04.04 Polls Review

Conditional Peace: The group in favour of unconditional peace may constitute up to 25-30%, while the group in favour of unconditional victory could be around 20%, a Russian poll suggests

The increasingly clear advantage that Russia has on the Ukrainian front has not yet affected the population's attitude towards the war, as far as can be ascertained from public opinion polls. Approximately 50% of Russians are in favour of 'transitioning to peace talks'. The group of those who agree to peace on any terms or who cannot define these terms but insist on the need to end the war may be as high as 25-30%. These are the people who would accept a return to the pre-February 2022 status quo. Meanwhile, the 'victory party', which wants the war to continue until Ukraine is meaningfully defeated, stands at around 20%. In between, however, are 50-55% of respondents who primarily rely on the position of the authorities and the imagined majority and need the results of the war not to appear like a defeat for Russia and or demonstrate the senselessness of its sacrifices.

About half (49%) of Russians would like to see an end to the war with Ukraine and the start of peace talks. In contrast to these 'doves', 19% of respondents are in favour of a continuation of the war ('hawks'), and another 21% do not express support for a transition to peace talks, but would welcome it if it were Putin's decision ('loyalists'). This is the overall picture of segmentation results of those surveyed by the Russian Field project according to their attitude to the war. The ratio between the groups has not changed since October 2023. Among young people (under 30), 72% are 'doves' and 4% are 'hawks'; but also among those over 60, there are fewer 'hawks' (31%) than 'doves' (38%).

'In your opinion, should Russia continue the “military operation” on the territory of Ukraine or move to peace talks?' + 'If Vladimir Putin signed a peace agreement tomorrow and stopped the “military operation”, would you support such a decision?', % of those surveyed by age groups

The Russian Field clustering methodology involves three stages. First, respondents are asked whether they support the continuation of the war or peace negotiations. For those who chose the first option, a follow-up question is asked about whether they would support a peace agreement if it were proposed by President Putin. This is how the 'loyalist' faction is identified. At the third stage, all groups were asked an open question: ‘In principle, what should a peace agreement between Russia and Ukraine look like for you to support it?’

18% of 'doves' are ready to support 'peace on Ukraine's terms' or 'peace on any terms', which in this context is practically the same thing. Both groups (together making up 9% of respondents) are willing to abandon both conquests and political demands imposed on Ukraine by the Kremlin. Another fairly large faction of ‘doves’ (29%) consists of those who struggled to answer the question about peace terms. It is joined by a group of respondents who state that the most important thing is a ceasefire. Both of these groups emphasise the desire for peace, but are unable or unwilling to formulate its terms. Together, they constitute 37% of Doves, or 18% of the sample. Finally, a third of 'doves' (34%, i.e. 17% of the sample) perceive peace as 'peace on Russia's terms'. However, this includes conditions ranging from moderate ones such as ‘peace on mutually beneficial terms’ and ‘recognition of Crimea’ to radical ones such as 'denazification', refusal to join NATO, annexation of the whole Ukraine or recognition of the Zaporizhzhia and Kherson regions as Russia. Approximately 40% of answers in this last group (7% of all respondents) can be attributed to supporters of moderate demands. 

The absolute majority of 'loyalists' find it difficult to describe the terms of peace: they refer to Russia's official claims, Putin's decision or find it difficult to answer. Essentially, they are willing to entrust this decision to the authorities, who will determine what constitutes the 'achievement of the goals of the “special military operation”'. Here, however, there is a small subcluster, which Russian Field calls 'stubborn' (14% of 'loyalists', or 3% of the sample). These individuals mention either the annexation or surrender of Ukraine, or the annexation of significant territories, in particular the Odesa region. In essence, they are 'hawks', but trust in Putin's 'hawkishness'.

Among the ‘hawks’, 19% (3% of the sample) are ‘restrained’ and either formulate abstract goals ('fulfilment of the tasks of the “special military operation”', 'Putin should make the decision') as acceptable conditions for a peace agreement, and in this respect are more like 'loyalists', or are not ready to support any peace agreement at all. They are joined by undecided 'hawks' who cannot formulate their own conditions. Approximately 30% of hawks emphasise political demands for Ukraine as a condition for peace: refusal to join NATO, denazification, the change of the regime in Kyiv to a pro-Russian one. Another group, in contrast, focuses on territorial conquests. However, while some have expanded territorial claims, others have very moderate ones. But, the largest subgroup of 'hawks' (one third, 6% of the sample) demands Ukraine's surrender or its annexation to Russia.

When analysing this data, it is first of all striking that the change in the situation on the front in favour of Russia, which has pushed the Russian leadership to expand its claims (the capture of Kharkiv, the creation of a 'buffer zone', etc.), has not yet affected the mood of those surveyed, who are generally more inclined towards peace. 

The detailed segmentation of respondents' attitudes towards peace conditions carried out by Russian Field demonstrates, in our opinion, a high level of uncertainty in the perceptions of these conditions. Among the ‘doves’, besides the faction advocating for ‘peace on any terms’ (9% of those surveyed), there is a noticeable faction of those who do not articulate their position so explicitly but emphasise the immediate achievement of peace or formulate very moderate demands on Ukraine. Generally speaking, this consistent peace faction probably accounts for 25-30% of all those surveyed. Conversely, among the 'hawks' who insist on continued military action, there is a small proportion of those whose claims are not so broad, but who are joined by radical 'loyalists'. The size of this group is about 20%. However, between these two factions are 50-55% of respondents, whose views primarily align with the position of the authorities and the imagined majority, and need the outcomes of the war neither to appear as Russia's defeat and nor to demonstrate the futility of its sacrifices.

The survey data confirms the general trend of demilitarisation of public sentiment. As we noted earlier, the majority's attitude to the war in early 2024 is characterised by the formula 'Peace, but not defeat' (→ Re:Russia: Three Majorities). Fear of defeat appears to play a smaller role today than it did last year, but this does not (as far as we can tell from the polling data) add to Russians' desire for victory, but rather increases their thirst for peace. 

Supporters of peace — supporters of war: segmentation of Russian society in attitudes to the war, % of those surveyed

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