Wartime Censorship.
How to Measure Fear?
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On March, 4, 2022 full-fledged censorship was introduced in Russia. Being openly against the war may lead to up to 15 years in jail. Russians are prohibited to call the war by its name, "war".

 

Having held an all-Russian phone poll on March, 10-13, 2022, we found out that respondents tend to avoid straightforward answers and conceal their place of residence in fear of prosecution. 

 

This means that polls are no longer reliable sources of information on public opinion. What they do show, though, is the measure of fear among the society.

Telephone Poll Quotes​
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an 86 y.o. village woman
 

Ukraine and Russia are the same to me. No, we don't want any military action. We do not. No, no, no, no way. I want peace. My daughter-in-law is a Ukrainian, we're like the same family.

a 64 y.o. city woman
 

Of course we don't want the war. We know what a war is. I've been through two wars. I don't wish anyone the same. How can anyone support a war, miss? I want peace on earth, I want my grandkids and kids to live. No, surely not, [I do not support the war].

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an 86 y.o. village woman
 

Ukraine and Russia are the same to me. No, we don't want any military action. We do not. No, no, no, no way. I want peace. My daughter-in-law is a Ukrainian, we're like the same family.

a 64 y.o. city woman
 

Of course we don't want the war. We know what a war is. I've been through two wars. I don't wish anyone the same. How can anyone support a war, miss? I want peace on earth, I want my grandkids and kids to live. No, surely not, [I do not support the war].

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a 70 y.o. village woman

I am of the generation who worked with the Ukrainians, I respect them very much. We danced to Ukrainian dances, [sang] Ukrainian songs, I think highly of Ukraine. Very highly. Believe it or not, nobody in Ukraine did me anything wrong. I pity our kids who are fighting now, the kids from both sides. My grandson is 20, my son is 43, I am so very much afraid that they might get drafted if a war starts.
And the Ukrainian nation has done nothing wrong. So I like them very much. [The interviewer inquires if she supports the ongoing military action or not] Of course I do. Let them kick the Maidaners out! Let the real Ukrainians live! The Ukrainian nation that we love, love, love. We do indeed. There is no such thing as a bad nation, only bad people. Let the government decide whether or not to support... It's not for me to answer. I say, I am against wars. Against. From any side.

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war 

or

operation?

We asked the Russians if they believed the actions of Russia in Ukraine were a "special military operation" (the term used by the official propaganda instead of "war"). 63,3% respondents agreed. But search requests show vice versa (see the table, blue for "war", red for "operation"): 

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The Russians continue to name the war "war".

 

Yandex, Russia's most popular search engine, registered 47 558 925 "war in Ukraine" requests in a month, while only 83 236 requests read "military operation in Ukraine." This makes the prohibited "war" term 570 times more frequent than the officially forced "operation".  

Are Wartime Polls Any Good at All?

Wartime surveys help us test hypotheses. First and foremost, we wanted to see if censorship succeeds in making Russians afraid of speaking their minds.

 

We asked part of our respondents about their attitude towards the war in the beginning of the survey and another part — closer to the end of the survey (which made a 4-minutes difference).

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The results show that the longer a person talks to the interviewer, the higher are their chances to provide a socially acceptable response (i.e. to say they "support the military operation").

The more spontaneous the answer is, the more likely it is to be sincere, even when the opinion does not go in line with the expected reply or the law.

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Asking the Russians whether they supported the military action (yes/no), we told part of the respondents they could avoid answering at all. After that, the share of those "in support" of the war lessened by 7%. 

Taking into account that to support the war in Russia is completely safe, we can suggest that at least 7% of respondents provide socially acceptable answers because they are afraid.

So Russians Do Not Speak Their Minds out of Fear?

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Yes. The Russian meme reads: "How Pollsters See Themselves VS How Respondents See Them". But apart from fear, there is a "majority influence phenomenon" used by the propaganda. Russian official sources constantly claim that the "special operation" is supported by the vast majority of the Russians.

According to the Asch conformity experiment, up to 40% of people are inclined to support the majority's views even when they contradict their own opinion and/or real facts and common sense. Thus, the propaganda manipulates the results of public opinion polls, trying to make those against war feel that they are alone and everybody else is in favor of the war.

So, is it all lost? No. 
Those who get information from relatives or friends are 11% more likely to oppose the war.

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By supporting our project, you help to keep people in Russia and abroad informed on what and, importantly, why the citizens of Russia think about the ongoing war with Ukraine. Out aim is to change the public opinion on the war. Propaganda claims the vast majority of Russians are supporting the war but the reality is way too complicated: the level of support is lower than the officials claim, and the meaning of the "support" is different. All donations made in cryptocurrency will be spent on further research, including polls and their analysis.

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