Are Meaningful Public Opinion Polls Possible in Today’s Russia?

Ever since Vladimir Putin announced the start of a special military operation (SMO), public opinion polls in Russia have been criticized with renewed vigor. Usually, critics give the following reasons why Russian polls cannot be trusted. Some argue that in 2022, the response rate has declined sharply and people’s reluctance to participate in surveys has increased. Others say that respondents interrupt interviews as soon as the conversation turns to events in Ukraine. Some say that only supporters of the government are now participating in the polls, while opposition-minded citizens prefer to abstain. Others speak of survey list experiments, which seem to show lower support rates, and claim that these show the “real mood” of the people. Finally, the most extreme critics of polls say that polls are not relevant because they do not show what people “really think.” Let us take a look at each of these allegations in turn.