31.10.22 Polls Review

Support For the War Among Russians Is Rapidly Declining But Has Not Yet Converted Into Rising Opposition, New "Levada-Center" Polls Show

According to a poll conducted at the end of October, 57% of respondents favour starting peace talks with Ukraine, and only 36% prefer continuing hostilities. Back in August, this ratio was 44% vs. 48%. Less than 30% of respondents in the younger age groups support the continuation of the war. At the same time, the decline in ratings of the authorities and support for the actions of Russian forces in Ukraine, which was observed in the September opinion polls right after the announcement of "partial mobilisation," has stopped. Russians would like the war to end as soon as possible but still do not hold President Putin and his regime responsible for its continuation.

The large monthly poll conducted by the "Levada-Center" in late September, right after the announcement of "partial mobilisation," reflected the shock experienced by Russian society. As we wrote earlier, this was expressed in a rapid increase of attention to the topic of war, a sharp change in sentiment, including general and economic assessment of the situation in the country, expectations, and a decrease in the ratings of all government agencies. The new October survey shows a stabilisation of the assessments of Putin and other institutions of power, as well as the estimates of the situation in the country. Approval of Putin as president reached 83% in August, 77% at the end of September, and 79% at the end of October; 67% in August, 60% in September, and 64% at the end of October thought the country was moving in the right direction.

While the attention to the war in Ukraine did not decrease compared to September, the distribution of answers to the most sensitive question about support for the war remained the same. While from July to September, there was a slight decrease in support (from 76% to 72%), in October, the proportion of pro-war respondents did not change (73%). In other words, this question, which is a prominent marker of "loyalty — disloyalty" to the regime, has remained "frozen" for the respondents so far.

However, this does not mean that attitude towards the war has stayed the same. On the contrary, the essential information in the October "Levada-Center" poll indicates a change in another question about which scenario seems preferable to respondents: the continuation of "special operation" or the beginning of peace negotiations. While in August, 48% were in favor of continuing the war and 44% were in favor of starting peace talks, in September, the numbers shifted — 44% were in favor of continuing the war and 48% of peace talks. The October opinion poll showed quite a dramatic change: 57% now favor peace talks, while 36% favor continuing hostilities. While a minority in all age groups is in favor of continuing the war, less than 30% of respondents in the younger age groups (18-39) are in favor, in the 40-54 age group — 39%, and in the older age groups — 42%.

Should we continue the war or start peace talks? July-October 2022, Levada-Center and Russian Field polls, % of respondents

Фрейм "IFRAME"Javascript

Should we continue the war or start peace negotiations? October 2022, % of respondents by age group

Фрейм "IFRAME"Javascript

It is important to note that the proportion of those who support the continuation of the war (36%) is twice as low as the proportion of those who say they "support the actions of the Russian armed forces in Ukraine" (73%). This difference reveals two registers in the respondents' attitudes toward the war. On the one hand, support for the war decreases quite rapidly (from over 50% in the summer to 36% in October) as the "cost" of the war increases for the respondents (mobilisation effect). On the other hand, the political framing of the war has not changed so far: a considerable proportion of respondents (those who say they support the actions of the Russian army, but at the same time want the war to end as soon as possible) are not prepared to confront the regime on this issue and/or acknowledge Russia's defeat in the war and its initially unjust nature.

This dual perspective also explains respondents' views on "partial mobilisation". According to the " Levada-Center", 56% of respondents fully and rather support the announcement of partial mobilisation. This figure is close to the data of the "Chronicles" project (54%), which we wrote about earlier. At the same time, the distribution by age group repeats the general "age" pattern of war supporters: in younger age groups (18-39 years old), about 40% of respondents support mobilisation, and more than half do not support it, while in older age groups, more than 60% support it and about 30% do not.

The relatively high loyalty to "partial mobilisation" can be explained by the prevalence of normative ideas about "military duty" and "patriotism," which are carried mainly by older people.

The all-Russian opinion poll by the "Levada-Center" was conducted by the method of a face-to-face interview at the respondent's homes on October 20-26, 2022, based on a representative all-Russian sample of the urban and rural population of 1604 people aged 18 and over in 137 communities of 50 subjects of the Russian Federation.