Staunton, April 7 – Many thoughtful Russians have suffered two shocks in the last two months: Vladimir Putin’s launch of an expanded invasion of Ukraine and polls suggesting that the overwhelming majority of Russian support that action. But Sergey Yerofeyev says they should not rush to accept what he calls the findings the Kremlin is trumpeting.
The US-based Russian scholar argues that these reported results should not lead to despair or a sense of impotence among Putin’s opponents because these polls distort the state of public consciousness, often consist of obviously bad data, and are routinely subject to false interpretation (theins.ru/politika/249996
navalny.com/p/6615/). And that is far from the only such survey.
Others include the Athena Project, Aleksey Mikhailo’s operation, and the Voronezh-based Kvalitas group. Their findings consistently show not only that fewer Russians support the war than Moscow claims but that support among the war is lowest among the poorest Russians rather than among the better off.
To the extent that is the case, this pattern provides evidence that economists who say that the further deterioration of the economic situation will lead to a social explosion are correct and that the war may accelerate that trend. If such “partisan sociology” develops, it will provide a useful corrective to the image many now have.
Up to now, Yerofeyev says, “Russian public consciousness remains largely in denial about the realities of the war, something that also contributes to the illusion that it has mass support.” But the partisan sociologists increasingly have the opportunity to determine who is a real supporter, who is passive and who is actually opposed.
“Such partisan sociology should help loosen the Kremlin’s grip on the civic sphere” in Russia and allow “the majority to feel that they are not alone in the face of the repressive state machine but that many think and feel the same way they do.” Even the Putin regime hasn’t been able to block this sense entirely, and independent surveys can reduce his hold still further.