Staunton, January 19 – In recent years and especially in the last 12 months, “dissatisfaction with the president and the government have ceased to be marginal points of view,” Denis Volkov says. Instead, a third or more of the population today “is dissatisfied with the situation and no longer does not actively support the regime.
“But these dissatisfied people remain divided,” the deputy director of the Levada Center polling agency continues. And they are up against supporters of the regime which with its help “remain mobilized, take part in elections, vote for the amendments and candidates from the powers that be” (republic.ru/posts/99266).
In the current crisis, a combination of the pandemic and economic decline, “it is possible that people will not hold the authorities directly responsible. But their growing pessimism will inevitably influence their attitude toward the leadership of the country. They are becoming ever more tired as problems mount. “
“And this means,” Volkov says, that with time, “their demands on the powers who cannot solve these problems will inevitably grow.” That is already happening but at different rates depending on age, education, and income and especially on where Russians get their news, only from official sources or from the Internet.
Russians generally approve what the regime has done as far as the pandemic is concerned, although a growing share believe the powers that be have hyped the numbers to justify repression and a majority doesn’t want to get vaccinated either because they don’t trust the government or don’t think the coronavirus is all that serious.
Similarly, a majority still supports the amendments to the constitution, but it appears their support reflects more the work of the media than any actual and direct consideration. Instead, most Russians are focused on other issues, like the economy, health care and increasingly the environment.
With regard to Aleksey Navalny, Volkov continues, “about 20 percent of the population” supports him although that number is growing. More intriguingly, people now look at him as an interesting alternative to Putin rather than simply as someone who exposes corruption, a shortcoming in Russian life many consider inevitable.
Russians are also becoming more tolerant of protest inside the country. They “are prepared to imagine themselves in the place of those protesting in Khabarovsk, Bashkortostan or Shiyes, they understand them, and they invest some of their own emotions in them.” They are put off by what is happening in Belarus.
Almost 80 percent of Russians believe that the West wants to humiliate and weaken Russia, “but few of them believe that ‘they’ will achieve that.” The annexation of Crimea continues to influence their thinking. That showed Russia to be a great country. But as a result, people have turned away from foreign issues to domestic problems.
Asked about the regime’s tightening of the screws and application of the epithet “foreign agent” to an increasing number of institutions and individuals, Levada points out that “the process of the slow drowning of independent civil society, be in journalism or sociology, did not begin yesterday.”
The regime’s intention in this regard is clear: “the bureaucracy wants to protect itself from any social influence on its decisions and is trying to control everyone and everything via limitations and bans.” But over time, these will influence not only the general climate of opinion but the operations of the government sociology.
“When you know that no one will rely on your data, the quality of research, be it sociological or economic inevitably declines. And in the absence of a free press, the powers begin to believe in their own propaganda,” something that can be fatal for any regime, the Levada Center sociologist says.
“The quality of administration inevitably falls and then occurs what we already saw at the end of the 1980s, first paralysis and then collapse of the system of administration of the country.”