Thursday, September 3, 2020

Putin Backers More Likely than His Opponents to Say Russians will Help One Another, Levada Survey Finds

Paul Goble

            Staunton, September 1 – At the start of the pandemic in March and after its peak in August, the Levada Center asked Russians about their readiness to help others, sociologist Aleksey Levinson says. The findings suggest that Russians are “not so much a civil society” as one animated by more selfish concerns.

            In the first of these polls, those born in Soviet times, those who respect the authorities, and those who have some power themselves were more likely to say that “everyone will help everyone” than other groups because of the pandemic while about a third of the sample suggested the coronavirus would not change the situation (

            Contrary to what many might have expected, people in villages were somewhat less likely to say that in misfortune, “everyone will help everyone,” than were those in Moscow (15 percent and 20 percent respectively) while they were slightly more ready to say that people will help only their own (53 percent and 47 percent respectively).

            The survey also found that young people and those opposed to Vladimir Putin were significantly less likely to say that people will help each other than were older groups or those who expressed support for the president, Levinson says. This may reflect greater willingness by Putin supporters as compared to opponents to accept media images of society.  

            By the time of the second survey, which asked the same question and offered the same alternative answers, the sociologist says, the attitudes expressed had changed.  A higher percentage said the pandemic hadn’t changed the situation than suggested it would in the earlier survey.

            Those saying people had helped others as opposed to those who earlier said Russians would rose from 17 percent to 23 percent, and the differences among the various groups declined, with young people and pensioners expressing nearly similar positions, Levinson reports.

            But some significant differences remained. Muscovites continued to say Russians would help one another more often than those in other large cities and villages, 31 percent, 23 percent, and 19 percent respectively.  It is likely that this reflects the impact of media on people’s views more than on what they would be otherwise, he suggests.

            Putin opponents continued to say that Russians would not help one another generally but only those close to them, but they expressed even less support for other alternatives and more backing for this one.  Thus, “we are not so much a civil society as a society made up of ‘our own’” and others.

            But Levinson concludes optimistically that Russians have adopted somewhat more civic positions than many might have expected.

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