New Survey Finds Most Russians See Ukrainian War as Defense Against West
For Media Inquiries:
A new survey of Russians highlights sentiment towards Putin's leadership, the country’s global standing, and domestic concerns amid the war in Ukraine.
CHICAGO, January 9, 2024 — Most Russians see the war in Ukraine as a defense against threats from NATO and the West and report little personal effect from the conflict. A recent poll of the Russian public conducted by NORC at the University of Chicago finds little material improvement in the quality of life for many Russians since the war, but not a significant deterioration in overall economic conditions despite international sanctions.
Most Russians approve of President Vladimir Putin’s job performance, and a majority plan to vote for his reelection this year. The survey’s findings underscore the complex interplay between geopolitical considerations and domestic concerns, as Russians grapple with the ramifications of the conflict in Ukraine.
Corruption and the state of the economy emerge as primary national concerns, with 55 percent expressing worry over both issues. Sixty-five percent of those who report a decline in their economic circumstances blame rising prices. But 76 percent say they are unaffected by their reduced ability to travel internationally in the wake of the conflict.
Evaluation of Putin's leadership reveals a nuanced public sentiment. Overall, Russians have a favorable view of Putin’s job performance. But, while 67 percent approve of how Putin is handling foreign policy, fewer, 58 percent, approve of his management of domestic affairs. Eighty percent of Russians say their standard of living has remained the same or has declined since the start of the war in Ukraine.
“While Putin enjoyed stronger public support through his long tenure as the country’s leader than that registered in this poll, and the well-being of many Russians took a hit or stalled since the invasion, the Russian public on the whole views their country’s actions in Ukraine as a justified response to an outside threat.”
Looking ahead to Russia’s 2024 presidential election, two-thirds of the public say they plan to vote for or lean toward voting for Putin. Women are more likely to say they support his candidacy (70 percent) than men (61 percent). Russians over age 60 are Putin’s strongest proponents across age groups, with 73 percent of them saying they would vote for Putin, compared to just 53 percent of adults under 30.
Attitudes among Russians about their nation and its place on the global stage are palpably strong. Ninety-four percent have at least a moderate level of pride in their Russian identity. However, there is a prevailing sense of grievance, with 62 percent believing Russia is unjustly treated on the world scene. A notable concern for many is the perceived encroachment of Western values on traditional Russian beliefs. For example, 68 percent express apprehension about LGBTQ influence. And 64 percent of Russians see the conflict in Ukraine as a civilizational struggle between Russia and the West.
“While Putin enjoyed stronger public support through his long tenure as the country’s leader than that registered in this poll, and the well-being of many Russians took a hit or stalled since the invasion, the Russian public on the whole views their country’s actions in Ukraine as a justified response to an outside threat,” said Vadim Volos, vice president in NORC’s Public Affairs & Media Research department.
Most Russians (63 percent) support their country’s action in Ukraine, referred to as the “special military operation” (SVO) by the Russian government. Fifty-six percent say the military action will impact their voting decisions in the upcoming elections. The primary driver of support lies in Putin taking a stand against perceived threats from NATO and the West.
Still, 34 percent are concerned about the conflict evolving into a direct confrontation with NATO. Among those who support the SVO, 19 percent cite the defense of the country against the United States and NATO as their main rationale.
Regardless of the strong support for another Putin presidential candidacy, there is an appetite for a diversified political landscape in Russia. Seventy-four percent of Russian adults agree with the importance of having an opposition in the nation's political system. However, while most advocate change, opinions diverge on its immediacy, with 42 percent saying the time is ripe for political reform and 46 percent believing otherwise.
There is low awareness among most Russians regarding recent government crackdowns on journalists, activists, and other critics of Putin. Those who are informed express a high level of concern, with 73 percent feeling apprehensive about these reported government actions. The government oversight of personal communications is of a lesser concern, with majorities of Russians being at least somewhat comfortable in discussing opposition to Putin (59 percent) or offering criticisms of him (60 percent), both offline and on social media platforms.
Television is the primary news source, with 57 percent of Russians tuning in daily, closely followed by social media platforms at 51 percent. The use of VPNs (virtual private networks) to bypass content restrictions remains relatively low, with a mere 20 percent leveraging this technology.
This survey was funded and conducted by NORC at the University of Chicago. The poll was conducted in Russian between November 13 and November 21, 2023, with Russian mobile numbers throughout Russia, including Crimea, which was annexed by Russia in March 2014, and excluding Russian-controlled parts of the Donbas and southern Ukraine. Phone interviews were conducted among a random sample of Russians aged 18 and older who own a mobile phone number with one of Russia’s mobile service providers; 1,046 completed the survey. The overall margin of sampling error is +/- 3.4 percentage points.
About NORC at the University of Chicago
NORC at the University of Chicago conducts research and analysis that decision-makers trust. As a nonpartisan research organization and a pioneer in measuring and understanding the world, we have studied almost every aspect of the human experience and every major news event for more than eight decades. Today, we partner with government, corporate, and nonprofit clients around the world to provide the objectivity and expertise necessary to inform the critical decisions facing society.
Contact: For more information, please contact Eric Young at NORC at firstname.lastname@example.org or (703) 217-6814 (cell).