Henry Kirby in London -
A series of recent polls by Russia’s Levada Center has cast an interesting light on major issues surrounding Russia, such as Russians’ views on the conflict in eastern Ukraine, the effects of continued Western-led sanctions, and the general popularity of the government.
As the first bne:Chart shows, despite claims that it has been Moscow’s intention to annex East Ukraine from the outset of the conflict, only 19% of respondents felt the same, with 60% of respondents preferring East Ukraine to gain either full or partial independence from Kyiv. Only 4% of those polled would want East Ukraine to remain a part of Ukraine.
As well as preferring the formation of new states rather than the absorption of the region within Russia’s borders, those polled also saw the latter as a highly unlikely conclusion to the conflict, with only 6% of respondents predicting it would take place.
26% believe that the Donetsk and Luhansk People’s Republics (DNR and LNR, respectively) will become independent states within Ukraine’s existing borders, while only 8% envisage the DNR and LNR becoming part of Russia. 33% believe the conflict will continue and spread to other parts of Ukraine.
Despite Western-led sanctions fast approaching the one-year mark, the majority of respondents said that sanctions have not created serious problems for them and their families. 57% of respondents said that sanctions have either not created any problems for them at all, or have not created any serious problems.
When asked whether they believe sanctions could yet pose serious problems for them, the responses were slightly more varied, with 47% saying that sanctions may yet create either serious or somewhat serious problems. This would suggest that despite Russia’s economic ability to weather sanctions, continued efforts by the US and EU to financially squeeze Moscow could still hurt Putin, by disillusioning his supportive electorate.
While obviously aware of the potential negative long-term effects that sanctions could have on them, respondents seemed doggedly supportive of Russia’s current retaliatory stance. As the second bne:Chart shows, a third of respondents supported one or any of a combination of: reciprocal sanctions; the strengthening of economic and military ties with the Middle East, China and India; or ignoring sanctions altogether in an attempt to weather the storm.
When asked whether they would be for or against forcing the current, Putin-led government to resign, 48% of respondents said they would be against – the highest proportion since 2002. As the final bne:Chart also shows, the proportion saying that they would be in favour of forcing the government to resign was the lowest since 2002.
Despite this, when asked if they believe that the current Russian government is fulfilling its social obligations to the population, 49% believed that they only partially were, with 8% believing that that they are not fulfilling them at all. This was, however, a one-off question, with no historical responses to compare with.
Another one-off question showed that 46% of respondents believed that the government has not been managing the problems that the country faces, with only 42% believing that it has.
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