12.12.22 Polls Review

Normative Loyalty: loyalty to the war and official rhetoric among pollsters surveyed remains high, although there are very few war enthusiasts

Only 11% of the respondents express their willingness to go to the front on "non-commercial" grounds, another 20% are ready to go to war for a monthly average of about 250,000 rubles., and 40% would not do so under any conditions. At the same time, a significant part of the Russians accepted the mobilisation as inevitable and even necessary, according to the Russian Field project surveys, conducted at the end of November-beginning of December. Those respondents who agreed to answer the pollsters demonstrate a fairly high level of loyalty to the war and the official "military" narrative. The proportion of peace-negotiations supporters here is even lower than in the "Levada-Center" opinion polls. However, loyalty to the "special operation," mobilisation, and the official narratives around them does not mean there is positive support for the war or that it is perceived as "existential," as the authorities try to present it.
The Russian Field (RF) project, which has been conducting surveys of Russians' attitudes toward the war since its beginning, has published the results of the tenth wave of a nationwide telephone survey conducted from November 29 to December 5. A feature of RF reports is the careful recording of the respondents' "reachability" level, that is, refusals and interruptions of interviews. The problem of "reachability" and the questions of how accurate the mass surveys in the conditions of war and repressive pressure are, and what proportion of interview refusals may be influenced by the respondent's unwillingness to report their opinions, which differ from the enforced "normative" attitude towards the war, have been the subjects of heated debate in the last few months.

The RF project records that throughout the war period, 5-9% of potential respondents were "reachable". Moreover, in the first two waves, the share of such responses amounted to 7.8% and 9.3% (end of February — beginning of March), in mid-March (after the criminal and administrative articles on discrediting the army were adopted) the level of reachability was 5.3% and then fluctuated in the range of 5.3%-7.4% (6.2% on average). This data is not sufficient enough to make any firm statements, but the assumption that the willingness of some respondents to talk to pollsters has decreased since the start of the repression against anti-war speech receives additional support from this data. Previously, 8 out of 100 people would respond to pollsters, and now 6, this difference looks significant (the "Levada Center" disputes the assumption of a change in reachability according to its data).

One way or another, the overall "temperature" of public opinion in the RF survey is quite close to the "Levada-Center" data. 68% of respondents in the RF sample believe that the country is moving in the right direction. This is a very high number: "in normal life," in 2019-2021, on average 48% of respondents gave a positive answer to a similar question in the "Levada Center" poll, from the end of March to the end of August — 68%, and at the end of September (after the mobilisation announcement) this number dropped to 60% (61% in November). Therefore, the effect of military mobilisation, which had given such a high percentage of approval for the country's general course after the war began, has weakened but has not disappeared completely.

In relation to the war, the perception that the "special operation" is going well has noticeably decreased (compared with the summer). However, 50% of the respondents still share this opinion (in the summer it was 62%; in the November "Levada-Center" poll it was 54%). Among those for whom the primary source of information is TV, this opinion is still shared by 62% of the respondents, among readers of online media and Telegram channels — 46-48%, among those who rely on conversations with relatives and friends ("word of mouth"). Radio"), — 42%, and among those who are guided by YouTube — 28%.

74% of the respondents in the RF sample support the annexation of the occupied Ukrainian territories to Russia. 44% believe that it is necessary to continue the military operation, while 45% are in favor of starting peace negotiations ("Levada Center" has a higher proportion of peace talks supporters — 53-57%). 62% of the RF's respondents believe that mobilisation was necessary, while 23% hold the opposite opinion. However, among young people (18-29 years old) this ratio is 45% vs. 43%, and among the 45+ generations — 70% vs. 15%. In general, we can say that if at first, the mobilisation caused a powerful shock in public opinion, now, after two months, the recognition of mobilisation as a legitimate and necessary decision has consolidated as the opinion of a certain part of society, especially among the male population and older ages (this is also indicated by the data of the "Chronicles" polling project). Even the second wave of mobilisation would definitely arouse negative emotions in 53% of the respondents. Although 60% of the younger ages (18-44) would have similar feelings, and among women — 64%, in general, this is a rather low figure, which demonstrates the lack of anti-mobilisation consolidation.

To the RF's signature prospective question, "If you had the opportunity to go back in time and cancel the decision to start a military operation, would you do so?" 51% answered positively, which is less than in March and June (57% and 55%). In two other prospective questions, the distribution of answers is the following: if Vladimir Putin announces a new attack on Kyiv, 57% of respondents are ready to support him, 28% are not ready, and, vice versa, if Putin signs a peace agreement with Ukraine tomorrow, 70% will support him, and 22% will not. In both cases, the proportion of those who would support Putin's decision has slightly decreased (in late September and early October it was 60% and 75%, respectively), while the proportion of those who would not support a peace agreement has grown from 18 to 22%. As the costs of the operation (in particular the human losses) rise and affect more and more people, the "war till the victorious end" party will be strengthened, although not significantly. About 50% of the respondents would support either of Putin's two decisions.

Slightly more than half (52%) of those surveyed in the RF sample say that there are people among their relatives and friends who take part in a special military operation. Men (59%) and for some reason, the more prosperous (60%) say this more often. Similar to other polls, the pro-war party is more male, older, and higher-income, while the anti-war party is more female, younger, and poorer.

Overall, RF surveys show a fairly high degree of public loyalty to the war and the official narrative. However, this does not mean that the war is accepted with any enthusiasm or is perceived as "people's". For example, when asked for what amount of money the respondents would be willing to take part in military operations, 40% said they would not, and only 11% expressed some moral enthusiasm, saying that money or its amount is not important. Another 20% of the respondents estimated their participation at a monthly average of about 250,000 rubles.