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Tabu

This survey took place between December 15-20, 2017 and was conducted throughout all of Russia in both urban and rural settings. The survey was carried out among 1600 people over the age of 18 in 137 localities of 48 of the country’s regions. The survey was conducted as a personal interview in respondents’ homes. The answer distribution is presented as percentages of the number of participants along with data from previous surveys. The statistical error of these studies for a selection of 1600 people (with a probability of 0.95) does not exceed: 3.4% for indicators around 50%; 2.9% for indicators around 25%/75%; 2.0% for indicators around 10%/90%; 1.5% for indicators around 5%/95%.

In December 2017, the Levada Center conducted a poll on taboos related to sexual and reproductive behavior. Similar research has been done previously (in 1998 and 2008), which presents an opportunity to look at changes in opinion.

The data provided by the polls indicates increased support of social restraint in certain spheres. Over the course of twenty years, the percentage of Russians who unconditionally oppose married people having sexual relations outside of their marriage (the sum of the positions “This is always wrong” and “This is almost always wrong”) increased from 50% to 68%; the percentage of people who oppose homosexual relations increased from 68% to 81%; and the percentage of people who oppose abortion (even if done as a result of low income) increased from 12% to 35%.

The opposition of similar behavior, albeit with qualifications (the question’s scale included the operational position “This is wrong only in some situations”), did not change significantly in relation to infidelity and homosexual relations across all of the surveyed years, although the percentage related to “necessary” abortions doubled from 13% in 1998 to 26% in 2017.  We think this can be regarded as a “transitional” state of public opinion, which indicates the fact that freedom in this sphere, as recorded in the 1990s, is being replaced by a more conservative, but not yet radical, attitude.

The respondents’ socio-demographic characteristics also indicate that women maintain stricter positions than men (who are, for example, more forgiving of infidelity) In order to look at generational differences, two groups were created: Russians between the ages of 18 and 30, and Russians over 30. It is interesting to note that while young men were significantly more tolerant of homosexuality than adult men 31 and older in 2008 (the difference between the groups on “unconditional support” was 17 p.p.), that difference between the two age groups has now completely disappeared. A similar situation can be seen amongst women—there was previously a difference of 12 p.p. which is no longer present.

As for women’s opinions on abortion due to financial difficulties, there was no difference between young women (younger than 30) and adult women in both 2008 and 2017. The only observable trend was an increase in conservative assessments: one out of every five women previously considered this kind of abortion wrong, but now it is one in three.

Religious affiliation is a significant opinion regulator in relation to abortion. Respondents who identified as Orthodox Christian and said that they attend religious services at least once a month were compared with “declared Orthodox Christians” (those who identify as Orthodox but do not attend church services). 16% of the first group thought that it was not wrong to have an abortion due to low income, while 35% of the “declared Orthodox Christians” held this opinion.

It is worth noting that the opinions on these topics of women living in large cities are identical to the opinions of women living in villages and the countryside. That is, the factor of urbanization and the existence of a particular “urban” way of thinking do not significantly affect these or other aspects of sexual and reproductive behavior being considered taboo. The only difference is the fact that respondents from small cities and villages are more forgiving of abortions due to low income. This is probably a result of personal experience (Russians who live in villages and the countryside are generally poorer than Russians living in large cities).

DO YOU THINK IT IS ALWAYS WRONG FOR A MARRIED PERSON TO HAVE SEXUAL RELATIONS OUTSIDE OF THEIR MARRIAGE?

Sept. 98 Jan. 08 Dec. 17
This is always wrong 30 35 43
This is almost always wrong 20 25 25
This is wrong only is some situations 19 16 17
There is nothing wrong about this 22 11 9
It is difficult to say 9 13 7

 DO YOU THINK IT IS ALWAYS WRONG FOR ADULTS OF THE SAME SEX TO HAVE SEXUAL RELATIONS WITH ONE ANOTHER?

Sept. 98 Jan. 08 Dec. 17
This is always wrong 54 64 69
This is almost always wrong 14 12 14
This is wrong only is some situations 5 4 5
There is nothing wrong about this 14 9 8
It is difficult to say 12 12 5

DO YOU THINK IT IS ALWAYS WRONG FOR A WOMAN TO HAVE AN ABORTION BECAUSE HER FAMILY’S INCOME IS VERY LOW AND SHE CANNOT AFFORD TO HAVE MORE CHILDREN?

Sept. 98 Jan. 08 Dec. 17
This is always wrong 7 11 19
This is almost always wrong 5 10 16
This is wrong only is some situations 13 18 26
There is nothing wrong about this 64 42 26
It is difficult to say 10 19 14

Socio-demographic characteristics

Translated by Middlebury Institute of International Studies at Monterey (formerly Monterey Institute of International Studies).

The ANO Levada Center has been forcibly included in the registry of non-commercial organizations acting as foreign agents.  Read the Director of the Levada Center’s statement of disagreement with this decision here.

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