#1 - JRL 7140
TITLE: INTERVIEW WITH YURI LEVADA, DIRECTOR OF THE ALL-RUSSIAN PUBLIC OPINION STUDY CENTER
[IZVESTIA DAILY, P. 2, APRIL 8, 2003]
SOURCE: FEDERAL NEWS SERVICE (http://www.fednews.ru/)
HALF OF RUSSIANS ARE HAPPY FOR SOME REASON
Our citizens have learned to enjoy life
It appears that we will have no spring this year. Snow in April, Iraq, vitamin deficiency... But our people are cheerful. In March the nation's mood was pretty upbeat, as director of VTsIOM Yuri Levada says in an interview with Anastasia Naryshkina.
Levada: We have surveyed 2,400 people all over Russia and 10 percent have said they are in an excellent mood, 48 percent that their mood is normal and stable, 29 percent experience tension and irritation and 8 percent feel depression and dread. This is the best indicator for March in many years. For example, in 1997 only 3 percent said they were in a fine mood and 12 percent felt depression and dread.
Q: Yuri Alexandrovich, and how do Muscovites feel?
A: In Moscow 5 percent feel good and 57 percent feel normal. Like all over Russia, 28 percent are stressed out and only 5 percent feel depression and dread. Muscovites live a more cheerful life than others. We have a set of questions asking respondents to indicate propositions with which they agree most of all. "Things are not all that bad and life is livable" is an opinion subscribed to by 16 percent in Russia as a whole and 22 percent in Moscow. "Life is hard, but it can be endured," is the opinion of 57 percent nationwide and 54 percent in Moscow. A third proposition, "We can no longer stand the present situation," is the opinion of 23 percent nationwide (compared to almost 40 percent before) and 18 percent in Moscow.
Q: So, the majority of our citizens feel that their life is hard all the time?
A: When we asked people whether or not they are happy, 50 percent replied, yes.
Q: At a recent conference you spoke about something called the level of optimism. What does it mean?
A: I measured it from the answers to the question whether our life will change for the better in a year's time. I built a curve between positive and negative answers. Negative answers predominate and the curve is always below zero, although it varies. In the fall of 1999 there was a dramatic rise of expectations connected with the change of government. In the summer of 2000 there was a dip. That was because of the Kursk disaster... Then followed fluctuations, but the expectations were always negative. People want positive change, but are not very sure that it will occur.
Q: To what extent are pessimistic forecasts due to the real position of the people and to what extent due to the national character?
A: People in our country prefer complaining to rejoicing in success. The Georgians, for example, are far more optimistic.
Q: What other nations are given to complaining? A: Apart from Russians, Ukrainians and Jews. In America 70 percent consider themselves to be happy and in Japan, 90 percent.
Q: What are the prevalent sentiments in society?
A: We haven't yet come to terms with the break-up of the Union. There is still a sense that we live in something like an empire and we can influence what is happening next door and farther afield. This is traumatic for consciousness. Then there is a problem of relations among the peoples, above all ethnic groups within Russia. Migrants is the most acute problem. The population dislikes aliens, and unfortunately the same is true of the state and the law. The general mood is that there should be fewer migrants because they have seized the markets and they are grabbing jobs. This feeling of course is fuelled deliberately by the ideologies of the nazi persuasion which find a response among people. This is very bad for the long term because it creates dangerous tensions, and besides migration is the only way to fill jobs. Then there is the problem of East-West relations and our position in the world. Russia is not in the top league economically, its influence on events is controversial, and the events are stormy.
Q: Can one predict the outcome of our people's attitude to the events in Iraq and to America?
A: The outcome will be bad. The attitude to the US has dramatically worsened, though this applies to the country and not to the Americans. And to us America is a symbol of the West. Recent events are not conducive to an improvement of relations with the Muslims. So, our relations with both are worsening... Of course, the authorities will try to find a way out, but it takes time for public opinion to change, it will take time for society to calm down. But most people still think that eventually the good relations with the US will be restored and three-fourths of people think that we should seek closer relations with the Western countries anyway.