A new chapter in the perception of the military operation
By Dmitriy Kolezev from media REPUBLIC. July 14, 2022
The sociological project "Chronicles" has conducted new research on the Russians' attitude towards the war in Ukraine and its consequences. The results showed a drop in support for the "special military operation" by a total of nine percentage points, from 64% to 55%. An increase in anxious sentiments was registered. The majority of those surveyed do not expect Russia's victory to benefit them personally in any way, and only 3% of those surveyed would be happy to see new territories become part of Russia. Russians hope for a return to peaceful relations with Ukraine, but they become increasingly ready for a protracted war. "Republic" reports on the main results of a new poll by the Chronicles.
"Chronicles" is a research project launched by Russian politician Aleksei Miniailo and his like-minded associates (sociologists, analytics, data analysts). Some of the experts work anonymously on the project due to political risks. “Our aim is to speak up on how the war with Ukraine is being perceived in Russia," the project website says. “To give reliable, truthful, verifiable information, we hold regular polls, focus groups, and social media research. We analyze the results, discuss them with the best Russian independent researchers and share them with you.”
"Chronicles" have already conducted six waves of research. The most recent one, the results of which are being described here, took place from June 29 to July 5. Respondents over the age of 18 were interviewed telephonically using a random sample of mobile numbers in all regions of Russia. A total of 1,823 respondents were interviewed, with the final sample weighted by gender, age, and locality type.
Here are some of the important results obtained by the researchers:
Support for the war is decreasing
55% of respondents answered "Yes, I support" to the question "Please indicate whether you support, do not support Russia's military operation on the territory of Ukraine, find it difficult to answer unequivocally, or do not want to answer this question? During the previous wave of the research (May 14-19, 2022) 64% stated their support. Since the second wave, this figure has not dropped below 60%, and now it is at a "historic low".
10% of respondents answered explicitly that they do not support the military operation. 18% found it difficult to answer, and 17% refused to answer the question.
A large number of people refuse to participate in the survey
There were 86% of them. This is a larger number than in previous waves ( the last survey had 78% of refusals). However, this increase could be caused by the fact that this time the operators were asked to use a different procedure to record refusals, which could have increased the number of refusals in the statistics. According to the authors of the research, this level of refusals is not abnormally high for sociological surveys.
Russians are aware of their economic problems
39% of respondents said that their family's income had decreased (compared to 35% in the previous survey). 11.8% said that they or someone close to them had lost their job or business. 56.5% said that they had to save on food due to rising prices.
The Russians who participated in the survey have psychological problems and conflicts with relatives
43% said they had experienced episodes of anxiety or depression since March 2022. This is one of the indicators which has increased significantly since the most recent survey, by 10 percentage points. The war may have seriously affected social connections: 26% stated that they have stopped communicating with some close friends and relatives since the beginning of the 'special operation'.
Approximately every eighth interviewed Russian has relatives in Ukraine who are involved in the military operation
The percentage is 13.8%, although the question also included participation in the military operation. 0.6% of those interviewed claimed to have participated in the special operation themselves.
The interviewed Russians are watching fewer war-related TV programs
Their popularity has dropped by the same nine percent points as the support for the special operation. 61% of respondents named TV as their main source of information about the military operation, whereas there were 70% of such respondents in May. At the same time only 37.7% of the respondents trust the TV. However, the popularity of almost all sources of information on military operations has decreased: for example, the popularity of YouTube channels has dropped from 26% to 23%, and Telegram channels have had a drop in popularity from 24% to 20%. On the other hand, the number of those who do not follow any war-related information at all has increased (from 6% to 11%). Of those who use the Internet, 22% use VPNs.
The majority of respondents believe that Russians should have the right to openly criticize the military operation
Their share is 42%. 26% believe that criticism should be limited, 24% found it difficult to answer this question, and 9% refused to answer it.
An overwhelming majority still believes in Russia's victory
59% (versus 62% in the previous wave) said that Russia would "definitely succeed" in winning in Ukraine, while 23% (versus 22%) said it would "probably succeed". There are only 4% of those who do not believe in Russia's victory (vs. 6%), while 13% found it difficult to answer (vs. 9%).
However, the majority of respondents do not expect Russia's victory to do them personally any good
56% said that should Russia win, the victory would not benefit them personally in any way. 29% responded that it would, and 16% found it difficult to answer. Among those who expect personal benefits from the victory, the majority spoke merely about restoring peace (37%), 9% wanted to regain the possibility of traveling to Ukraine, and 6% were waiting for the restoration of the economy. 10% said that a victory would bring them "moral satisfaction". Only 3% said they would be happy about territorial unification.
Every fifth respondent (21.6%) stated that they were ready to personally participate in the military operation
Of course, there is no way of knowing how real these answers are. 49.2% said they were not ready to participate, while 14.6% refused to answer this question or found it difficult to answer.
Yet, 63% are not ready to give part of their income to the army. And of that 27% who are ready, the vast majority (68%) are ready to give no more than 10% of their income.
The majority of respondents have not felt any consequences of the withdrawal of certain goods from sale
However, the disappearance of imported clothing and medicine worries people more than that of foreign food products (given the fact that Russia has already had a food embargo in place for a long time). 16.1% said they "felt very much" about the disappearance of imported medications.
What would the Kremlin consider a victory in the war against Ukraine?
31% of respondents believe that it is Ukraine's recognition of the independence of the DPR and LPR. 27% named the change of power in Ukraine as a condition of victory. 26% - a part of Ukraine joining Russia, 25% - Ukraine's refusal to join NATO, 22% - Ukraine's recognition of Crimea as part of Russia, 19% - the whole of Ukraine joining Russia. 18% found it difficult to answer. The range of answers is quite consistent with the vaguely articulated goals of the special military operation.
The majority of respondents expect a long war
17.8% believe that the military operation will end in a year, 14.2% say it will take more than a year. 14% say half a year. 31% found it difficult to answer. 3% believe that the military operation will end “never”.
The Chronicles project exists thanks to public support. “Our aim is to change the public opinion on the war,” say the project’s authors. “Propaganda claims the vast majority of Russians are supporting the war but the reality is way too complicated: the level of support is lower than the officials claim, and the meaning of the "support" is different.” The project accepts donations in cryptocurrency, the details are published here.
"A New Phase in the Perception of the Military Operation"
Elena Koneva, sociologist at ExtremeScan and partner at the Chronicles Project, comments on the survey results:
"The reaction to the military campaign in Ukraine has already passed through three stages: shock, euphoria, adaptation, and is now entering the fourth, the depression phase.
The initial undeniable shock that people had experienced despite many years of informational preparation has been replaced by excitement in one part of the population and anger in another. Support, at least positive reactions to the question, having risen slightly at first from 60% to 65%, has remained at the same level.
Multidirectional factors have been at play. Propaganda-based consolidation faced the impending changes in the citizens' real lives. Opponents became part of the military wave of emigration. Everyday life went through a burst of consumer panic, which settled down relatively quickly: money for purchases was not unlimited, sugar was delivered.
In April, the initial adaptation phase began. People adjusted, made decisions about their further actions, accepted the reality, took a wait-and-see attitude. The supply of medications, except for the rarest ones, had not yet run out, the medical institutions were living on supplies. Large foreign corporations were still paying salaries or severance payments, mass business was fighting, businesses were closing gradually. The middle class maintained the same lifestyle, just paid more for it, and began to explore recreational areas in Russia. Refugees from Ukraine showed up. Wounded people appeared in hospitals, new silent burials of men took place. The support party was sitting at the gates holding handkerchiefs in anticipation of victory.
In the latest wave of research in July, we saw a turning point in the perception of the military campaign. "Military operation" turned out to be a war, with unclear duration and consequences. Anxiety has increased.
The vast majority still talk about "victory," with a variety of sentiments and vague thoughts. But more and more one gets the impression that this is not an assessment of Russia's military potential, but rather an expression of existential horror, because if not victory, then what? A collision with a comet. In recent years, (military) victory has been turned into a national idea, a drug making it easier to perceive life.
In this wave we have endeavored to understand what winning this war means in the minds of the people. By supporting the operation, what do they expect for themselves, what personal benefit will they receive? A quarter of the answers related to the country's good in general: removal of sanctions, strengthening of the economy, unification of territories (apparently, Russia and Ukraine), friendship of nations will return, Russia will regain (!) its strong international positions.
But the most important and widely shared desire is for peace to return, for peace of mind and a sense of security to be restored, for loved ones to return from the war, for the opportunity to go to Ukraine and hug the families, for an understanding of what the future holds, of tomorrow.
"Victory" means a comeback to February 2022!
There are no words to make appropriate comment on this research finding. Theoretically, this is the answer to the question of whether there will be an outrage among the people if Putin stops the war. Of course, the economic collapse, the humanitarian consequences, the military that "returned and never returned from the military operation" may lead to a search for the culprit of the national catastrophe, but that will come later. And if the war is not stopped, this "later" will come in any case, only even more dramatically.
In the meantime, let me make a prediction: [in the event the military operation is terminated] the main emotion of the people of Russia for quite a long time will be joy (with tears in their eyes) and relief. Most people in the "party of support" will be busy licking their wounds, and there will be room for gratitude for the president's wisdom. Under the conditions of the deployed repressive machine, those Russians who have been angry and depressed all these months, who are aware of what is happening, are unlikely to have the resources for protests that would threaten the authorities. Protests, more large-scaled and economically motivated, will come later.”