A new Russian poll questions the validity of Russian polling results. When Russians were asked about how comfortable they feel expressing their views on current events, more than a quarter said they were fearful, Russian newspaper Kommersant reported Friday.
“The problem of socially acceptable responses in surveys is nothing new,” said Konstantin Kalachev, a political consultant who spoke with Kommersant. “This is called a social spiral of silence. People follow the majority. They are afraid to stand out, superstitiously prefer not to stir the pot, and they answer with pre-readied, upbeat mantras.”
Twenty-six percent of respondents in the Levada Center study said they were afraid to answer questions while 49 percent of respondents said that Russians in general were reluctant to answer questions when approached by people conducting polls. When it comes to speaking with work colleagues about politics and current events, 23 percent of respondents said they felt uncomfortable while 17 percent said they were uncomfortable discussing these issues with their families. When asked why people were reluctant to share their views and beliefs, 56 percent of respondents answered that they feared retribution.
Experts have long questioned the accuracy of polling information, with Russian President Vladimir Putin enjoying popularity ratings above 80 percent. A poll conducted at the end of 2015 by the All-Russia Public Opinion Research Center (WCIOM) found Putin's popularity has remained stable despite a staging economy that has been hit by low global oil prices that have fallen to less than $30 a barrel in addition to Western sanctions levied after Russia annexed Crimea from Ukraine in March 2014.
Valery Fedorov, director of WCIOM , said for the last year, “the level of approval of Vladimir Putin’s activity as president has remained stable and stably high. There have been some fluctuations, but meager, between 86 and 89 percent,” the state news agency Tass reported.
The Levada Center poll was conducted Nov. 20-23 and surveyed 1,603 people from across Russia. The margin of error was pegged at 3.4 percentage points.