I saw this piece in VZGLIAD today, it contains the results of a scientific opinion poll conducted by the sociological agency called “Russian Public Opinion Research Center” — in Russian this is Всероссийский центр изучения общественного мнения or ВЦИОМ which is the acronym you will usually see in the press. The agency was created in 1987, is fully funded by the Russian government, and is the oldest public opinion polling company in Russia. There are others as well, privately funded. Russian President Vladimir Putin has demonstrated, for example in the Crimea issue, that he takes public opinion polls into account and factors them into his decision-making, especially on important issues of war and peace. Those who screamed loudly for Russian troops to march in and “rescue” the Donbass people from the Ukrainian army (which Russian troops could do quite easily) need to realize that Russian public opinion does not support such an action. Which doesn’t necessarily mean it shouldn’t be done — national leaders get the big paycheck because they have to make tough, sometimes unpopular, decisions. Still, it bears repeating that Putin is sensitive to Russian public opinion and factors it into his decision making, along with numerous other inputs.
Anyhow, on their website ВЦИОМ publishes the results of various polls; in this recent one, conducted on 13-14 August among 1,600 people from 130 populated areas in 46 regions of 9 Federal areas of Russia, people were asked their opinions about the situation in Donbass, Ukraine. The results of the poll have a margin of error no greater than 3.5%.
[yalensis sidebar: To a rube like me, never having studied sociology, it always seemed crazy and counter-intuitive that you could question 1,600 people in, say a population of 150 million, and get an accurate result. But there you have it. People say this method is scientific, and I guess it has proved to be so, although I be damned if I understand why.]
In the poll Russians were asked several questions about the Ukrainian situation, and here are the results:
Should Russia recognize the Donetsk Peoples Republic (DPR) and Luhansk Peoples Republic (LPR) as independent states?
Only 23% say yes, this is down from 29% for the same question one year ago. 38% say Russia should observe neutrality in this conflict; this is up from 28% a year ago. Only 14% think that DPR and LPR should be absorbed into Russia. But an even smaller number, 11% think that DPR/LPR should remain within Ukraine. An additional 14% had no opinion on the matter. These answers add up to 100%.
On the question of providing humanitarian assistance to the Donbass, 64% are in favor, even knowing that the money comes out of the federal budget. Since August of 2014 Russia has delivered more than 63,000 tons of humanitarian aid, helping the Donbass region of Ukraine avert a humanitarian disaster, brought on by the political coup and ensuing civil war.
The poll shows that Russians are sensitive to the issue of Ukrainian refugess. When questioned, 65% say they are aware of refugees in their own area; of which 26% say that there are quite a lot of refugees from the Ukraine (in their area).
Towards the end of July, the UN itself published some data on the conflict raging in the Eastern Ukraine, according to which there have been around 9,500 deaths and over 22,000 wounded. This is probably an under-estimation.