January 29, 2003
THE RULING MAJORITY CHOOSES THE PARTY
Gleb Pavlovsky looks at opinion polls and voting trends in Russia
Author: Gleb Pavlovsky
[from WPS Monitoring Agency, www.wps.ru/e_index.html]
THE MOST INTERESTING THING ABOUT OPINION POLLS IS NOT WHAT POLLSTERS CHOOSE TO STUDY, BUT WHAT THEY LEAVE OUT. IN THE LEAD-UP TO ELECTIONS, IT IS WORTH REFLECTING ON WHO WILL VOTE AND WHAT OPTIONS THEY WILL HAVE. THE TROUBLE WITH DEMOCRACY IS THAT PEOPLE EXPRESS THEIR WILL IN A DIFFERENT WAY EVERY TIME.
The most interesting thing about opinion polls is not what pollsters choose to study, but what they leave out. In the lead-up to elections, it is worth reflecting on who will vote and what options they will have. The trouble with democracy is that people express their will in a different way every time.
The data published below are based on data of several famous sociological services. They show that there is a certain community including tens of millions of people in the country. The password of this community is "Putin". This majority is living, and there are complicated ideological, moral, and political processes inside it. The secret of stability of Putin's rating is the fact that the majority is not expressed more concrete figures.
The Yeltsin system implied the Kremlin's authority, while the executive apparatus was actually a coalition, which spread a few pseudopodia to the parliament and the society.
Putin formed a different image of the government. But this image is confined with himself and the Kremlin, which does not suit his own group of support. Putin cannot take a single step without being cocked a snook by his own team. Meanwhile, the actual government is called authoritarianism in Russia. Every time Putin manages to do something, some pseudopodium expresses its protest.
Today Putin is viewed by voters as a lonely and politically isolated figure. Meanwhile his retinue is considered to be a factor hindering the president to act. It sounds curious: a group of people called the Presidential Administration conducts the policy supported by two-thirds of the population but is a bugaboo for people at the same time. However, this group is supported more than any other government agencies.
The tens of millions of supporters do not only want to gaze at Putin with excitement: they want power. These people like the president not because of his face and shape but because of he is powerful. They will vote for Putin in the presidential election, but they have not made up their minds yet about the governing party. These people are not a herd and may refuse to go into the common electoral pen. They are waiting for a party with which it is possible to talk about such things.
It is already clear for the future governing majority that the coveted party cannot be a party of Putin's opponents. However, none of the existing parties is viewed as his actual supporter.
BASIC ELECTORAL GROUPS
For definition of contents of the electoral groups we took primary data of two VTsIOM polls conducted in December 2002. These data characterize electorates of Vladimir Putin and other politicians and political parties.
Involvement of these data has let us divide voters into electoral groups by their political orientations.
Table 1: Political preferences and share of the total of respondents
The left are supported by 22.1%;
The right are supported by 16.1%;
Centrists are supported by 8.4%;
Marginal movements are supported by 3.5%;
49.6% have no definite political preferences.
The analysis of points of view of representatives of the last group makes it possible to divide them into three categories:
1) people expressing mistrust for all parties and politicians. This category is called the protest electorate;
2) a group of respondents who have no definite political preferences but at the same time participate in elections. This category may be divided into electoral groups on the basis of the respondents' answers to the question about whom they supported at the latest elections;
3) the electorate that stably abstains from voting: its number is 13.7%.
This category of respondents is not included in the group of the active electorate, and so it was not counted in further polls.
As a result, pollsters had the following distribution of the basic electoral groups:
Table 2. Electoral groups and their share in the electorate:
The group supporting the left comprises 41% of voters;
The group supporting the right comprises 22.4%;
The group supporting centrists comprises 17.6%;
The protest electorate comprises 17%.
It is seen that the aforementioned groups considerably differ in their characteristics, which illustrates significant differences in their political preferences.
The left electorate mainly consists of elderly people with a relatively low level of education. Among supporters of the left the majority are men. Since the number of men among elderly people is much smaller than the number of women, it is fair to state that men are more inclined to support the left forces. 46% of supporters of the left are pensioners. Most of them used to work or are still working in the spheres of heavy industry, construction, agriculture, or security structures. Their level of incomes is low or medium. The left have stronger positions in the Volga, Northwestern, and Siberian federal districts. Their positions are relatively weak in the Far Eastern and Urals federal districts. In rural populated places their influence is stronger than in the cities. This electoral group has not properly adapted to the modern conditions: only 45% of them have noted that they have adapted at all, 18.9% expect to be adapted in the near future, and 32% of them believe that they will never be adapted to the modern conditions (among the total of voters these figures are 51.6%, 20.1%, and 25.5% respectively). This electorate is noted for an excessive level of anxiety. For instance, only 4% of people from this category think 2002 a successful year, 19% consider 2002 a calm year, and 75% believe that the year was anxious or even catastrophic (among the total of voters these figures are 46%, 18%, and 11% respectively). Some 43% of respondents from this group assessed the year 2002 as unsuccessful for them. 42% of representatives of this group think about the future with anxiety, and 11% with fear and despair.
Only 20% of these people believe that the government may improve the situation, while almost 50% think that it is not able to do this. The main demands of the government are growth of industrial manufacturing, return to the state regulation of the economy, elimination of wage and pension arrears, and social orientation of reforms.
The right orientation is typical for young voters regardless of their sex. The level of education of supporters of the right is considerably higher than medium. These are entrepreneurs, specialists, clerks, students, and young homemakers.
The right have stronger positions in the Southern and Urals federal districts and weak ones in the Volga federal district. In Moscow, the influence of the right is stronger than in smaller cities.
This group is best adapted to the reforms conducted in the country: 60% of its representatives have said that they have adapted and 23% expect to get adapted in the near future. Nevertheless, 50% of respondents from this group consider the past year anxious. Some 60% of right respondents consider 2002 a successful year for them personally. There are inclined to think about the future optimistically: 17% are confident about their future, 35% hope for a success, 26% feel a certain anxiety, and only a few respondents have said that they feel fear and despair thinking about the future.
It is noteworthy that the right voters are also interested in development of manufacturing and improvement of the social policy. But the problems connected with development of the market economy are more interesting for them than for other groups.
The centrists are mostly women (66%). The age groups are the medium range (25-39 year old) and the older range (55 and more). Their education level is not high, most of them have a secondary or secondary-technical education. The number of pensioners and homemakers is larger than the medium level, and the number of clerks is considerable too. Most of them are state sector employees engaged in medicine, education, high-tech industry, agriculture, public services, and financial sphere.
Their material situation is below medium: 22.5% of them view themselves as the lowest stratum, while in other electoral groups the number of such respondents does not exceed the figure of 19%. Positions of centrists are strong in the Urals, Northwestern, and Volga federal districts and are weak in the Southern and Siberian federal districts. Some 60% of them live in villages or cities with the population under 100,000 residents.
Despite the low level of incomes, this group has rather well adapted to the reforms (they are on the second place after the right). In all likelihood, the main reason for this is the low level of social claims. As much as 13% of them consider 2002 a successful year, which is almost twice more than in other groups. Only 39% of respondents from this group believe that the past year was anxious. Over 33% think that their position improved in the past year. Centrists are less confident about the future than the right (11%), but hope for the better more than they do (45%).
Among their economic priorities are growth of industrial manufacturing, return to state regulation of the economy, social orientation of reforms, and reconsideration of results of the privatization.
Men of middle age (between 24 and 54) prevail among the protest electorate. The majority of people in this group have specialized secondary education, but quite a lot of them have higher education. Workers (especially skilled ones) prevail in this group, which also has many specialists and employees in the following spheres: heavy industry, construction and transportation. The level of income is low.
They are mainly concentrated in the Central and Far East districts and this group is less represented in the Northwest and Southern districts. These people mainly reside towns with the population of above 100,000 people, save for Moscow.
They have adapted to the reforms worse than others. The level of uneasiness among the protest electorate is very high: only 205 of them think that the last year was successful and quiet, 50% assume it was alarming and 30% - dreadful or catastrophic. The state of alarm, fear and despair while thinking of the future is typical for this group. Over the past year, the welfare of these people has worsened.
As far as he government's tasks are concerned, this group assigns priority to the industrial growth, followed by liquidation of arrears of wages and reduction of the tax burden, i.e. they are primarily alarmed about problems of large enterprises where they work.
PUTIN'S ASSOCIATES AND PREFERENCES OF PARTIES
Detection of the chief electoral groups and determination of their political purposes enables defining the structure of the electorate of Vladimir Putin, the United Russia party and other political parties.
The structure of political electorates is determined by the following attributes.
As was expected, Vladimir Putin's electorate is of complex nature, i.e. includes all the basic electoral groups. The United Russia party partly has this attribute, the electorate of which along with the centrists includes considerable fragments of other electoral groups.
The left wing prevail in the electorate of the CPRF and Zyuganov, the right wing prevail in the electorate of URF and Yabloko; the LDPR has concentrated the main part of the protest electorate. The electorate of United Russia includes all electoral groups, but the centrists make the biggest group.
The way of positioning President Putin and the United Russia party and the structure of their electorates form the specificity of the upcoming election campaign. Neither the president nor United Russia can place their hopes on the centrist electorate alone, since this electoral group is not the majority and its capacities are almost exhausted.
Thus, in the upcoming election campaign both the president and United Russia face a difficult and controversial task: to win over the votes of the right wing, the left wing and even the protest vote.
(Translated by Kirill Frolov and Andrei Ryabochkin)