Several polls of Russian opinion have come out over the past few weeks that reveal some interesting insight into what Russians are thinking.
One Russian poll from November showed that 84% of Russians felt happy with their lives, with contentment with family life being counted as the most important contributing factor to that happiness. As TASS reported on the results:
“The level of happiness among Russians is still high, as 84% of those surveyed said they were content. The number is high in every social and demographic group but a thing to note is that people who consider their financial situation to be solid (94%) tend to be more optimistic than those complaining about a dire financial situation (66%),” the statement reads.
Keep that last line in mind as we continue on.
The same Russian polling agency did a poll in October which asked similar but different questions about Russians’ life satisfaction. This poll was also reported on by TASS:
“One in two Russians is satisfied with the life they lead (50%), which is the highest indicator for the last year. One-fourth of respondents, 25%, say they are partially satisfied with their life, and 22% of Russians are dissatisfied with it,” the poll says.
More than half of those surveyed (57%) positively evaluate the domestic situation, while 35% say the opposite. One-fourth of Russians are optimistic about the future, 25% are confident that their life will improve in a year, another 41% believe that nothing while change, while 23% think that things will just get worse.
“Half of those polled (48%) are concerned and worried about their future, but their number is falling. <…> One in four respondents said they are optimistic about the future (26%) and almost the same number (23%) are neither optimistic nor worried about it,” the state-run pollster said.
According to that last paragraph, although the number has gone down, around half of those polled are worried about their future, while 64% (from penultimate paragraph) think things will not change or will get worse. This is consistent with other polls I’ve looked at over the past couple of years indicating that Russians are getting a bit concerned and restless about the stagnating living standards, with wages having “contracted” over the past six years – though there was a small uptick last quarter attributed to the decline in inflation. In order to make ends meet or keep up their lifestyle, more and more Russians have been turning to credit.
This brings me to another interesting poll from early November in which 70% of Russians said they were concerned about social inequality in general. More specifically, they were concerned about falling incomes (63%), problems with getting free medical care (58%), and the high cost of necessities (58%).
But will this translate into protests in the street?
The protests in Russia we most hear about in western media are political protests in connection with more abstract ideas like democracy, freedom, and anti-corruption. But there have been protests over the past few years in various parts of Russia relating to socioeconomic issues that affect Russians’ material well-being. For example, there were protests by truck drivers over toll fees in 2015 and protests in response to the Putin government’s increase in the retirement age in 2018.
The results of a Levada Center poll released earlier this week showed that a fifth of Russians said they would participate in a political protest, but a third said they would be willing to protest economic conditions.
Apparently, the Russian government is indeed more concerned by the potential of protests based on socioeconomic discontent as reflected in a report by Professor Paul Robinson yesterday about a French sociologist who was denied entry to Russia where she was going to attend an academic conference.
The story in question is that French sociologist Carine Clément was detained by Russian border guards last week when she attempted to enter the country to attend an academic conference, and was then deported back to France. Clément had been due to give a paper discussing the French ‘Gilets jaunes’ [Yellow Vests] and comparing them to Russian vatniki (rednecks, roughly speaking). Superficially, it doesn’t seem like something which should really bother the Russian security services. After all, the Russian state-funded TV network RT has been about the only international media outlet to regularly report on the Gilets jaunes over the past year. Nevertheless, despite the fact that she has a Russian husband and daughter, Clément was declared a threat to national security and told that she was forbidden from entering Russia for 10 years…
I was able to find an English-language version of a 2015 article [by Clement] entitled ‘Putin, Patriotism, and Political Apathy’. It’s actually quite good, so I thought that I would share some excerpts of it here.
Clément starts off by noting Putin’s political popularity. This is genuine, she argues, and it’s not just a product of alternative voices being repressed. Political repression exists in Russia, but ‘Repression is not occurring on a massive scale. Many independent initiatives that are critical of current authorities still operate in broad daylight.’ The root of Putin’s support instead lies in the experience of the 1990s, Clément argues. In that time period, ordinary people ‘watched unscrupulous individuals make fortunes through small or big-time fraud’, while being treated with the utmost ‘contempt’ by the reformers and their allies, who dismissed them as ‘losers’ and ‘maladjusted’…
At the same time, Clément remarks, the liberal opposition is ‘cut off from the people’. It is obsessed with overthrowing the ‘Putin regime’, but ‘The problems that preoccupy most Russians, as indicated by polls, including poverty, housing, education, and health, do not appear as priorities.’ She recounts the story of a woman who visited the offices of the Yabloko party to complain about people who were poisoning dogs in her locality, and was told, ‘yes, of course, we see the problem. But tell us, how are we going to fight the regime?’
Russians see that this sort of thing is pointless, Clément argues. The political protests of the liberal opposition don’t interest them. Instead, they’re turning to more local forms of action, focusing on the sort of social-economic issues I mentioned at the start of this post. Clément believes that it is this sort of action, coming from below, and ‘rooted in local concerns and the realities of daily life’ which offers the best prospects for change in Russia.
Putin seems to have some awareness of average Russians’ concerns as he has reportedly been seeking feedback from his administration on how to “jump-start” the economy. His administration is also in the process of trying to implement the national projects that he has spoken of in his last two addresses to the Federal Assembly. Those infrastructure projects – with a special emphasis on improvement of roads – have been slow getting off the ground, however.
Earlier this week, U.S. Senator Kamala Harris announced that she was dropping out of the race for the presidency.
All I can say is: Aloha, baby! Don’t let the door hit your tush on the way out.
But seriously, establishment media pundits are trying to spin this in various disingenuous ways – that she couldn’t gain traction because she was a woman of color, etc. But as political comedian and analyst Tim Black discusses below, it is because she was running a dismal campaign in which she articulated no major policy upon which she was running to fix a major problem – of which there are many currently in this country. The fact that she was very arrogant also hurt her. This arrogance was reflected in her dismissive treatment of Tulsi Gabbard, while refusing to address the substantive and very relevant problems with Harris’s record that Gabbard brought up. In fact, Harris was given several opportunities to answer Gabbard’s charges and failed every time.
Instead of offering substance as a candidate, Harris offered up her identity politics credentials, jokes that only she laughed at, and a mission to get Trump removed from Twitter. The era of style-over-substance neoliberal candidates is over. Unfortunately, Harris got the memo too late.