Since Russia’s invasion started, sociologists have grappled with how to determine the share of Russians who support the war. Leading private and state pollsters claim pro-war Russians are in the majority, and these studies are frequently referenced in Western media. At the same time, a group of independent sociologists point out that these polls may not be accurate — many Russians are reluctant to freely voice their thoughts on the war due to censorship and fear of persecution.
- Independent researchers from the Chronicles project recently presented the findings from their latest surveys (also available at The Bell), which suggest that the percentage of those who say they support the war may not be a very meaningful statistic. In their view, this figure comprises a wide spectrum of people, from those who volunteered for the front to those who are afraid of repression. Moreover, at least half of those who are opposed to the war are afraid to speak out against it, the sociologists say.
- To identify the core pro- and anti-war groups in Russia, the pollsters devised a series of questions about support for the war, the necessary conditions for bringing troops home and public spending priorities for Russia. The results of this survey suggest that the core support group represents 22% of the population, while the core opposition is 20.1%.
- Separately, researchers stress that “the fridge counters the effects of the TV,” and this effect is felt more and more with each passing month. The level of support for the war among state TV viewers who are facing economic pressures is now falling 27% faster than in October. Among TV viewers who have encountered at least one economic problem, support for the war was down 11 percentage points in February. Support among people who don’t watch TV news fell by an average of eight percentage points. There is no obvious explanation for this discrepancy, but Chronicles co-founder Alexei Minyailo suggests that people who do not watch state television have a more realistic view of events, whereas the TV audience experiences an ever-increasing gap between the screen and reality.
- Other polls show that a vast majority of Russians support the war. For example, according to state polling agency VTsIOM, 68% of Russian residents welcomed the military invasion of Ukraine and just 20% are opposed to it. The leading independent polling organization Levada Center’s poll results in January said that 75% of Russians support the war to varying degrees.
Why the world should care
It’s not easy to work out exactly what proportion of the Russian population supports the war, but a group of independent sociologists is certain that the pro-war lobby is far smaller than polls from leading agencies would suggest. If that is true, it casts doubt on the widely held belief in the West that the war in Ukraine is backed by most Russians remaining in the country.