Pollsters Find Population In The Dark

According to a recent nation-wide public opinion poll, approximately half of the Russian population knows almost nothing about the political developments in the country and has no idea of what the power vertical reform is, and what the federal districts are. However, the other 50% of respondents gladly shared their informed opinions.

    Think tank experts have concluded that almost 50% of Russians know absolutely nothing about the ongoing reform of the executive power structure. Even those who manage to hold a conversation on the subject cannot give the name of the newly created federal district in which they reside.

The deputies, the governors, the Kremlin, basically all of the organs of power in Russia are engaged in a heated discussion concerning the further development and the possible outcomes of the reform of the nations political apparatus.

Many political movements and think tanks are hiring specialists to gauge what common people think of the reforms and the new administrative division of the state into 7 federal districts and the new initiatives aimed at curbing the regional leaders (governors and presidents of the so-called autonomous republics) powers.

Experts have conducted various opinion polls. The experts with the Public Opinion Fund (Fond obshchestvennogo mneniya) have conducted the largest nation-wide poll, i.e. interviewing the largest amount of people in the most places. The funds pollsters asked respondents for their opinion on the reform of the Federation Council, on Putins recent state-of-the-nation address, and on the creation of the 7 federal districts, headed by the presidential envoys.

44% of respondents approve of Putins moves to replace the governors with regional representatives in the upper house of the Russian parliament, the Federation Council. 18% think that Russia will not anyway benefit from these measures. 38% could not give a definite answer.

58% of respondents agreed with the opinion that the governors vetoed the presidential bill on the principles of the formation of the Federation Council because they did not want to lose their seats in the Federation Council, and 14% think that the true reason for the senators veto is that they believe the country would not benefit from the bill. 30% found it hard to answer the question.

The poll results indicate there are three problems that deeply concern Russians: Firstly, the governors enjoy absolute power in their personal fiefdoms. Secondly, given the presidents growing influence, respondents are worried about the revival of an authoritarian regime. And, thirdly, respondents said they are concerned as to whether the legislation on reforming the power structure complies with the Federal Constitution.

Public opinion experts conclude that the majority of Russians do not support the governors, not because they believe the regional leaders were wrong to veto the FC formation bill, but simply because supporting the governors would mean approving of the policies they pursue in their regions.

Many Russians agree that the governors should stay in their provinces and mind the local economy rather than be involved in big politics and waste budget funds on trips to Moscow. Only 18% believe that pushing governors away from big politics could weaken their chances of lobbying regional interests and consequently might worsen the situation in the regions.

As for the compliance of the disputed reform bills with constitutional law, only Muscovites and experts participating in the poll dwell on the issue, whereas the respondents in the regions have not yet recognized the problem.

It is worth noting that 94% of respondents assert they are perfectly familiar with the provisions of the bill on the reform of the Federation Council. Only 3% confessed they had no idea what it is all about and other 3% failed to answer at all.

Admittedly, only 14% of the respondents had heard about Vladimir Putins state-of-the-nation address dedicated to the reform of the power strucure. 24% said they had heard something about it, and 52% of respondents learnt about it in the course of the poll.

ThePublic Opinion analysts Fund conclude that respondents who support Putins initiative on dividing the state into federal districts believe that the bills could strengthen the state system, increase control over the regional governments, curb arbitrariness and exorcise corruption, bring down the number of personnel in bureaucratic structures, and cut costs.

On the exact contrary, the opponents of the structure of political power assert that the introduction of the federal districts would weaken the state and reinforce separatism, increase arbitrariness and corruption and lead to an increase in the number of state officials.

Poll experts conclude that people feel worried and uncertain of the future; they do not have a clear understanding of the functions of the presidential envoys to the federal district and often exaggerate their powers.

The ROMIR public opinion research centre conducted a similar poll that produced approximately the same results. 31.8% of respondents assume that the creation of the seven federal districts will lead to strengthening power and control, 18.1% said the federal centre would grow stronger and, consequently, the rights of the regional leaders would be limited. 24.7% of respondents assume the reform will only lead to an increased number of state officials and 25% failed to answer.

As for the reform of the upper house, the ROMIR poll results show that 20.8% welcome the idea. Another 22% say they would rather approve of the reform than disapprove. 19% said neither yes, nor no. 16% would rather disapprove. 15.7% do not approve of the Federation Council reform at all and 5.6% had difficulties answering.

On the bases of these results, ROMIRs analysts conclude that people willingly participate in the polls for questions are usually followed by multi-choice answers and respondents can choose the variant s/he likes most. However, in reality, often they do not have a clear understanding of the issue in question.

It is worth noting that two thirds of the Public Opinion Fund respondents assert they know or have heard something about the creation of the federal districts. However 42% of respondents could not say which federal district their area falls into and 46% failed to give their opinion on the presidents decision to introduce the federal districts.

ROMIRs president Yelena Bashkirova told Gazeta.Ru: Indeed, society is not very well, or not correctly informed of the executive power reform that the country is currently undergoing, the reasons being that the level of education of the respondents, besides, a certain part of population does not pay attention to politics, they have their own lives and their personal interests.

Some respondents do not understand the questions. But, of course, theyve heard something about the formation of the federal districts while making dinner. They recognize the words theyve heard on TV and form their opinion on the matter. Russians are poorly informed on many issues.

And could you name issues Russians are even more poorly informed about?

Well, for example, many have no idea what the ABM treaty is about.

Elena Alexandrova, staff writer



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