Tuesday, August 01, 2006
Russian opinion polls
Half of Russians blame Israel, U.S. for Mideast conflict - survey
Moscow - Almost half of Russians questioned in a nationwide survey blame Israel and the United States for the ongoing violence in the Middle East, a pollster said Tuesday.
The conflict between Israel and Lebanese militant group Hizbollah, raging for almost three weeks, has left more than 700 Lebanese civilians dead, and taken the lives of over 50 Israelis. More than 100 Palestinians have been killed in Israeli air strikes and military incursions in the Gaza Strip over the past month.
The All-Russian Center for Public Opinion Study said that 23% of respondents blamed Israel for the beginning of the violence, while other 21% blamed the United States and Israel's other allies.
The poll showed that 14% and 13% blamed Islamic militant groups Hizbollah and Hamas respectively for the conflict, 5% blamed "Iran, Syria and other sponsors of terrorist organizations in the Middle East," and 4% said the government of Lebanon was responsible for the conflict.
Twenty-eight percent of respondents said both sides in the conflict were equally responsible for the current situation.
The pollster also said 43% of respondents believed Russia should not interfere in the Middle East conflict, and the majority, 70%, said Russian peacekeepers should not enter the conflict zone.
Thirty-eight percent of respondents said Russia should continue acting as an independent mediator in the conflict, while 11% said Russia should support one of the conflicting sides.
The poll was carried out on July 22-23 in 153 cities and towns in 46 regions across Russia. Pollsters questioned 1,600 respondents, and the survey has an error margin of 3.4%.
influence what people think? Would these numbers be the same if there were a free flow of ideas and info through media channels? When is the system a reflection of the people and the people a reflection of the system?
First, is it your sense that the people who took the poll adhered to standards that we would regard as necessary for acceptable polling? Does the polling organization have a track record?
Second, you must have seen newstands and watched television on your visits. How would you judge the variety and quality of news sources available to the Russian people right now? How would you compare Russian television coverage of world events with American coverage?
Thanks for the questions.
One stereotype I want to dispel is the notion that in Putin's Russia we are back to some sort of Soviet-style grey television coverage with a wooden-faced newsman reading lines (and some KGB agent pointing a gun at him off camera to make sure "the truth" doesn't slip out). The leading Russian channels produce news programs that visually and in production values are equal to their Western counterparts.
On the Middle East crisis, I found the main channels to track other European sources--wide ranging reporting but like the BBC and others much more willingness to cover the "Arab side" and to accord a lot less automatic acceptance of Israeli claims--but remember that with many Russians in Israel there is wide interest in what happens there and there is some degree of sympathy for Israel's predicament as tracking that of Russia's with Chechnya. The same I found in the print media.
I also stress the point that there is a real digital divide in Russia--the younger, better educated and wealthier you are the less you depend on state-influenced outlets for news because you have access to all the international channels and to the internet; in the main cities you also have direct access to Western news sources especially if you are English fluent.
I do have a problem when U.S. commentators talk about bias in the Rusisan media and use the U.S. as the standard of objectivity. I saw this a lot during the Yugoslav wars where the Russian media would cover events that the U.S. media chose not too and this was cited as proof of bias on the Russian side.
I think that you'd find a wide divergence of opinion if you polled in the U.S. and broke results down by where people get information--say BBC versus Fox News.
Russian polling is quite professional, in my opinion; the Levada Foundation is top notch and other firms have borrowed a lot from Western expertise in these areas. The Putin government is also keenly interested in accurate readings of public opinion. I haven't found anything that would suggest to me that public opinion data from Russia is corrupted or unreliable.
This is rendered laughable by recalling US support for Yeltsin, even when Yeltsin shot up his legislative branch of government with 125mm HE fire, and observing that Russia now has far more "good government" than it did then.
To the extent Putin is concerned to constrain the US, it is motivated not so much by his "authoritarian nature", but by the fact that he has two eyes and a brain in his head, and is able to see and draw proper conclusions from what the US government gets up to when it is unconstrained.