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What Putin Did To Russians? Mobilization Aftermath

[
Russians’ Attitudes
]
Oct 4, 2022
7 min read

Executive Summary

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In this Report, we have provided a brief overview of the key effects of the “partial” mobilization announced by Putin in September on ordinary Russians, according to the latest polls. The available data suggests that nothing, including the recent economic difficulties, has had such a significant influence on Russian society as the recently ordered “mobilization”, which is now threatening its population's mental well-being.

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Key Findings

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The situation at the beginning of September

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The trust rating remained stable at around 80% for Putin and 50% for the Russian government in general.

According to the Levada Center, in early September 2022, the attitude towards the actions of the Russian army had not changed since May. 46% "definitely support" the actions of the Russian military in Ukraine, while 30% say that they "rather support” the same.

Some of the unpublished focus groups conducted by independent researchers report that the prevailing feeling among the Russians is now uncertainty. It specifically applies the residents of regions, which are geographically close to Ukraine. At the same time, one of the key propaganda narratives being “Russia does not fight with Ukraine but with NATO” has taken root among the ordinary Russians.

Save for Moscow residents, sanctions as such do not bother Russians as 79% of respondents generally believe they had no impact.

The willingness to protest for economic reasons has slightly increased throughout summer. 17% of respondents were ready for demonstration in May, shifting to 20% at the end of August. The following groups are more likely to be ready for protests: the poor, those, who do not approve the activities of the Russian government and those, who believe that Russia is moving in the wrong direction.

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What has changed?

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Attitudes towards the Russian government

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Putin’s approval rating fell by 5 percentage points as he ordered the “partial” mobilization in Russia. While generally being insignificant, it is worth saying that it is the first time Putin's approval rate has suffered a decrease since Russia invaded Ukraine, enjoying a stable 80% before that. In addition that, more Russians are saying that they hear others complaining about the Russian government.

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Though it might seem like no tectonic shift when we look at the polls, the number of Russians criticizing its government online exploded on September 21st.

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Thoughts on the war in Ukraine

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Before Putin’s mobilization announcement, only about a third of the Russians were concerned about what was happening in Ukraine. Now, a growing number of Russians feel concerned (more than 30% increase), and most are alarmed given Putin’s order to call up reservists amid the recent defeats of Russian forces on the battlefield. Furthermore, the support for the “special military operation” has also decreased by 4 percentage points.

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Mental well-being

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One of the most drastic recent changes concerns the Russians’ mental well-being amid the “partial” mobilization. For example, before the Kremlin’s announcement, 35% of respondents said that their friends and relatives were feeling anxiety. However, the proportion of the Russians now agreeing with the above statement dramatically rose to 59% following Putin’s mobilization order.

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Moreover, for 47% of respondents in Russia, the prevailing feelings about the mobilization are “anxiety, fear, and dread.”

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Conclusions

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Before Moscow announced the "partial" mobilization, the Russian leadership had been enjoying strong yet silent approval among ordinary Russians of its decision to start the war against Ukraine.

The relevant approval was obvious when the Russians were asked to express their views on President Putin, the “special military operation” or the effects of sanctions on the Russian economy. In each case, the Russians responded in line with the key narratives of Putin’s propaganda machine.

However, Putin's order to launch the mobilization campaign in Russia, chaotic and haphazard, is likely to pierce the bubble of propaganda lies. Since September 21, we have seen significant changes in the Russians' mental well-being as persisting anxiety is rising in parts of Russian society. Results of future studies will allow us to better understand the far-reaching effects of the Kremlin's mobilization.

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[
Russians’ Attitudes
]
Oct 4, 2022
7 min read
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