New survey data released last week from the Public Opinion Foundation shows that the majority of Russians do not believe that elections are an accurate reflection of public opinion. Only 7% of those polled believed that the upcoming Parliamentary elections would be free and fair. Click here to see all the results, as well as links to other recent opinion polls.
Election Procedures in Russia Most Russians strongly and increasingly distrust elections as an institution, according to the results of a recent poll conducted by the Public Opinion Foundation. Today only 35% of those surveyed believe that elections reflect public opinion accurately, while many more (50%) think they do not. Respondents’ opinions about elections do not show any correlations with age groups, income levels, education or place of residence. However, opinions do strongly correspond with respondents’ attitudes towards President Vladimir Putin: those who distrust Putin distrust elections 76% of the time, and those who trust him are also distrustful of elections, but to a lesser extent (42%). Russians’ increasing distrust in elections is illustrated by the changing description of their own electoral behavior. The percentage of respondents who say that they ‘always’ vote in elections has decreased from 49% in 2003 to 34% today. Twenty percent (18% in 2003) say they ‘often’ vote, while 27% say they ‘rarely’ do so and 16% say that they ‘never’ vote (compared to 21% and 10%, respectively, in 2003). Peoples’ opinions about Russian parliamentary elections is similar to what they think about elections in general: 26% of those surveyed believe parliamentary elections in Russia have been free and fair over the past fifteen years, and 34% think that these elections were mostly not free or fair. Six percent of all adult Russians know or have heard about cases in which procedures were violated during the last parliamentary elections. The violations they witnessed or were told about included bribing voters (“they gave us money, and our whole neighborhood drank for a week”), forced voting (“they demanded that you sign a pledge to vote for a certain candidate, otherwise they would fire you”), campaigning continued at the polling station while ballots were filled (“they told people who to vote for”), filling and casting votes in the name of persons who didn’t come or even were dead (“only five people on our street voted, but the records say everyone voted, including me”; “somebody cast a ballot for my parents – and they’re dead”), and ballot rigging (“I gave a ride to a member of the audit chamber, an I know how they counted the votes”). We asked respondents who believe parliamentary elections have generally been unfair over the past 15 years to suggest ways to make elections free and fair. Most of the time, respondents suggested tighter control and supervision (4%), fighting violations and corruption, tougher punishment for fraud (4%), better public relations and campaigning (“we cast our votes for persons we don’t even know. Meetings should be held in every region for voters to get to know their candidates” – 1%). Some insisted that the whole electoral and even political system of Russia should be changed (“the whole of our society has to be changed”; “the electoral system should be changed”; “everything should be changed, beginning with the Duma itself” – 2%). Others placed their hopes in honest candidates and electoral commission members (“candidates should be fair”; “only honest people should be appointed to election commissions” – 4% ). Most Russians (61%) think the parliamentary elections in December 2007 won’t be any different. Only small groups of respondents (7% each) expect them to be more free and fair or less free and fair. The distribution of expectations was similar in the run-up to the 2003 elections.