Staunton, December 17 – A few days after releasing figures showing Vladimir Putin’s standing had declined by 29 percent, the Levada Center has admitted that it made a mistake and that support for the Kremlin leader has declined by only 14 percent, an acknowledgement that many Russian outlets are jumping on to discredit the independent pollster and show their loyalty.
But on the same day the center admitted this (levada.ru/2016/12/16/utochnenie-rezultatov/), the very different behavior of the Kremlin was thrown into high relief when a report surfaced about a Russian soldier’s death in Syria a year ago and that Moscow soon took down to try to continue to hide that tragedy (meduza.io/news/2016/12/16/pervyy-rossiyskiy-voennyy-pogib-v-sirii-v-pervye-sutki-bombardirovok-ob-etom-ne-bylo-izvestno-bolshe-goda
levada.ru/2016/12/13/vladimir-putin-4/) do ot significantly change “the interpretation of the main trends” about attitudes toward Vladimir Putin as both the old and the new confirm “a growing polarization of assessments” about him.
The corrected figures, he continued, only show that this process has not yet become as significant as the data released earlier had suggested. But “because these data taught on the extremely ‘sensitive moments’ of the theme of relation to the powers that be and the ‘national leader,’ we consider it necessary not simply to correct the distortions but to explain it.”
The mistake happened, Gudkov continued, because his polling agency like others changes the order in which the choices for answering a question are listed lest the order itself have an impact on the answers. (Those polled often choose the first one; but in this case, that did not happen.)
Such things happen when one is dealing with “an enormous mass of statistical data,” but they are not as some critics have suggested an effort by the Levada Center to promote one view or another. Gudkov assumed “all responsibility for the error” and thanked those who had pointed it out.
But “to the extent the December 13 release had called forth a certain resonance and commentaries in solid publications,” he concluded, “we apologize for the blunder and will try in the future to more strictly control our press releases.
In sharp contrast to this professional approach, the Kremlin and its allied media and polling agencies routinely distort the truth and do not ever acknowledge they have done so – unless they are forced by events, by the difficulties of maintaining lies given the multitude of outlets, or driven by a change in Kremlin policy on this or that particular issue.
An example of this is the way in which the Kremlin had denied the presence of its soldiers and sought to hide combat losses even when it has admitted they are there. Thus, for more than a year, officials hid the death in combat in Syria of a soldier from Kabardino-Balkaria only to have his demise confirmed when other officials awarded him a medal for his service.
But then, in the traditions of Kremlin media policy under Putin, the authorities took down the report of his award from the Internet, although in the age of Screenshot and caching, that seldom works; and a copy of the report about Eduard Sokurov’s award can be found at http://archive.is/3dYt8.