Political Polls in Russia are Useful but They are Being Misused, Shelin Says

File Photo of Kremlin Tower, St. Basil's, Red Square at Night

(Paul Goble – Window on Eurasia – Staunton, December 1, 2018)

The commentariat in Russia and the West have given enormous attention to relatively small changes in the ratings of Vladimir Putin and other Russian officials, without asking some of the fundamental questions about these numbers that are necessary to make the numbers useful, according to Sergey Shelin.

The Rosbalt commentator says that some of the ways in which the poll numbers are being used has led some to dismiss the survey results out of hand. That is an easy an understandable response, but it is almost as wrong as accepting them without analyzing why Russians say what they do and what is the relationship between what they say and what they might do.

“Let us not exaggerate,” Shelin says. The poll results are “simply answers to questions. That is, they are words and not actions. Even more important, they are words said in the course of conversations with employees of polling agencies, people whom many if not the majority view as representatives of the authorities” (rosbalt.ru/blogs/2018/11/30/1750222.html).

There is something important that “the worsening of ratings shows: ordinary people are today ready to tell the bosses that they are dissatisfied. In general, they still spare Putin at least comparatively. They spare United Russia significantly less. And they space the others from the prime minister and government to the Duma almost not at all.”

“Is it interesting to find out about this?” the Rosbalt commentator asks rhetorically. “Yes. Do the ratings explain what is going on? No. They only provide certain indications. One can use them,” he says, and as far as he is concerned, one needs to. But it is only a tiny part of the story, the first step perhaps in a long march of understanding.