Friday, April 10, 2020

Russian Official Sociology with Its Presidential Ratings Another Casualty of Pandemic, Davydov Says

Paul Goble

            Staunton, April 7 – Despite the flood of bad news about the coronavirus and despite critical articles even by loyalist Kremlin commentators, the regime’s pollsters at VTsIOM and the Public Opinion Foundation are reporting that Vladimir Putin’s rating has been rising through it all, claims that mark the death knell of official sociology, Ivan Davydov says.

            And that is more consequential than it might appear because in Russia unlike in other countries, the legitimacy of the ruler is based on his polling numbers rather than on genuine elections. Now, with the obvious invention of those numbers, “the kingdom of the ratings is ending,” although its death throws will last some time (

            Doubts about sociology and “especially about those sociological services which work for the powers,” Davydov says, “appeared in post-Soviet Russia at one and the same time with post-Soviet Russia.”  They became especially pronounced during the 1996 elections but quieted after the second Chechen war, the fat years, and Crimea gave Putin an understandable boost.

            But in the last two years, as times have become tougher and as it has become ever more obvious to ever more Russians that those in charge aren’t plotting a way forward that benefits the Russian people, these questions have returned in force, as the Kremlin has demanded that its ratings improve regardless of what the reality is.

             What this has meant is that there is a growing appreciation of the fact that the ratings the powers that be take so much pride in “do not have any relationship to reality.”  And while VTsIOM and FOM may continue to issue reports, no one can have any confidence in them. Sociology in service of the authorities is no more. It has died.

            And because that is so, Putin’s ratings do not mean much. “The kingdom of ratings is ending, not tomorrow to be sure, the process will be long, but it is already going on. And pro-power sociology of the former kind also now is of no use to anyone. Its death is thus a completely natural one.” And there won’t be any mourners.

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