Staunton, September 3 – The most significant finding of a new Levada Center poll released today is that most Russians continue to get their news about demonstrations from the official media rather than the Internet but no longer accept the government’s explanations about what is going on and why.
That suggests that there does not have to be a massive shift in the way Russians get their news from television to the Internet as many have assumed for them to change their views about what is going on in the country. Instead, the poll shows that Russians are becoming increasingly critical of what the regime is saying even if they continue to listen to its channels.
And while that may not mean that Russians have “developed an immunity to official propaganda,” as Abbas Gallyamov suggests (newtimes.ru/articles/detail/184447), it does highlight something more interesting: Russians aren’t simply taking the Kremlin’s agenda as their own anymore.
The numbers from the poll are striking: 55 percent of Russians said they knew about the recent Moscow protests from state television, only 28 percent said they had gotten their information from the Internet and only 23 percent from social networks (levada.ru/2019/09/03/protestnaya-aktivnost-5/).
Supporters and opponents of the demonstrators divided almost equally, 23 percent and 25 percent, with 45 percent saying they were indifferent to the protests. Forty-one percent said those taking to the streets had done so because of the situation in the country, and a like share said the siloviki had used excessive force.
Vedomosti in reporting these results asked three Russian experts for their opinions about their meaning. Their comments provide additional evidence for this shift in public attitudes toward official propaganda (vedomosti.ru/politics/articles/2019/09/02/810271-bolshinstvo-rossiyan-zametili).
Lev Gudkov, the director of the Levada Center, noted that “less than a third” of those polled considered Western interference to be the cause of the protests, despite Moscow television’s insistence otherwise, and 23 percent said that even if the West had tried to interfere, it wouldn’t have been successful.
According to the pollster, the findings also success that “the Moscow protests will not have a strong impact on the regions” where far fewer – only 16 percent, he says – were following the course of the protests carefully. Thus, “the situation in the country is not so dramatic that these events will become the trigger for a strengthening of the opposition.”
Dmitry Badovsky of the Moscow Institute for Social, Economic and Political Research said that protest attitudes have grown in the last year, although they have ebbed somewhat in recent months. The causes are general socio-economic issues rather than narrowly political ones, however.
And Nikolay Petrov, a Moscow political scientist, observed that despite the views that there won’t be a wave of protest outside the capital, the Kremlin had cracked down hard in order to send a message that it will n0t tolerate demonstrations anywhere.