Staunton, November 28 – Fewer Russian residents than 16 years ago believe that the national minorities of their country should receive government support to preserve their customs and traditions, and far more are negative about immigrant communities and their role in Russian society, according to the results of a poll released by the Levada Center today.
To a large extent, such attitudes reflect the views of President Vladimir Putin, but to the extent that they now predominate in the population, that both limits the range of options the regime has at least in the short term and creates a heightened potential for conflict in a country that is far from mono-ethnic.
Earlier this month, the independent Levada Center surveyed 1516 Russian residents concerning their attitudes toward ethnic minorities in general and non-Russian immigrant communities in major Russian cities in particular (www.levada.ru/28-11-2012/natsionalnaya-politika-i-otnoshenie-k-migrantam).
Asked whether the state should support national minorities in Russia in order to help preserve their customs and traditions, a question the Center had asked in June 1996 and July 2003, the sociologists found that today, 49 percent of Russian residents agree with that proposition down from 65 percent in 1996 and 62 percent in 2003.
The Center’s sociologists also presented longitudinal data on a series of other questions. Asked in these same years whether they agreed with the suggestion that “immigrants increase the level of crime,” 71 percent said that such groups did this month compared to only 54 percent in 1996 and 59 percent in 2003
Asked whether immigrants contribute to the development of the Russian economy, only 23 percent this month agreed that they have, a slight increase from the 16 percent in 2003 and 15 percent in 1996. And asked whether they agreed that “immigrants take jobs from Russian residents, 67 percent now agreed with that proposition, up from 48 percent in 1996
The October 2012 survey also queried Russians on issues that the Levada Center had not asked about specifically in the earlier years. Forty-six percent of Russian residents said that they agreed with statements that “on the whole, immigrants are destroying Russian culture.” Only 22 percent said they disagreed.
Responses to other questions conformed to the same pattern. Thirty-four percent of Russian residents said that legal immigrants ought to have the same rights as Russian citizens, down from 36 percent nine years ago, Seventy-three percent said this month that Moscow should adopt “strict measures in order to expel from the country illegal immigrants.
Only seven percent said there should be a greater number of immigrants in Russia in the future, while 65 percent said that there should be fewer or many fewer. And strikingly, 74.4 percent said that immigrants who come to Russia should give up their own culture and accept that of Russia.
Thirty-four percent agreed that “strong patriotic attitudes in Russia are contributing to the growth of intolerance in Russia,” while only 22 percent disagreed, and 64 percent said that “strong patriotic attitudes in Russia are needed for the preservation of the integrity” of the Russian Federation.