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#12 - JRL 7169
Significance of Polls, Ratings for Political Parties Discussed
Vremya MN
23 April 2003
Article by Semen Shatskoy:
"Ratings Democracy"

Mark Urnov's "Open Forum" yesterday discussed political rhetoric and the electoral expectations of supporters of the main parties with professional sociologists against the backdrop of the "ratings war."

"What does it mean that no one is looking at the ratings? Why, in our country we have almost a ratings democracy!" - this line was thrown out at the end of the second hour of the debate by Tatyana Alekseyeva, from the Moscow State Institute for International Relations. The head of the political theory department recently gave a lecture at the United Russia party, and discovered there in the auditorium, the seemingly safely forgotten "aggressive-obedient majority." The CPRF, so to say, even if it does have a majority in society... it is one not obedient to the power structure.

The discussion, as usual, "eddied" around the steadily overstated figures of the Kremlin's United Russia, the Public Opinion Foundation, and the All-Russia Center for the Study of Public Opinion, which plays up to the Communists, whose figures, however, do not so differ so much among themselves. Only the samples are different. Consumers of professionally conducted surveys of the population from the leading parties have established a clear excess of demand over supply. For example, Viktor Peshkov, from the CPRF, directly declared that the Communists' "demand for sociology is dropping to a lower level - requests are being handed in already by rayon organizations," and furthermore, there is often not enough "normal sociological interpretation" and "scientific criticism" of accessible sources.

Tambov's "Gallup" Is Your Comrade!

As Vladimir Zharikhin, of the Institute of the Commonwealth of Independent States Countries, said sarcastically of his party colleagues, some Tambov "Gallup organization" does not have anything to do with science: It willingly accommodates the wishes of its client, who declares that "Sedov, Bashkirova, and Oslon love the CPRF and give it 25 percent; if they had given 25 percent to my party, with 1 percent for the Communists, then it would all have been the other way around at the elections." The ratings war in the regions often turns into the factor of interstaff and intrastaff relations, if they do not go so far as to "draw at night to spite their competitor" and throw him "FAPSI [Federal Government Communications and Information Agency] data" that are not being published anywhere, in principle.... But Akhmed Balalov, a deputy from Unity, following the example of his native Southern Federal District (evidently, meaning the presidential elections in Ingushetia) has altogether lost faith in the ability of scientists to predict the voters' behavior.

Sociology Is a "Very Dear Woman."

Yelena Bashkirova of ROMIR Monitoring and Aleksandr Oslon, of the Public Opinion Foundation, who make no secret of their mutual professional sympathies, asserted the high-mindedness and sacredness of what they are doing in sociology. The "very dear woman" reproached customers from smaller parties for their desire to greatly economize on putting together a special campaign "prognostic model" in favor of turning to the political technologists, in whose budgets a maximum of 20 percent is allocated for sociology. The head of the Public Opinion Foundation also supported his colleague, protesting against the "free interpretation of sociological data": Kiselev on NTV in 1999, he said, refused to make public on "Itogi" ratings "that he simply did not understand," and the elections showed that all the trends had been specified correctly by the Foundation for Public Opinion - "Life is the way it is." The ratings war, according to Oslon, is a purely local thing, and judging by the hits on his site (300 people per day), is not interesting to very many people.

Stunts in a Group

Leonid Sedov, of the All-Russian Center for the Study of Public Opinion, has found himself in the role of one fending off the slings of criticism, and not even so much for inflating the figures for the CPRF as for playing up to the Union of Right-Wing Forces to the detriment of Yabloko. Galina Mikhaleva, from the Center for the Study of Modern Policy, directly reproached her colleague for having, on the basis of a survey of four individuals from a standing sample, reached conclusions on the changing sentiments of the Yabloko electorate in favor of an alliance with the "right-wingers." The scholar replied: "Believe me, I have not been bought; no one pays me money for this" - but he acknowledged that he had applied a "risky method," using 10 people, of the standard 60, as "a kind of focus group" to determine long-term trends.

Right, Left, Where Is the Side?

"A political observer sympathizing with Yabloko," as Sergey Ivanenko, Yavlinskiy's party and faction deputy, introduced himself to the community, said, in turn, that ratings manipulation in the media often has the opposite effect; the overstatement of Fatherland - All Russia in 1999 played into the hands of Unity, which burst through from the regions somewhere, just as the sociologists' assurances of Yabloko's 100-percent surmounting of the 5-percent barrier moved a segment of Grigoriy Alekseyevich's loyal voters, who had begun to sympathize with the Union of Right-Wing Forces at that time, to change their party, from the best of motives.... Today the Union of Right-Wing Forces and Yabloko, according to Ivanenko, playing on the "right-wing" and "left-wing" flanks of Putin's electorate, respectively, are taking votes not from each other, but from United Russia in the center. Although, if one is to believe Sergey Viktorovich's faction colleague, Sergey Mitrokhin, who at the last session of the Open Forum analyzed the voting of "Putin's big four" on Duma draft laws, United Russia is ideologically a much more right-wing party than the Union of Right-Wing Forces. So who is to compete, and against whom?

The normal condition of our voters is "fighting between the right and left hemispheres of the brain," as the Foundation for Public Opinion's Aleksandr Oslon summarized this segment of the discussion, and Leonid Sedov, from the All-Russian Center for the Study of Public Opinion, specified that only 27 percent of true "Putinites" are planning to vote for United Russia. For the rest of the participants of the "presidential majority" existing within society, doubtless, the Kremlin political technologists will still have to fight. And for any others, there is no disgrace.

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