the Ukraine. Disapproval was reported by one in five Russians, 21%.  The poll was taken by telephone last week, and was published by the All-Russian Centre for the Study of Public Opinion (VTsIOM) on March 5.  

Roughly one-half of Russians back the demilitarization objective and say they believe the military campaign aims to defend Russia and prevent the deployment of NATO bases on Ukrainian territory.  Support for the de-Nazification objective is less. One in five believes the operation is being carried out to purge the Ukrainian fascists and change the political course of the Kiev government toward Russia (19%); 18% think the goal is to protect the Russian–speaking population of the DPR and LPR.

A Boston newspaper reporter of Canadian extraction has attempted to explain away the poll results as a case of “average Russians experiencing a rally-round-the flag moment”. The reporter said he himself prefers the opinion of “thousands of mainly urban, educated Russians [who] have taken to the streets in recent days and signed petitions to express their dismay over the unprovoked attack”.   

The VTsIOM polling organization, based in Moscow, has been conducting daily telephone polling of national samples since 2017.  The question of confidence in the country’s leading politicians has been asked in the form of four degrees of trust and distrust – from definite to likely – with a fifth option to express no view at all.   

The methodology uses a telephone interview based on a sampling of land line and mobile numbers taken randomly from the national directory. The data are weighted by age, gender, place of residence, and social class factors. The daily responses are then averaged into measurements reported by the week.  The estimated sampling error with 95% probability is less than 2.5% for a sample of 1,800 polled over three days; for samples of 600 polled in a single day, the error margin is less than 4.5%.  

Since 2020, the trust ratings for Putin and Mishustin have been slipping within a 3 to 5-percentage point spread. The low point for both of them was in November of last year. In the fourth week of February 2022, however, the trust line has jumped exceptionally by almost 9%. Compiling the trust and distrust scores into a single VTsIOM index,  public confidence in Putin rose in the week by 28%; for Mishustin by 65%.


Source: https://wciom.com/

Russians have been reporting their trust in the army for many years; since 2009 this has doubled while trust in Putin has remained stable. In 2019, the Levada Centre of Moscow reported the army was outranking the president, 63% to 60%.    For analysis, read this.  

This is not bravado. The apprehension among Russians of the likelihood of war against their country has also been growing since 2014; concern for US-directed war against Russia has risen sharply since 2018. For details, read this.  

Notwithstanding, in a Levada poll taken in face-to-face interviews across the country between January 17 and February 21 of this year, Russians revealed they were increasingly optimistic for their future.  

Source: https://www.levada.ru/

In line with this positive sentiment, approval of Putin’s performance was also growing. So too was trust in the Foreign Minister, Sergei Lavrov. In Levada’s January and February polls, Putin’s rating went up by a single percentage point; Lavrov’s rose by three points, ranking him ahead of Mishustin and Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu.    

Levada’s sociologists keep tabs on the way in which these scores differ by geography, age, gender, and social class, but when requested, they decline to reveal these breakdowns.

Source: https://www.levada.ru/

In Levada’s most recent nationwide poll on the conflict with the Ukraine, interviews were conducted in 1,618 respondents’ homes between February 17 and 21.   The results indicate growth in negative Russian sentiment towards the Ukrainians and Americans for the escalation of violence in the Donbass.  Sixty percent of the Russians polled last month, before Putin’s speech of February 21, judged the US and its NATO allies to blame for the escalation in the Ukraine. Almost the same proportion, 58%, said the outcome of the conflict which they favoured was either for the DPR and LPR to become independent, with Russian recognition and defence (33%), or unification with the Russian federation (25%).

Source: https://www.levada.ru/

The pollster has provided a single socio-demographic breakdown of this sentiment. The younger Russians are, according to Levada, the less likely they are to have an opinion on the political goals for the Ukraine. The older Russians are decidedly more sympathetic to independence or accession.

Source: https://www.levada.ru/

The polling data from VTsIOM and Levada suggest the main source of Russian protest against the military operation and in favour of the US and NATO,  which the Boston reporter claimed to have uncovered, is the Moscow and St.Petersburg-based Navalny supporters under the age of 25. For more about them, click.  

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