Monday, January 11, 2016

Putin’s Real Abuse of Polling Not in Reported Results, Volkov Says

Paul Goble

            Staunton, January 11 – Many have cast doubt on the accuracy of a New Year’s poll in Crimea suggesting that people there are prepared to live without electricity in order to be part of Russia, but the real problem with this survey lies elsewhere: it was carried out as a public relations measure to produce results known in advance, according to Denis Volkov.

            In “Vedomosti” yesterday, the Levada Center sociologist says that because of the controversy the latest poll has sparked, it is important to understand precisely what is wrong with it: not the findings themselves but rather the way sociology was subverted and transformed into a PR stunt (

            It is very likely, Volkov says, that the figures the poll offered were genuine. At the very least, they were consistent with what other recent surveys there have shown.  But the real problem is that this survey, which was carried out as “’a special operation,’” was more a “theatrical” performance than a real sampling of public opinion.

            “Judge for yourselves,” he says. “On December 30, the mbedia report that the president has ordered an ‘immediate’ carrying out of a survey of residents of Crimea and Sevastopol. Already the next day, the survey was made, and on January 1, the results were made known.  If it wasn’t planned in advance, it would be hardly possible to conduct it in such a short timeframe, especially during the holidays.”

            Moreover, there was about this survey “a sense of déjà vu,” given that something very similar happened in March 2014 concerning the annexation of Crimea. “then as now, the published results were not unexpected,” and therefore both represent “in a certain sense, “the apogee of the state polling industry.”

            It is no secret, Volkov continues, that “government centers for the study of public opinion publish primarily the results of those investigations which are supportive of the authorities. In this, there is nothing surprising, for in the final analysis, that is how anyone who orders up a poll acts.”

            But the result is unfortunate. “It turns out that now ever more often are asked only those questions to which will be given only the ‘correct’ answer the authorities want. The goal of ‘the investigation, which doesn’t report anything new can only be to create an impression. But this is already not sociology but public relations.”

                And that in turn discredits those who use these results as an indication of the supposed “’democratic’” nature of the Russian government, Volkov says, because polls that provide only results that are known and approved in advance do not allow the population to control the government but rather permit the government to control the population.

            Consequently, the Levada Center sociologist says, “regardless of the methodology they employed, [such samplings] leave an aftertaste of scandal and scam: methodologically, everything may be correct, but in essence, these are simply acts of bullying.”

            (Such abuses have sparked calls for the expulsion of Russian sociological organizations from the ISA. On this, see Russian Sociology Bodies Should Be Expelled from International Groups Just as Soviet Psychiatric Ones Were, Yakovenko Says,” January 8, 2016 at

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