Financial wellbeing more important than democratic freedoms, Russia poll finds

Financial wellbeing more important than democratic freedoms, Russia poll finds
By Henry Kirby in London January 19, 2016

Financial wellbeing and social support should be the top priority areas of national policy, according to respondents of a recent poll by the Levada Center, while democracy, reforms and freedom of speech are seen as less important.

The poll, conducted in December 2015, asked 1,600 Russians to rate the areas that they believe national policy in Russia should focus on. Top of the list was political and economic stability, as chosen by 53% of respondents, with social guarantees and salary and pension payments coming in joint-second at 51%.

Economically-suffering Russians appear willing to set aside principles of freedom while times are bad, with democracy, freedom of enterprise and reforms joint-bottom at 7%. Freedom of speech, assembly and movement were one percentage point (pp) higher at 9%.

The answers in 2015 broadly resembled those recorded in December 1999 when the survey was first conducted, suggesting that priorities among Russians have remained mostly the same over the last 16 years, with economic wellbeing and financial stability the key priorities across the period. However, no data is available for the interim period, when times were comparatively prosperous for Russians.

The two biggest decreases across the period were seen in categories concerning crime and social order. The strengthening of order in the country fell by 18pp to 34% between 1999 and 2015, while the fight against crime fell by 30pp across the same period, down to 26%.

The decrease in concern over social order and crime reflects the fall in violent crime in Russia over the last decade. According to data collected by Rosstat, murders in Russia fell by more than half between 1999 and 2011, from 38,225 down to 16,798.

The biggest jump in priority came for social guarantees, which grew from 34% in 1999 to 51% in 2015. According to Alexei Levinson, head of socio-cultural research at the Levada Center, this is the result of growing concern among Russians that central and local governments are attempting to cut back on social security spending.

In Russia’s most recent budget, pensioners bore the brunt of new austerity measures as the index rate for pension increases was cut to 4% - nearly 9pp lower than the latest monthly inflation figure for the country..