Sunday, June 25, 2023

Polls have One Meaning when Those being Surveyed See Real Alternatives and Another when They Don’t, Levinson Says

Paul Goble

            Staunton, June 23 – Discussions about whether polls in Russia under Putin are reliable ignore the fundamental reality that such surveys of opinion have one meaning when those taking part perceive there is an alternative and quite another when people assume that there isn’t one, according to Aleksey Levinson of the independent Levada Center.

            Public opinion polls arose, the sociologist says, alongside competitive elections when people wanted to know in advance who was likely to win and who to lose – in short when there were two or more candidates people could choose among. In such circumstances, they are useful (

            But when there is no obvioius alternative and people are in effect asked to choose between the one alternative they see in the absence of others, two things occur. On the one hand, they approach such surveys in a different way, seeing them as tests of their support of whatever it; and on the other, the level of support they find is almost always high.

            It isn’t that the polls in the latter case are false or distorted, Levinson says; they are simply measuring something else; and comparing them to polls where people feel they have a real choice is what distorts the situation, not any content or results of the survey results that polling agencies report. These are two different situations, and that must be kept in mind.

            Indeed, the most important finding of polls when people do not perceive an alternative is not the percentage supporting what is but the demonstration that in that situation, they do not see any real chance for something different than that which is offered, be it a president like Putin or a conflict like his war in Ukraine.    


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