Staunton, September 12 – Thirty percent fewer Russians trust television news than did nine years ago, with the share saying they do falling from 79 to 49 percent, the Levada Center says. Over the same period, the share of Russians saying that they trust Internet news sites has risen from seven percent to 24 percent – or almost one in every four residents of that country.
Respondents to a new Levada Center poll say that they view the Internet as providing more objective news than Russian television does on the issue of pension reform, the lifestyles of politicians, the state of the economy, protest actions and foreign policy (vedomosti.ru/politics/articles/2018/09/12/780726).
This decline in public trust in television parallels the decline in trust in Vladimir Putin and other Russian officials. Indeed, the decline in trust in the one case promotes the decline in the other, and each may thus reinforce the other, with more declines ahead for both if nothing radically changes.
Despite this shift in patterns of trust, Russians continue to get their news from TV, although the share doing so has fallen from 94 percent in 2009 to 73 percent now, while the share who prefer to rely on the Internet has risen from nine percent to 37 percent, Elena Mukhametshina of Vedomosti reports.
Among young people aged 18 to 24, these figures are 49 percent for TV as against 54 percent for the Internet while among those over 55, the figures are 89 percent for television and 18 percent for Internet news.
As a result of growing social tensions and especially after the announcement of the government’s plan to raise retirement ages, Levada Center director Lev Gudkov says, “the rise in the level of distrust to television intensified” given that people felt TV shows were not saying what they knew to be true.
“Trust in the official world is falling, especially among the young and more educated,” he continues. This reflects not so much technology and modernization as the way in which information is provided in the different media. “People feel sharply that TV is not talking about the negative aspects of pension reform” even though they can see them in their own lives.
The sociologist added that his surveys also show that Russians are tired of the regime’s unceasing “anti-Western propaganda.”
Moscow political analyst Aleksey Makarkin says that the loss of trust in television has been a two-step process. The first stage reflected the fact that a significant portion of young people “do not want to watch television [because] they consider its format archaic” as they cannot take part in the conversation as they can in social media and the Internet.
The second stage began with the pension reform and involved middle-aged peole who “in the majority of cases remain oriented to the old Soviet career patterns.” They have a work book and expect to collect their pensions as merited at 55 or 60. Now that won’t happen, and television has failed to talk about the clash of their expectations and the new reality.
If television were to adopt a more pluralistic approach, it would regain the trust of the population, Makarkin continues. “But the authorities remember perestroika” when criticism got out of hand. Therefore, the powers that be aren’t likely to change much: they may replace a few talking heads but they aren’t going to make “essential shifts.”