Discover more from Behind the Iron Curtain
...and don't want to know
May 3, 2023
In the April poll conducted by the Levada-Center, I was able to confirm the hypothesis that a significant part of the population lives in voluntary information isolation—i.e., they do not consider it necessary to spend their time searching for additional information about the war in Ukraine and are content with what they can receive using traditional channels.
Almost two-thirds of the respondents (63%) answered the question, “Is the information you get about the course of the SMO (Special Military Operation) enough to understand what is going on?” in the affirmative. Moreover, 39% gave a categorically positive answer to this question. If we take as the “zero point” the difference between positive and negative answers in general (31 points), those who trust TV, radio, and newspapers as sources of information (41, 45, and 53 points, respectively) estimate the level of information sufficiency noticeably higher than that. This is not surprising, because in many homes, television and/or radio work in the background, and the Kremlin’s propaganda machine is like a well-oiled engine, constantly churning out messages that form a stable and consistent picture of what is happening in Ukraine. At the same time, newspaper readers most likely are not familiar with online media that could provide an alternative viewpoint.
The successful work of the propaganda machine has its results: Those categories of respondents who support the actions of the Russian army, who believe that it is necessary to continue military efforts rather than start peace negotiations, are also confident that they receive sufficient information (40-44 points). Those who disagree that Russia is paying too high a price for participation in the SMO, and those who believe that Russia has already experienced or is currently experiencing the main difficulties caused by the SMO, also highly assess the sufficiency of the information they receive (41-48 points).
That respondents who believe Russia is on the wrong track and/or do not support Putin’s actions as President speak of a lack of information is hardly surprising. given the global censorship that has swept Russia (2-5 points). But it was a bit of a revelation for me to recognize the existence of a relative lack of information among a group of respondents who would seem to belong to Putin’s “nuclear” electorate—the residents of small towns and villages, workers, and people who admit that they “barely have enough money for food” (15-23 points).
Within the demographic groups, the differences in assessments of the sufficiency of information look somewhat spotty. Gender differences (23 points for men and 38 points for women) can be explained by the more significant load of women with everyday problems, which leaves less time for analysis of what is happening. Meanwhile, the views of respondents in different age groups look like a zebra: 21-25 points for respondents aged 18-24 and 40-54, and 35-37 points for those who are 25-39 or 55 and older.
The general conclusion that can be made based on these results sounds banal, but that does not make it wrong: The state monopoly on news TV and radio is like a “Berlin Wall” that separates the Russian people from the truth, preventing them from receiving information freely. As a result, the country living in information isolation reminds one of a ship sailing in murky waters, unaware of the hidden dangers that lie ahead along the way.
The answers to the other two questions showed no change in public opinion. Most respondents still believe that Russia is paying too high a price for its participation in the SMO (66% vs. 25%). Still, at the same time, most respondents oppose concessions to Ukraine for the sake of signing a peace treaty approximately as strongly (70% vs. 19%).