16.11.22 Polls Review

The Inclusion Of Occupied Ukrainian Territories In Russia Has Not Met Any Emotional Response Among Russians: by the end of October, only 6% of the respondents remembered about this event

According to the "Levada-Center" polls, Russians have hardly paid any attention to the inclusion of four Ukrainian regions in Russia. In September, the pseudo-referendums in these regions were considered a "memorable event" by 9% of respondents, while in October their incorporation into Russia was remembered by only 6% of respondents. Twice as many respondents remembered the Crimean bridge bombing in October (11%). The "partial mobilisation" has completely overshadowed both of these events: in September it was mentioned by 47% and in October by 27% of the respondents. At the same time, the war in Ukraine ("special military operation") remains a background event for the respondents: just over a third of respondents named it "memorable" in the surveys.

Every month, the "Levada-Center" asks respondents the question: "Which events of the last four weeks are most memorable to you?" The question is open-ended, which means that interviewees name events themselves (instead of choosing them from a list) and can name several events, so the sum of the answers exceeds 100%. This sum is the ability of Russians to name some memorable events and the number of these events varies significantly from month to month, as the graph below shows, and can be considered as a measure of Russians' informational involvement. The proportion of people who mentioned a particular event demonstrates how much of an impression it has made on the Russian public. The share of those who could not recall an event or found it difficult to answer is also changing.

If we look at the dynamics of the indicator for the whole period of the war, we can see two information shocks — in March and September-October, when information involvement was at its peak. At the same time, in March, 75% of respondents named the "special operation" as the main event. Then, from March to July, the information engagement was declining and indifference grew. In July, about 40% of respondents said they could not recall anything significant or found it difficult to answer. In this, apparently, a certain "escape from reality" has shown itself.

Information involvement of Russians: results of surveys on memorable events of the month, % of the number of respondents

The socio-political agenda is constantly being pushed out. For example, in July, the sanctions against Russia and the transport blockade of Kaliningrad were remembered by 2% of respondents; in September, the same proportion of respondents remembered events related to international summits or conferences where the issues related to Russia were raised (UN General Assembly, SCO summit). At the same time, after the March shock, the war in Ukraine ("special operation") acquired the status of a "background event": between May and October, it was mentioned by 30-40% of respondents.

Mobilisation became the second informational shock: in September it impressed almost every second respondent (47%), overtaking the "special operation" in terms of its importance. In October the mobilisation topic remained among the most important events (27%), even though it has lost its initial acuteness.

However, the most shocking is the lack of interest that Russians have shown in the annexation of the occupied territories of Luhansk, Donetsk, Kherson, and Zaporizhzhia regions of Ukraine to Russia. Massively promoted by Russian propaganda, the “historic” referendums in these territories on joining Russia were remembered by 9% of respondents, according to the September poll of the "Levada-Center". It is noteworthy that the same proportion of interviewees in September remembered various events related to rising prices and rates as well as Covid. However, in the October survey, the ceremonial incorporation of four regions into Russia was recalled by only 6% of the respondents. What is interesting is that the explosion on the Crimean bridge was much better remembered than the "annexation": it was named by 11% of those surveyed. This ratio indicates what the Russians perceived as relevant, related to them, or irrelevant events.

One way or another, unlike the situation in 2014-2015, when information involvement regarding the Crimea annexation and the war in the eastern regions of Ukraine went off the scale, this time the Kremlin information machine failed to capture Russians, and rather caused an opposite "escape from reality" syndrome and reluctance to discuss it.