Staunton, September 28 – Russians who get their news primarily from television have a very different ranking of what matters than those who turn to the Internet or to friends and acquaintances, according to a new Levada Center poll of a representative sample last month (levada.ru/2020/09/28/ggh/).
In August, the polling agency says, all three groups said they were focused first and foremost on developments in Belarus, but after that, they diverged significantly. TV viewers listed as their next most important concerns the coronavirus, the development of a vaccine, and the demonstrations in Khabarovsk.
Those who relied primarily on the Internet listed in order the following: the events in Khabarovsk, the poisoning of Aleksey Navalny, and only then the coronavirus; while those who turned to friends and acquaintances listed as their second through fourth issues, the protests in Khabarovsk, the coronavirus, and the poisoning of Navalny.
These contrasting rankings both reflect and reinforce the differences among these groups with the split between TV viewers, mostly older, more rural and more pro-Kremlin, and Internet users, mostly younger, more urban and less supportive of Vladimir Putin’s regime being especially significant.
The Levada Center also found two other patterns of significance. On the one hand, it found that between January 2020 and August 2020, the percentage turning to television as a source of news fell from 73 percent to 69 percent, continuing a decline from as much as 90 percent as recently as March 2014. Trust in TV also declined from 52 percent to 48 percent.
And on the other, telegram channels which many have been suspicious of because of their often anonymous or shadowy background not only attracted more readers, up from four percent in January 2020 to six percent in August 2020, but also more trust, up from four percent to seven percent over the same period.
This suggests that telegram channels, despite suspicions about them, are increasingly important sources for how Russians learn about and interpret the news and likely are attracting some people who earlier used regular portals to themselves. To the extent that is true, no one interested in Russian politics and society can afford to ignore them anymore.