Staunton, November 11 – Sixty percent of Russians say they are indifferent to politics in their country, and they appear to have good reason: not only do their views have no impact on the Kremlin but their votes are treated so cavalierly by Russian officials that even the formalities of democracy have lost any attraction.
A new Levada Center poll found that only 37 percent of Russian respondents said they were interested in politics; 60 percent said they were indifferent. An even higher percentage – 77 percent – said that mass protests in their cities were unlikely. Fewer than one in ten said he or she would take part in them.
Andrey Grazhdankin, the deputy director of the center, said that interest in political or even economic protests had been falling for some time. He suggested that “serious” contributing factors were the Kyiv Maidan and the Romanian protests, events that he said had “alienated Russians from the ideas of street protests.”
Aleksey Makarkin, a Moscow political analyst and commentator, listed three factors which he suggested were depressing the prospects for political protest: disappointment in the last round of protests in 2011-2012, increased penalties for those who participate in demonstrations not having official protest, and the sense, promoted by the Kremlin, that Russians are now living in “a besieged fortress.”
The last, he said, has contributed to the notion among Russians that “anti-government actions ever more often are [viewed] as anti-Russian.” Such attitudes will change only if the economic situation gets significantly worse and Russians feel they have been insulted by officials, as happened in Novocherkassk in 1962.
At the same time, Russians have ever less reason even to go through the motion of voting in elections. A new study carried out by the Moscow Institute for the Development of the Electoral System found that actual participation in the recent elections in 12 regions was 35 percent and not the official figure of 57 percent.
Institute researchers conducted their research in the following way: They chose voting districts which had typical results in favor of the ruling United Russia Party. Then they interviewed voters and asked them two questions: did you vote? And did you vote for United Russia?
All told, they interviewed 1509 people, just over 10 percent of the total number of electors in the 12 districts. Fifth-nine percent said they had taken part, close to the official figure of 57 percent; but only 35 percent voted for United Russia despite official figures showing 74 percent did.
The Institute said that its results pointed to the conclusion that “the level of support of United Russia in reality…is not 61 percent on average for the country as a whole, but 39 percent.” It added that the survey’s findings could lead to a court case about electoral fraud. But given popular indifference and official resistance, such a suit seems unlikely to be brought.