#11 - JRL 7008
INTERVIEW WITH YURI LEVADA, THE DIRECTOR OF THE ALL-RUSSIAN CENTER FOR PUBLIC OPINION RESEARCH
[EKHO MOSKVY RADIO, 12:00, JANUARY 2, 2003]
SOURCE: FEDERAL NEWS SERVICE (http://www.fednews.ru/)
Ganapolsky: Finally, we are in our usual format. I would introduce to you our well-informed guest and he is indeed the one that can be called a well-informed person indeed. Moreover, it is his profession and he has been dealing with this successfully for quite a long time. He is Yuri Alexandrovich Levada, director of the All-Russian Center for Public Opinion Research. Good afternoon, Sergei Alexandrovich.
Levada: Good afternoon and my congratulations on the New Year.
Ganapolsky: Tatyana Pilipeiko and myself also wish you a happy New Year and we wish you good health and every success and all the best.
A: We'll try to live up.
Ganapolsky: Let us begin from the very beginning. Our topic is the results of the year and the forecasts for the next year. I would like to begin with the results. You know, ordinarily when they now ask what event was the most memorable one for the Russians, undoubtedly everybody says Dubrovka, Nord Ost. It is clear that this was happening before the eyes of all people, it was quite graphic and it shook all. But maybe you could begin with the following: there are certain invisible processes, processes that existed before and predetermined the Dubrovka. Maybe many did not notice that although Chechnya was before the eyes of all and everybody understood that doing nothing down there would eventually lead to the war appearing in Moscow.
But maybe we are seeing only Dubrovka and we are seeing only Chechnya but there are also other processes at work, which we do not notice by virtue of the fact that we pay attention only to some very "visible" events. I would wish from the outset to talk with you about the underwater currents that determine the visible part of life in Russia.
A: You see, the thing is as follows: you have introduced me as a well-informed person but I am informed about the area in which I work, it is the area of public opinion. For many years we in our center have been studying in great detail the thinking of people. And I can tell you that we know this. We know the fluctuations and we know the trends. But do people know everything? It is a different question? Do they see the underwater currents or they see only the tips of the events, the tops of the trees, the tips of the icebergs, the tops of politics and you name it? But mainly they see the top part although the top depends on the base, on what they are supported by.
And we are able to see and to understand some things. Other things already lie within the purview of people belonging to other professions, people who study the problems happening beneath the carpet, who engage in deep "drilling" and so on, as they used to say in the past.
Ganapolsky: And what do they fail to see?
A: What do people see?
Ganapolsky: What do people fail to see?
A: Who do not see?
Ganapolsky: The audience with which you are working. What do they traditionally fail to notice? Is it what does not concern them?
A: No. Firstly, it is what they are not shown. First and foremost, all people see what they are shown. Well, they also show it not always intentionally because such explosions of events as Dubrovka -- and it is an explosion which concentrates not only emotions but also problems, the problems of war and not only war. It is a problem of the society and the authorities, of the President and the people, the armed forces and our society, and of the diverse protecting and other structures which are little visible. But when they do not work, this becomes visible. When they find themselves in a state of confusion -- all of them taken together -- and when they cannot explain to us, to the people what has happened, why it happened, why it became possible and what can be done in general in order to prevent the repetition of such things.
After Dubrovka we received the second act of it -- in Grozny. We did not have the time to ask people about it. But it is clear that it is another act of the same drama.
Pilipeiko: Yuri Alexandrovich, when you say we had time to ask about the Nord Ost, about the Dubrovka, what did you identify by your questions about that topic, now that we have begun talking about the subject?
A: Firstly, we have found out that this is the main event of the year, it is the only event noted by more than half the polled when we were asking about the main event of the year. A year ago about the same effect was produced by the events in New York but this was quite far away although the sense of being stunned reached us also.
Moreover, people continued to be puzzled: why could this happen? And the accusations became divided, the massive accusations were roughly divided fifty-fifty. Some people thought that it was the insane terrorists who were to blame and the terrorists were probably of Chechen origin, while others -- about the same number of people -- assumed that this was due to our ineffective or simply corrupt militia and other law enforcement authorities that permitted such a thing to happen in the center of Moscow.
Now, I repeat, something similar has been added to this in the center of Grozny.
Ganapolsky: I thought that you will continue, Tanya.
A: But there was a whole string of events related to this.
Ganapolsky: Now, Yuri Alexandrovich, I think that you brought with you a certain range of questions -- the questions that you put and what you heard the citizens answer by the end of the year concerning the most diverse aspects of the life of the country. Maybe we will take this was the point of departure because I myself for instance, do not know all those areas about which you are polling people. So, it would be very interesting to know it.
Pilipeiko: And could I ask an ancillary question to the one that Matvei asked? I understand it that on the whole it is a traditional opinion survey on the eve of the New Year. During all this time that you are carrying it out, can you compare some things or can you identify a certain trend.
A: Yes, we tried to do that. Overall, we have been working in this area for already 15 years and we are holding an opinion survey 15 times. Usually the customer who ordered the survey was Moskovskiye Novosti and so I publish the surveys there.
And now we see the tendency of development of the mood of people, how they assess last year, what expectations they have for next year and we get the notions about what feelings of the people have grown and what feelings have, on the contrary, diminished during the last year. Then we ask people about the events that they remembered or which stunned them during the year and we ask them about the people of the year.
Ganapolsky: Yuri Alexandrovich, if it is possible, could you elaborate a little on the feelings that have "diminished" and about the things that have increased?
A: You know that during this year, regrettably, the hope itself has somewhat diminished. Well, not by much because 33 percent regarded the outgoing year with hope and 30 percent ushered in the new year with hope. As to the increase in the feelings, those were not the most pleasant feelings, namely the confusion and fear. There was even some notable upswing in this area.
We tried to find out the causes of this because we compare the mode of the people based on the most different indicators and we do it from different sides. This is one of the curious tasks that we have to deal with. And it turns out that if we consider the personal life of people, the standard of living, here it looks to be not bad: indeed, people have begun to live better, they have begun to buy more things despite the inflation and other unpleasant developments, and this is affecting their personal mood, their assessments of the situation in society, of the situation in the world and the societal prospects -- they have become somewhat worse.
Pilipeiko: Does that mean that there is no dependence between some personal progress, be that financial, professional or rather -- and the view of the country? Is it that I personally live well, but the country is faring poorly?
A: You know, people have always tended to regard their own life to be better than the life of other people. They have this notion: the situation in the world has become worse, but I am faring acceptably and the children are growing and there is no hunger and so on. There is such a viewpoint, there is such a way of thinking and living and, generally speaking, it is helping people very much. If people felt only unpleasant experiences of a social order, mankind would probably have become extinct. And I do not have only our people in mind. Here there is some difference. The difference is related to different indicators. The indicators of one's own life are closer to the person, are closer to home. And here at least it has not become worse and in some things it has become better. The statisticians are trying to convince us that this is so.
Ganapolsky: Is this statistics or the awareness of the people when they answer your questions.
A: The self-awareness on many questions tends to stress the tendency that the state statistics tells us about. Indeed, people have begun to live a little better. But they have become less confident of their future. Firstly, it is because not everything is in order with our economic growth, not everything is in order regarding unemployment in the country. Roughly from the fall, from September, the anxiety has been growing in the minds of people concerning a repetition of the crisis of 1998. This may not be justified, but this is the mood of the people.
Secondly, the fear to lose the job is notably increasing. About one-third of working people fear this and it is quite a big figure. And then you add Dubrovka to this. Not just an unexpected Dubrovka, not a Dubrovka on an empty place but as the result of a number of political processes occurring in the country, and I already spoke about it. And this creates a negative backdrop for the mood in regard to society. Hence the curves that we measure -- they go somewhat down and hence the expectation or the certainty of their being an alarming prospect.
But still the people are waiting for something that will be just a little better -- this is an eternal trait of people and one must take this into account and it is a good trait of people.
Ganapolsky: I will remind you that our guest is Yuri Levada, director of the All-Russian Center for Public Opinion Research. You can ask him questions on our pager: 974-2222 for Ekho Moskvy.
Now let us continue. You would naturally remember that three years ago the question was asked in the foreign press, or mainly in the foreign press: Who are you, Mr. Putin? I think that this discussion continues inside the country.
Pilipeiko: The man of the year, and I already see figures here.
A: Yes, a man of --
Ganapolsky: You know, we had a guest, you know him, the political scientist Kara-Murza.
A: Of course, of the people who go by that name, he was probably Alexei.
Ganapolsky: Yes, he was Alexei.
A: Because there are also others.
Ganapolsky: He expressed quite an interesting thought. He did not refer to statistics but he spoke about the people's perception of the President. He spoke about the high rating which exists in his opinion. I don't know what sources he was using, maybe the sources of your All-Russia Center. This was not so much because Putin has done something new as because he did not make clear errors. That is why there were little expectations related to him but he enjoys a trust of the people. I am in a way rendering the words of Kara-Murza.
So, concerning the people's perception of the President, could you elaborate, precisely in this aspect, not in general, but rather in more detail and in different parameters?
A: You know, I agree with the opinion of Kara-Murza in part but not completely. The question here is not about mistakes, whether it is mistakes or not mistakes, such approaches emerge when people judge by the deeds. As to Vladimir Putin, he is judged from the very beginning not by his deeds but by the hopes he instills. A comparatively small part of people speak highly of him because he did what Russia needed.
And we have figures. A year ago it was 14 percent, and in this year that has elapsed it is 21 percent of people who believe that he coped with the problems that exist -- which is a little more.
Ganapolsky: Are the problems specified or it is just problems?
A: It is the problems of Russia.
Ganapolsky: Yes, I understand.
A: When a problem gets specified, it is a separate counting, and the answers are appropriate. And it so happens that the undoubted success has been accomplished only in one area -- the strengthening of the international prestige of Russia as is understood by the people. Specialists sometimes take issue with this approach, I will not argue, it is none of my business.
As regards all the other problems, for instance, imposing order in the country, improving the life of the people, safeguarding freedom and democracy and, of course, the Chechen problem, this latter one being a special problem -- and here people see more of "non successes" than successes. Regarding mistakes, Boris Nikolayevich, with the benefit of hindsight, admitted the main mistakes in his presidency. I would even regard this as something to his merit.
Ganapolsky: Which one?
A: It is Chechnya. He said that the generals had involved him in it and so on. But what was done, was done. People now do not draw a distinction. And Putin was and remains a president of hope. Roughly 40 percent believe that one can hope that he will cope with the problems of the country. A little less people say this: who else can we associate our hopes with?
Putin has become a figure without an alternative. He does not have direct competitors either among individuals or parties because a large part of others -- not the Putin parties nor the Unity -- assess him very highly and acting in general as do the majority of the people.
Ganapolsky: I wonder what is said about the others, I will not mention them now, maybe you will do. It is because we have a certain political collection of them, kind of our "rations."
Ganapolsky: Our rations that include different, variously popular figures.
Pilipeiko: Are there some personalities that surface from that space?
Ganapolsky: Surface? Well, for instance, Yavlinsky is known, and Nemtsov is known. Is there any trust in regard to them? Is there a certain parameter for the study of these people in your case?
A: Of course there are parameters. We ask questions about people of the year, we ask about people who enjoy the greatest trust. We ask about people who maybe supported for presidency, and there are certain other questions.
Pilipeiko: People of the year, who are they?
Ganapolsky: Now rumor has it that Zyuganov has a very favorable situation. To put it more correctly, not Zyuganov but the Communist Party which traditionally, for instance at the parliamentary elections, may outpace the pro-presidential bloc. Does this square with reality as regards the communists? Could you elaborate on this?
A: You see --
Ganapolsky: Again it is about the trends?
A: First a few words about the people themselves.
A: Let us first say something about the people. Personalities come and go but they are people who are not competitors to Putin. For a second straight year we have the same personalities as people of the year: they are three of them at the very top: firstly, it is Putin and then he is followed by Shoigu and George Bush. Last year -- it was again the same three persons only in a different sequence: Bush was second, but again in connection with the events in the United States. But it was the same three persons and you realize that this is not because of competition but simply because all the three are related to events which are either emergencies or disasters.
But all our troubles, our explosions, our fires, our floods --
Pilipeiko: This is when Shoigu is in the picture.
A: Yes, Shoigu who is either answering a question or rescuing someone. As to other leaders around here, we do not see any. The Premier is a long distance from him, and as to the so-called power ministers, the military and the security ones -- they are completely invisible in the lists. Their heads do not surface, using your expression.
Now regarding the party line-up and the party list.
Pilipeiko: The more so on the eve of the elections.
A: Well, we still have many months ahead. The situation is changing.
Pilipeiko: But what about now?
A: Firstly, people have not yet awakened for elections. The electoral centers and headquarters and brain trusts that will be pushing their organizations forward -- are awakening. This is more or less noticeable. And people will begin to notice it by late summer, not before. Then the mass-scale work will begin. That is why the sympathies will be expressed slightly differently.
For already quite a long time the Communist Party and the Unity have been almost equal in regard to the current sympathies. There was one or two months when the Unity was very slightly ahead of the communist party. Now again there is none of this. The communists enjoy the support of about a third of the active electorate who will really come to vote.
This was also the case earlier. This has been so traditionally. This has to do with the fact that the electoral support of the Communist Party does not change. The support comes from people who are in part related and have been previously connected with the party and its apparatus. In part, they are people who take socially a very negative stand and it is clear why. They have only one way out, they have no other organization, no other channel through which they can translate their sensations and experiences and hopes into reality. This is a protest-motivated electorate, so to say.
Ganapolsky: I will interrupt you for a second, Yuri Alexandrovich after which we will resume our conversation. In the second half of our conversation, which will last actually till 12:50, we will event take a few questions by telephone.
I introduce to you our indeed very informed guest Yuri Levada. We are talking about the results of the previous year and the hopes or the lack of hope for this year. We are now talking about Vladimir Putin. His personality is perceived in general or what are the categories you use to analyze the leader of the state?
A: Well, this is a very complex phenomenon. It is much more complex to analyze it from different sides. We ask about the level of approval or non approval of his activity. We ask about people who enjoy great trust. We ask about the person whom the people would elect president next time, we ask in the new year about the man of the year. We ask about how much he is trusted.
Pilipeiko: Concerning the man of the year, I would wish to know the following: the man of the year -- results to be a kind of an abstraction, doesn't it?
A: We suggest to people to give any name of men or women separately according to the list for our country or any other countries. They do not name them. It turns out that there are certain patterns that work and they are quite simple. In this country the man at the top is always a politician. The only exception was probably Listyev, when he turned out to be the man of the year and he belonged to your profession. Otherwise, mainly it would be the first man of the state or his principal competitor. For instance, Vladimir Zhirinovsky once was -- or rather not once but for three straight years -- the man of the year. The description stuck to him quite strongly.
Thus, what we get is the curious thing that in this year Putin was described as the man of the year by 53 percent and by 52 percent last year, but there is no one immediately next to him, just an empty space for a long distance and then the next people begin. This means that there is practically no competition to Putin, coming from other well-known personalities.
But we ask also some other questions. We ask, for instance, to what extent people trust Putin -- fully or in part? Now 16 percent of people trust the president fully while 60 percent trust him on the whole. The fluctuations here are not big.
Ganapolsky: Sixteen percent trust him fully and 60 percent -- on the whole, is that the case?
A: Over sixty percent -- on the whole.
Ganapolsky: Over 60 percent.
A: Over 60 percent. Or we ask for instance: what feelings does Putin cause in you? Five percent admire him, and roughly 30 percent sympathize with him.
Ganapolsky: Sympathy, a curious category?
A: Or rather sympathies, to be precise.
Ganapolsky: Sympathies, yes.
A: Sympathies. I mixed them up. The rest have an expectant or neutral response.
Pilipeiko: But then they also add that they trust and approve despite the expectant reaction.
A: ...But these are slightly different things. One can...
Pilipeiko: Different things, but...
A: ...to trust a man who is not always...
Pilipeiko: ...whatever the situation...
A: ...sympathetic, for instance. Isn't this so? But there are very few negative responses. Very few. A scant percent.
Ganapolsky: Now I would like to talk with you about a phenomenon I will describe as the phenomenon of "equal shoulders" (sic) that I personally identify when I carry out a vote in the Ekho Moskvy radio. You know that we hold out vote several times a day.
A: I know. I know that there are such games. Everybody is holding them. You do.
Ganapolsky: And look...
Pilipeiko: You said, games? We will remember that.
Ganapolsky: Yes, games. But for us it is sufficiently serious as it is.
A: Firstly, I like games. Secondly, I have my own attitude to them.
Ganapolsky: I would like you to explain why such a thing happens, firstly, for instance... I will give you a few examples. On December 30 we asked the question: Who would you vote for if the parliamentary elections were held now -- would you vote for the CPRF or for the Unity? We have two surveys. We have a survey in the Internet which provides for the "I don't know" line, and there is one on the air, where, as you know, there is only the telephone...
A: The telephone means there is not "I don't know" line.
Ganapolsky: Thus, the CPRF (on the air) gets 73 percent and the Unity gets 27 percent. And first and foremost I would like to discuss with you one phenomenon of such a voting. You and we know that the Ekho Moskvy has a special audience, it is a liberal radio station, so we have an appropriate public. Politicians often like to refer to this circumstance when they say: Well, it is your listeners -- so, it is clear. And all of a sudden, I will tell you now that 4,464 people voted for the CPRF and 1,651 voted for the Unity. If you add them up, you get almost 6,000. This is a high level of voting with us on the air in daytime.
Why such voting? Is this a protest vote or is it indeed that the CPRF's ideas are alive and unshaken? What is it?
A: You know, in order to analyze such things, one needs to know the composition of your voters. In our practice we deal not with those who apply to us but with those to whom we apply. And we apply to people who represent the entire population in a certain proportion -- men and women of Moscow, Kamchatka and on and on.
Pilipeiko: This is what you referred to as the representative poll?
A: Yes, that is correct. This is precisely our main smart trick -- the representative survey which makes us different from any interactive things like you have. If we knew in more detail who actually called you, what kind of people they were, what is their status and employment, incomes, world outlook, then we would know it in more detail. Regrettably,...
Ganapolsky: You can imagine the audience of the Ekho Moskvy. They are mainly Muscovites aged 25 to 27 and all the way to as much as you wish. Also, these same people, asked on December 31: "What was the year 2002 for you -- more likely lucky or more likely unlucky?", answered as follows: "more likely lucky" -- 51 percent, and "more likely unlucky" -- 49 percent.
A: It looks more like mass distribution we know about, so far, knowing from your words what has happened here I can interpret this as follows. You did not have the third variant. You did not have the following variant: vote for any third one and you did not have any rejection variants such as "I don't know" or "I am opposed to all".
Pilipeiko: This was the variant, according to which if only these answers remained, what would be your choice?
A: Well, if one puts you before the choice: either -- or, this happens more in imagination and rarer in life. And that is why I think that it is a protest vote against the party in power. The Unity is associated with the present authority, with something that is regarded more or less as the course of the president, although this may not be actually so, but people just perceive this to be so. And in order to say "against", people give you the second variant. This is what I would say.
Ganapolsky: Now, I feel that you said it absolutely correctly, it is perfectly clear and now I will put the main question and I will ask you to answer it as a specialist: How can there be, on the one hand, a protest vote against Putin's course and at the same time a support of him as a personality? I cannot understand this. How can this be explained?
A: You know, this can be explained by the following. As you incidentally have mentioned in the conversation several minutes ago, Putin entered our political life as a person almost unknown to anyone. And the question as to what he is and what can he be and what can he accomplish is still an open question, although as a personality, as a face, as a curriculum vitae and so on, he is now known by more than half the people. Earlier the situation was slightly different.
But I take it that there is the problem of struggle for influence over the president, for the line that he would take on a particular question. And there are very many things that are now clear. One of Putin's virtues compared to the other aspirants for the power was that it was not known what he could offer to the people. And thus everyone pinned his hopes on him -- the left and the right, the patriots and the Westerners and the reformists and the conservatives, and the adherents of our restoration. Everyone thought that Putin could swing the steering wheel his way.
Pilipeiko: Yuri Alexandrovich, does this mean that they still think so?
A: Some people probably think so up till now.
Ganapolsky: I will interrupt you for a second, now we will bid good-bye to the regions after the advertising break. Some of the radio stations will broadcast their own programs but for those who stay with us I will remind you that our guest is Yuri Levada, the VTsIOM director, and we continue our conversation.
Thus, we continue. I would still wish to get back to this topical issue. Again, it is a kind of a case of a split personality. Look, Yuri Alexandrovich. You said it, based on your polls, that the people say: the communists are virtually leading all the time. We are often reprimanded for using the word "virtually" although it seems to me that "virtually" is the preferred expression of well-informed optimist. He says that everything is virtually well around here. So, it looks to be good but ...
A: This is an expression one can use.
Ganapolsky: One can use. So, why do we use this popular turn of phrase at the radio station? So, look, the communists are actually leading all the time, but this is before getting to the ballot-box. As soon as the people get to the ballot-box, there occurs something bizarre and the communists lose their leadership. Do you see what I mean? So, if they clearly led as is stated in your polls, in our polls, this would remain so and no amount of ballot-box stuffing would not accomplish anything.
So, what exactly happens to people when they are heading for the ballot-box?
A: You know, there occurs nothing special. Most likely, the communists get the same one third of votes that they got earlier on the party ticket, or slightly less.
Ganapolsky: That is why I ask my question: Why one third if they are in the lead according to all the polls?
A: We have now analyzed it with you and we came roughly to the solidarity-based conclusion that it is an artificial situation in which the protest mood is dominant. The fact is that we do not have really opposition parties, barring the communists. And the entire mass of protest, any protest on any questions, including the foreign policy or Chechnya, above all relies on communists.
Ganapolsky: So, why don't people really vote for them?
A: It is because this is a party from our past. The stable vote for them comes from the 30-odd or straight 30 percent who vote for them and in the party ticket they will occupy the same position they have now. But the second half of the list depends on governors on the local level, and the influence there is different -- the communists there break to the top quite rarely. That is why the composition of the Duma will be about roughly what it is and no special success awaits anyone there except the authority.
Pilipeiko: Concerning the composition of the Duma, when did you last hold the polls which I think are your favorite: if the elections were held today?
A: We hold them every month. It is a must with us.
Pilipeiko: Every month. And based on your most recent results, who can clear our traditional five-percent barrier?
A: It is the same parties that can clear it now. With minor differences. The first place belongs to the communists, the Unity is the second, followed by the right forces and Yabloko and the LDPR is closing the list. The Women of Russia are somewhere near the passing score although it is doubtful whether they will clear the hurdle.
As to new or serious parties, I do not expect them to appear. And strictly speaking, the law prohibits them. The period in which they could appear has expired. As to the rest who are in the list, they can hope only for a limited degree of being known.
Ganapolsky: And now -- forecasts for next year. We are already running out of time but what would be the main forecast for next year, the main forecast that you made when polling your respondents?
A: We are not making forecasts, we ask people about what they hope for. People hope for better things. In this year their number is one percent more than last year. So, it is a slight, very small increase. Last year 50 percent believed that the year would be better than the one before, now the figure is 51 percent.
Ganapolsky: Is this of significance?
A: No, this is the same thing. Here we draw a line.
Pilipeiko: Incidentally, it is very interesting if one tries to describe it, here we get such a curve that looks more like a mountain chain.
A: Some day you will tell us about it. Now, regrettably, there is no time.
Pilipeiko: I will tell you this briefly. The largest upsurge here was in the years 1993 and 1994. Then it got lower and lower and lower and then it burst in 1998. And then there was the upswing again in 2001. And now somehow the curve headed downward and then again up and then it became suspended with a question mark.
A: This curve of answers to the question of what the year will be like -- we draw on our small calendar each year. I will leave this to you.
Ganapolsky: Our guest was Yuri Levada, director of VTsIOM.
A: Thank you.
Ganapolsky: Yuri Alexandrovich, you are always welcome to be our guest on the air and I wish you happiness and joy in the New Year.
Levada: Thank you. Did you finish?
Ganapolsky: We did.
Ganapolsky: We go ahead with our program.
Pilipeiko: Thank you very much.