The All-Russian Center for the Study of Public Opinion (VCIOM) announced on Monday the launch of a research project for the presidential elections. According to the first poll, 67% of Russians say they will definitely participate in the elections, and 11% will do it "most likely". According to 64% of the respondents, the elections are held in an "open and honest political struggle", and 23% believe that they are difficult to be called "genuinely free and democratic". For Vladimir Putin 73.8% of all those polled are ready to vote, Pavel Grudinin is nominated by the Communist Party of the Russian Federation (7.2%), and leader of the LDPR Vladimir Zhirinovsky - 4.7%. Below the level of error, the results of the TV presenter Ksenia Sobchak (1%), the founder of Yabloko Grigory Yavlinsky (0.6%) and the business ombudsman Boris Titov (0.3%).
VTsIOM is 100% controlled by the state represented by the Federal Property Management Agency. Alternative sociology, which was traditionally provided by the independent Levada Center, will not be held in these elections. According to its director Lev Gudkov, after the start of the campaign, the center stopped publishing data on its polls concerning the elections, although it will continue to conduct them. During the Duma elections in 2016, the Levada Center was recognized as a foreign agent, and according to the electoral legislation, such organizations can not participate in any way in elections and referendums, Gudkov explains: "Violation of the law threatens with fines and even closure of the organization." The law on foreign agents was originally aimed at crowding out alternative interpretations and independent sources of information, the sociologist is sure: "With VTsIOM our data differed slightly, the discrepancies were in nuances. Although the results of [representatives of the authorities] have always been lower. "
Valery Fyodorov, general director of the All-Russian Public Opinion Research Center, is surprised that Levada Center will not publish polls: "There was no competition between us, we have different clients. It's a pity that now there will be less data. The more of them, the better, the more we are talking not about the sharashkin office, but about the organization that exists for 14 years. "
The Public Opinion Foundation (FOM) does not have any plans for special projects dedicated to the elections yet, says FOM president Alexander Oslon: "The website publishes weekly data on voting, trust, and evaluation."
In fact, the discrepancies between the VTsIOM and the Levada Center were often very noticeable. So, in December, according to Levada data, 28% of Russians intended to vote "absolutely", "most likely" - 30%, VTsIOM also rated these categories in 70 and 11%, respectively. "Turnout in 78% was never in the elections in Russia", - reminds Gudkov. Fedorov says that they are guided by a turnout of 67-70%, and the discrepancy in the data is due to the formulation of the question and the method: "We have a telephone survey, the Levada Center probably has a quarterly apartment. I trust the quality of our polls more. "
Presidential spokesman Dmitry Peskov did not answer Vedomosti's question about the Kremlin's attitude to the absence of Levada Center polls in the election, saying only that data from existing centers are being used to analyze electoral data.
The administration of the president focuses on VTsIOM, FOM, Levada Center, "each has its own sample," says a person close to the administration. Election polls for the administration are made by the FOM and VTsIOM, but some of the data is allowed to be published, and some are not, the former federal official explains: "The sample of standard surveys is usually small, but if necessary, you can order individual studies or with a larger sample to measure a particular region ". There are also FSO polls, which, among other things, play the role of checking information in the event of a strong discrepancy between the data of sociologists, the interlocutor adds. Another interlocutor, close to the presidential administration, says that the FSO always has interest rates lower than that of VTsIOM and FOM. During the presidential campaign, the rating of Putin and his main competitors is examined, the turnout and its dynamics, the flow of votes from the candidates, he adds: "In addition, the issues that interests the voter are examined, which is more important for them: housing and communal services, unemployment, the evil West." Moreover, the published data are moderated, especially during the election campaign, the interlocutor notes: "If the figures are published, it means that such a decision was made, because in the course of elections the publication of indicators is, in fact, a kind of forming phenomenon that affects the electoral opinion."
For the Communist Party of the Russian Federation, traditionally conducted polls created in 1989, the Center for the Study of Political Culture of Russia (TsIIPKR), says Secretary of the Central Committee of the party Sergei Obukhov. According to him, the ways of collecting information in TsIIPR and VTsIOM are identical. Before the New Year, the Center published a study that showed a sharp increase in the ratings not only of Grudinin, but Sobchak, Obukhov said: both had a higher result than VTsIOM gave them. The LDPR conducts polls with its own forces with the participation of regional offices, says State Duma deputy Yaroslav Nilov. In addition, the benchmark is the comments of users of social networks in response to initiatives and videos with Zhirinovsky's speeches, as well as people's reaction to the emergence of the leader of the LDPR anywhere in the country at any time, the deputy adds. "Yabloko orders sociology" Levada-center, "says party spokesman Igor Yakovlev:" In addition, the party's expert-analytical department analyzes all public sociology. "
The market for electoral research is not at present, believes the president of the holding "Romir" Andrei Milekhin: "Electoral sociology, which was 20 years ago, does not exist. Then due to the data of different companies it was possible to look at the process from different sides, there was an alternative that protected the data and did not allow them to manipulate. When "state" sociology dominates, we get what is. "
On the picture of real preferences of Russians, the refusal to publish Levada polls will not affect political analyst Dmitry Orlov: "There are data from FOM and VTsIOM - despite the fact that they are close to the authorities, their methods differ. In addition, the picture will be quite full at the expense of the centers of opposition parties - in particular, TsIIPKR of the Communists and those centers that enjoy the reputation of independent ones. "
The lack of data from the Levada Center reduces the ability to compare survey data, which means it can reduce the credibility of these data, says Dmitry Badovsky, head of the ISEPI fund: Levada can not publish data, but this does not mean that they will not do research . Surely they will conduct them for someone. This also has an additional complexity: someone will start saying that there are other data, although you can not see them. " Authorities of sociology are always needed to develop and implement certain political and managerial decisions, as well as to verify and correct them through feedback, the expert adds: "In some cases, the publication of data allows either legitimizing decisions or additionally influencing public opinion."
Staff polls have less faith than any of the major sociological services: staff data is much less professional, more politicized - it is more information for internal use, it can only be launched outside as propaganda, political scientist Nikolai Petrov believes. As for the lack of data from the Levada Center, that is, the general rule, he recalls: "The lack of competition in the market worsens the work of the monopolists that are on it." In such a situation, the authorities will inevitably be tempted to use published survey results as a technological means to increase the appearance and create a certain atmosphere of the campaign, the expert believes. But in the end it can ruin the sociological service, as it will undermine confidence in it, he warns. The Kremlin should not always hope for its unpublished internal polls as creating an objective picture, Petrov said: "The quality of these surveys will decrease as the alternative picture disappears." In addition, in this situation there will be a natural interest to correct, if not to manipulate the results, the expert sums up.