Apathetic Russians have little interest in political process
In a recent survey from the Levada Center polling agency assessing the attitudes of Russians towards politics, 34 percent of those surveyed selected the response “I don’t like politics.” A further 29 percent replied that they were indifferent to the political situation in the country and had no plans to follow political developments.
In responding to the results of the survey, Levada Center sociologist Oleg Saveylev said that many Russians have more pressing concerns than the country’s political situation: “With the exception of those in some of the main cities, people are just trying to survive. They are therefore more concerned with issues of poverty, the soaring cost of utilities and food, and low wages. When people are fed and clothed better and they have everything that they need, this is when they start to think about politics and democratic values.”
Stepan Lvov, the head of the Department of Socio-political Research at the Public Opinion Research Center (VTsIOM) suggested that a lack of faith in the future of the country is also partially to blame. “This growing apathy influences the attitude towards politics more than in any other field,” Lvov said.
Leontiy Bryzgalov, a senior research fellow at the Sociological Institute of the Russian Academy of Sciences, said that those who are interested in politics share a number of characteristics. They are members of what is usually referred to as the “urban middle class.”
They are more affluent, with a higher standard of education. Even though this group could not be considered wealthy, exceptionally well off, their standard of living is higher than that of rural Russians, and this has actually contributed to the overall lack of interest in politics, according to Bryzgalov.
“Many people have began to feel that politics is a game for the rich, and that ordinary people should expect nothing from it, and that politics bears no relation to their own interests and problems,” Bryzgalov said.
Click to enlarge the infographics. Drawing by Alena Repkina
He added that a lack of faith in the current crop of politicians is also a factor. People were more interested in politics in the 1990’s, Bryzgalov said.
“However, since then, people have felt alienated from their leaders. They think that all political issues are resolved by a small group and this does not depend on popular opinion, their vote, or whichever party they voted for at all. This is the very reason why everything linked to politics is perceived of interest only to those who are directly engaged in political life,” said Bryzgalov.
At the same time, experts hold out hope that this current apathy towards politics is temporary.
Said Lvov: “The current attitude to politics [of the respondents] are influenced by immediate events taking place at that particular point in time when we carried out the survey on them.” He added that it would only take one radical act to galvanize the population. “Someone could receive word of something outrageous taking place that does not sit well with their understanding of morality or public order.”
Bryzgalov said that the interest in politics among the urban middle class only began to increase after the 2011 State Duma elections and that this trend still had the potential to spread throughout the overall population.
“I would say that interest in politics began to rise following the events on Bolotnaya square. It was then that society began to get heated. Apart from that, a new generation has come through, who want to speak out and they are not very interested in hibernating,” Bryzgalov said. The desire for change is growing among the population little by little, as well as a desire to have some influence on something.”