18.10.22 Polls Review

The Frustration of the Mobilisation: Russian Society’s Spring-Summer Optimism Replaced by Confusion and Scepticism

A wide range of social sentiment indicators have been disrupted as a result of the mobilisation in Russia. Indicators regarding the expected wellbeing of families have suffered the most, falling to their lowest levels since the early 2000s. These statistics reflect a sharp increase in people’s uncertainty about the future and their inability to plan ahead, pointing to deep social frustration. At the same time, there has been a decline across all categories of prospective assessments regarding the future, spanning both political and economic spheres of life. A prominent example of the overall mood in society can be found in the decline of the savings index, or people’s ability to save in the current social climate. It should be noted, however, that this decrease reflects a slump in confidence regarding the country’s economy and future, and does not reflect an actual change in people’s financial situations.

Following the mobilisation announcement, a drastic change in the mood of the Russian population could be observed by the end of September. This trend was reflected in people’s economic assessments and their expectations regarding the future. There was a notable absence of the overexaggerated optimism Russians had been exhibiting during spring and early summer, no doubt the result of the “rally around the flag” phenomena (which we repeatedly covered). The Levada Center’s social sentiment index returned to its normal level. It should be noted that as respondent’s continue to highly assess the Russian authorities, the index is being kept afloat. However, some of its components have exhibited sharp declines: indeed, the “family index” has hit rock bottom levels for the first time in history. 

Components of the Social Sentiment Index, 2002–2022

There was a marked decline across all prospective assessments, including expectations regarding the wellbeing of both individual families and Russia’s economic and political prospects. Compared to data from July 2022, The Levada Center’s September poll showed that the number of people expecting things to improve in Russia’s political situation fell by 17 percentage points. At the same time, the number of those who were expecting the situation to deteriorate increased by 15 percentage points. This points to a dramatic and abrupt change in public sentiment. 

The decline of both the savings index and the proportion of answers to the question “Is this currently a favourable or unfavourable time to save money?” serves as one of the best examples of the havoc that the mobilisation has wreaked on Russian society. “This decline is stronger than the one the COVID pandemic caused in 2020, and sticks out even more compared to the peak of assessments observed in the spring of this year,” says Stepan Goncharov, an analyst at the Levada Center. It is important to highlight that the actual number of people who believe they will have fewer opportunities to save in the future has grown insignificantly. It can be assumed that respondents have not observed any decline in their family’s financial situation, rather, the overall frustration in society has led to a decline in people’s willingness to save money. These changes reflect “people’s confusion in the face of new circumstances, their uncertainty about the future, and their inability to plan ahead,” Goncharov notes. 

There has also been a noticeable change in people’s economic expectations. According to polls, when banks sharply increased interest rates on deposits in spring, reacting to the surge in inflation, citizens (especially young and middle-aged people) exhibited increased levels of confidence in the rouble, as well as a willingness to keep their savings in the national currency. In September, however, the survey results showed that this indicator had returned to its normal pre-war levels, amounting to a drop of 10 percentage points among younger age groups and around 5 percentage points in older groups. This means that after the period of optimism observed in spring-summer, Russians are once again expecting inflation and the rouble to weaken. In our opinion, this growing sense of uncertainty about the economy’s future has also been observed in declining levels of confidence in real estate investment. For Russian citizens, a fog of uncertainty has begun to descend upon the country’s future and its economic prospects. 

What is the best way to save money right now? % of respondents

Ultimately, the mobilisation has proven to be a driving force in breaking public sentiment. It has created a radically different atmosphere in society as opposed to the one that people had gotten used to in spring and early summer of this year.