12.09.22 Polls Review

The opinions of Russians on whether to continue military action in Ukraine or move to peace talks are almost evenly divided, Levada Center poll shows

In an August poll by the Levada Center, a set of questions regarding the war in Ukraine has significantly expanded. While the proportion of those supporting Russian military action in Ukraine has remained practically unchanged since April (about 75%), when asked whether Russia should continue the military operation or switch to peace talks, 44% were in favor of negotiations and a slightly higher proportion of respondents (48%) were in favor of pressing on with the military action.

Within the younger respondent group (18–39 y.o.) 54% are in favor of peace talks, and in a more "bloodthirsty" older group (the main audience of state television) — 38%. 

Public opinion looks divided also in regard to including the Kherson and Zaporizhzhia regions of Ukraine into Russia’s territory with 45% speaking in favor of it. 

Finally, the emotional background of the war also looks ambiguous: 67% of the respondents mention negative emotions (from "shame" and "horror" to "anxiety") in their answers, while 62% express positive emotions ("satisfaction", "enthusiasm" and "pride for Russia").

Six months since Russia began the invasion of Ukraine, the war is attracting less and less public attention: currently, 51% of the respondents are following the events (in March that indicator was 64%, in July — 56%), according to data from another Levada Center poll conducted August 25–31. Moreover, it is the younger groups that are mainly losing interest in the war (only 28% of those polled aged 18–24 "keep track of the situation"), while 69% of older respondents (over 55 y.o.) continue to follow the news. 

When answering a direct and somewhat odious question regarding support of the Russian Armed Forces actions in Ukraine, 46% stated that they "definitely support them", 30% claimed that they "somewhat support them", and 17% said they "do not support them in general" (these numbers have not changed since April). 

However, when asked the projective question of whether Russian military actions should be continued or should switch over to peace negotiations, respondents were split almost in half: 48% were in favor of continuing with the "special military operation," while 44% were in favor of negotiations. That is 6 percentage points higher than the share of peace supporters in a July poll by the independent research project Russian Field.

Support for the war remains consistently high among older respondents (over 55 y.o.): 60% of them "definitely support" the actions of the Russian military and more than half (55%) are in favor of continuing them. Among the younger groups (18–39 y.o.) about a third (32%) speak of "definite" support, while supporters of peace negotiations constitute the majority (54%). 

Only slightly more than half of those polled (53%) believe that most people around them hold the same views on the war as they do. Regardless of their own position, 28% note that their social group is divided: half hold the same views, and half are opposed. 

It is indicative that among younger generations 45%, i.e. almost half, believe that their social group is divided concerning the war. This generally indicates a significantly lower level of public "unity" about the matter — for many it remains a "dangerous" issue. Within the older groups the idea of unity among their social circle is much more widespread: almost two-thirds of respondents (64%) believe that those around them hold the same views as themselves. Remaining the main "consumers" of state TV content, they are much less often confronted with an alternative point of view on the situation in Ukraine and continue to be in the informational "echo-chamber". 

The emotional background of the war’s perceptions also looks ambiguous. Respondents were asked to answer what feelings they have about "Russia's military actions in Ukraine”. Negative emotions (anger, shock, shame, depression, anxiety and horror) were mentioned by 67% of those polled (most of them — 31% — feel "anxiety, fear and horror"), and positive ones — by 63% (48% — pride for Russia, 15% — satisfaction and enthusiasm). In March, this ratio was 62% vs. 65% (it was possible to give several answers in the poll).

The poll also records the absence of consolidated support for the annexation of the Kherson and Zaporizhzhia regions, which both the Kremlin and the pro-Russian authorities in the occupied territories have been explicitly or implicitly declaring since late April. The inclusion of the occupied regions into Russia is approved by 45% of respondents. Under the assumption that the decision to join Russia will be made by the population of the regions by "referendums", support for their inclusion increases to 69%.

On the one hand, the level of support for the accession of the Kherson and Zaporizhzhya regions into Russia is quite high and indicates a certain "paradigm shift": for example, in recent years, only about 25% of the respondents supported the accession of the LNR and DNR to Russia and the unification of Russia and Belarus. On the other hand, nothing similar to the past unity of opinion on Crimea is observed here. 

As we wrote earlier, high figures when answering the direct question about support for the "operation" largely reflect the reluctance of respondents to enter into a confrontation with the official point of view. With the wording allowing one to avoid such confrontation, the position of about 45–50% of respondents looks provocative.