17:55
Середа, 21 Жовтня 2020

Popular perception of the Russian propaganda messages and social factors that shape it

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Popular perception of the Russian propaganda messages and social factors that shape it
Popular perception of the Russian propaganda messages and social factors that shape it

Executive Summary

In August Ilko Kucheriv Democratic Initiatives Foundation on request of Detector Media conducted a nationwide public opinion poll to study attitudes of Ukrainians toward media, level of media literacy and susceptibility to the propaganda messages.

While working with the poll data and comparing it with the results of the previous polls in 2018 and 2019 we came across interesting connection between person’s self-identification as a native Russian or Ukrainian language speaker (it is necessary to distinguish those people who speak mostly Russian but state that their native language is Ukrainian from people who do state Russian as a native language), political affiliation and a preference for the propaganda messages.

Usually, difference in susceptibility of the Ukrainian citizens to the Russian propaganda messages is attributed to the region of living. While it is true and the poll results support such argument, it does not explain why inhabitants of the different regions choose or reject certain messages.

According to the statistical analysis of the poll data, we argue that there is a strong connection between respondent’s self-identification as a bearer of the Russian language and his/her choice of the Russian propaganda messages. The strongest dependency is observed on the topic of Maidan (.39), Ukraine’s responsibility for the war in Donbas (.37), interpretation of the ban on Russian show-biz as a violation of rights (.34) and a conflict as a civil war (.33). Although dependency of choice of a message about IMF external control over Ukraine is weaker (.25), factor of native language is still more important than factor of respondents age (.11).

The case of messages about IMF is especially important because it shows that it is more dependent on a political affiliation of the respondent and his decision to vote for the certain party (.29). Same strength of connection between choice of Russian propaganda message and political affiliation is found on issue of the Russian show-biz ban (.30).

In the tables and in the following text we argue that respondent’s native language and his/her political affiliation are important factors that make him/her susceptible to the Russian messages, which we tested during the poll.

At the same time we can argue that influence of the Russian propaganda, particularly in the eastern and southern regions (and to a less extent in the central Ukraine), depends not only on the cultural preconditions like native Russian language of the respondents but also on the active political campaigning of the certain Ukrainian parties. The longer these parties use Russian propaganda toolbox the stronger Russian narratives become in the future.

As a result, society could become more divided and polarized on the issues that have been artificially imposed and disseminated by the partisan media holdings.

Russia is perceived as an aggressor state but not everywhere

DIF and DM August 2020 poll revealed that in the last 18 months (since February 2019) more Ukrainians started to identify Russia as a state that began war in Donbas. 60% of respondents agreed with such statement. 20% still believe that the war was started by the Ukrainian government and Ukrainian oligarchs. And 18% either refused to answer or avoided to make their choice.

There are distinctive regional preferences in the respondents’ answers. While 92% of respondents from the western regions and 70% from the central regions blame Russia for the beginning of the war, there are only 36% of the same minded people in the southern regions and 29% in the eastern regions of Ukraine.

And vice versa. 44% of people in the East of Ukraine and 25% of respondents in the South think that Ukrainian government is responsible for the war. Only 16% in the Center and 2% in the West have the same opinion. It must be noted that the biggest share of the people (39%) who refused to answer or remained undecided live in the southern regions.

It is interesting to note that there is a clear correlation between mother tongue of the respondents and their attitude toward the war in Donbas. For instance, among people who choose Russia as their mother tongue 44% blamed Ukraine for the war and 30% blamed Russia for the war. The rest remained undecided.

If respondents choose Ukrainian as a native language, their attitudes are very different. 71% of them blame Russia and only 14% blame Ukrainian authorities and oligarchs.

Moreover, statistical analysis of the data shows that the Russian speakers with a hostile attitude toward Ukraine are both inhabitants of the big cities (like Kharkiv, Odesa, Zaporizhia or Mariupol) and the rural areas of the eastern and southern regions.

Please, choose one of the two following statements which corresponds you’re your own opinion on the matter (one answer), %

 

Feb.2018

Feb.2019

Aug.2020

Russia has started a war in Donbas

51,8

48,5

60,3

Ukrainian government and oligarchs have started a war in Donbas

15,0

16,6

21,3

Hard to say / Don’t know / I do not agree with both statements

33,2

34,9

18,4

 

Regional distribution, %

 

West

Center

South

East

Russia has started a war in Donbas

92,1

69,9

35,8

28,8

Ukrainian government and oligarchs have started a war in Donbas

2,3

16,1

25,0

44,2

Hard to say / Don’t know / I do not agree with both statements

5,6

14,0

39,2

27,1

 

Distribution by mother tongue, %

 

Russian

Ukrainian

Russia has started a war in Donbas

29,5

71,4

Ukrainian government and oligarchs have started a war in Donbas

43,7

14,2

Hard to say / Don’t know / I do not agree with both statements

26,8

14,4

 

Similar attitudes are observed when respondents are asked about their definition of conflict in Donbas. 61% of Ukrainians believe that it is a Russian aggression assisted by local militant proxies, 22% are sure that it is a civil war, and 17% remain undecided. It is reflected also in the regional distribution: 92% respondents in the West, 70% in the Center, 41% in the South and 31% in the East believe it is a Russian aggression. At the same time 42% in the East, 21% in the South, 20% in the Center, and 2% in the West believe that it is a civil war.

However, in this case the issue of mother tongue is not as visible as in the case of definition of the war monger. Among people who said Russian is their native language 34% define conflict as Russian aggression, while 38% think it is a civil war, 28% are undecided. Ukrainian-speaking respondents have opposite attitudes: 71% of them consider it a Russian aggression, 16% say it is a civil war, the rest are undecided

Please, choose one of the two following statements which corresponds you’re your own opinion on the matter (one answer), %

Conflict in Donbas is a Russian aggression assisted by the local militant proxies

61,4

Conflict in Donbas is a Ukrainian domestic conflict, a civil war

21,6

Hard to say / Don’t know / I do not agree with both statements

17,0

 

Regional distribution, %

 

West

Center

South

East

Conflict in Donbas is a Russian aggression assisted by the local militant proxies

92,5

69,6

41,3

30,7

Conflict in Donbas is a Ukrainian domestic conflict, a civil war

1,9

19,8

20,8

42,2

Hard to say / Don’t know / I do not agree with both statements

5,6

10,7

37,9

27,1

 

Distribution by mother tongue, %

 

Russian

Ukrainian

Conflict in Donbas is a Russian aggression assisted by the local militant proxies

33,9

71,6

Conflict in Donbas is a Ukrainian domestic conflict, a civil war

38,1

16,1

Hard to say / Don’t know / I do not agree with both statements

28

12,3

 

We see a little bit different picture if we look at the attitudes toward Maidan. In general, 54% of respondents think it was the Revolution of Dignity, a popular uprising against an authoritarian rule, 31% believe that it was an illegal coupe d’état, seizure of power by a group of armed men and 15% have no opinion on the matter (most of them in the southern regions 27%).

Maidan is interpreted as Revolution of Dignity by 87% in the western regions, 64% in the central regions, 23% in the southern and eastern regions. At the same time Maidan is perceived as coupe d’état by 56% in the East, 50% in the South, 23% in the Center and 6% in the West.

The age and native language are factors that influence choice of the certain interpretation. We can see that the younger generations (Z and Y) are choosing “Revolution of Dignity”, while senior respondents (60 years and older) believe in “illegal seizure of power by the armed men”. While 65% of Ukrainian-speakers believe in “Revolution of Dignity” 60% of Russian speakers think of “coupe d’état”.

Please, choose one of the two following statements which corresponds you’re your own opinion on the matter (one answer), %

Events in Maidan in the end of 2013 and in the beginning of 2014 are Revolution of Dignity and rightful popular uprising against authoritarian rule

54,1

Events in Maidan in the end of 2013 and in the beginning of 2014 are illegal coupe d’état, seizure of power by a group of armed men

30,7

Hard to say / Don’t know / I do not agree with both statements

15,2

 

Regional distribution, %

 

West

Center

South

East

Events in Maidan in the end of 2013 and in the beginning of 2014 are Revolution of Dignity and rightful popular uprising against authoritarian rule

87,1

64,2

23,3

23,5

Events in Maidan in the end of 2013 and in the beginning of 2014 are illegal coupe d’état, seizure of power by a group of armed men

5,8

22,8

49,6

56,1

Hard to say / Don’t know / I do not agree with both statements

7,1

13,0

27,1

20,3

 

Age distribution, %

 

18-29  years

30-39 years

40-49 years

50-59 years

60  years and older

Events in Maidan in the end of 2013 and in the beginning of 2014 are Revolution of Dignity and rightful popular uprising against authoritarian rule

63,2

55,6

52,8

50,6

48,6

Events in Maidan in the end of 2013 and in the beginning of 2014 are illegal coupe d’état, seizure of power by a group of armed men

19,6

28,3

31,1

34,9

38,3

Hard to say / Don’t know / I do not agree with both statements

17,2

16,0

16,1

14,6

13,1

 

Mother tongue distribution, %

 

Russian

Ukrainian

Events in Maidan in the end of 2013 and in the beginning of 2014 are Revolution of Dignity and rightful popular uprising against authoritarian rule

20,2

65,3

Events in Maidan in the end of 2013 and in the beginning of 2014 are illegal coupe d’état, seizure of power by a group of armed men

59,8

21,7

Hard to say / Don’t know / I do not agree with both statements

20,0

13,0

 

Cooperation with the IMF has been compromised

The poll reveals very significant impact of the pro-Russian propaganda message about “external control” over Ukraine. When respondents were asked about their opinion about cooperation between Ukraine and the International Monetary Fund, 45% of them agreed with the statement that such cooperation resulted in external control over Ukraine, while 38% believe that it is necessary for economic assistance to Ukraine. 17% do not have opinion on the matter or refused to answer.

In the regional dimension favorable perception of IMF is found only in the western regions: 58% against 26% who support message about external control; in the central regions opinion is divided evenly: 43% favor cooperation with IMF and 40% condemn it; in the eastern regions 61% believe that IMF exercise external control over Ukraine against 20% who think such cooperation is necessary; in the southern regions IMF is condemned by 62% and vindicated by 21%.

Among respondents who choose Russian as native language negative perception dominate over positive (66% vs 19%), while Ukrainian speaking respondents are more in favor of such cooperation than against (45% vs 38%).

It is also worth mentioning that more respondents from the generation Z support cooperation with the IMF than oppose it (44% vs 32%). While senior respondents (60 years and older) have different attitude (52% against IMF and 35% are for it).

Please, choose one of the two following statements which corresponds you’re your own opinion on the matter (one answer), %

Cooperation between Ukraine and International Monetary Fund results in the necessary economic assistance for Ukraine

38,0

Cooperation between Ukraine and International Monetary Fund results in external control over Ukraine

45,0

Hard to say / Don’t know / I do not agree with both statements

17,1

 

Regional distribution, %

 

West

Center

South

East

Cooperation between Ukraine and International Monetary Fund results in the necessary economic assistance for Ukraine

58,0

43,0

20,8

20,4

Cooperation between Ukraine and International Monetary Fund results in external control over Ukraine

26,1

40,3

61,8

61

Hard to say / Don’t know / I do not agree with both statements

15,9

16,8

17,4

18,6

 

Age distribution, %

 

18-29  years

30-39 years

40-49 years

50-59 years

60  years and older

Cooperation between Ukraine and International Monetary Fund results in the necessary economic assistance for Ukraine

44,1

39,3

35,3

35,7

35,3

Cooperation between Ukraine and International Monetary Fund results in external control over Ukraine

31,8

43,9

47,9

48,9

51,6

Hard to say / Don’t know / I do not agree with both statements

24,1

16,8

16,8

15,4

13,1

 

Anti-IMF Russian propaganda (mother tongue distribution), %

 

Russian

Ukrainian

Cooperation between Ukraine and International Monetary Fund results in the necessary economic assistance for Ukraine

18,7

45,0

Cooperation between Ukraine and International Monetary Fund results in external control over Ukraine

65,7

38,2

Hard to say / Don’t know / I do not agree with both statements

12,6

16,8

 

Anti-IMF Russian propaganda (political affiliation distribution), %

 

Servant of People

Opposition Platform

European Solidarity

Batkivshshyna

Cooperation between Ukraine and International Monetary Fund results in the necessary economic assistance for Ukraine

47,0

14,0

67,3

43,5

Cooperation between Ukraine and International Monetary Fund results in external control over Ukraine

36,1

74,8

21,1

41,8

Hard to say / Don’t know / I do not agree with both statements

16,9

11,2

11,6

14,7

 

It is no more show business as usual

Finally, we tested popular attitude toward policy of banning certain Russian show-biz celebrities (singers, artists, actors, comics etc.) and Russian movies from coming to Ukraine and Ukrainian market.

It is worth mentioning that in the last 18 months more people began to support such policy (36%), although relative majority of respondents still consider it to be a mistake and violation of their rights (43%). Every fifth respondent decided not to answer or has no opinion on the matter.

We can see that since 2018 more people have radically changed their minds. Opponents of the ban lost 12%, while proponents gained 9% and number of undecided gained 3%. These changes happened in all regions of Ukraine.

At the same time, the factor of the mother tongue appears to be strongly connected to the choice of the different opinions. While 72% of the Russian speakers consider such policy as a mistake and violation of their rights only 10% of them back such policy. Situation among Ukrainian speaking is less sharp: 45% support ban and 34% oppose it.

Please, choose one of the two following statements which corresponds you’re your own opinion on the matter (one answer), %

 

02.2018

02.2019

08.2020

Ban of the certain Russian show-biz celebrities and Russian movies is a necessary step toward protection of the state

 

29,2

 

27

 

36,3

Ban of the certain Russian show-biz celebrities and Russian movies is a mistake and violation of peoples’ rights

53

55,5

43,4

Hard to say / Don’t know / I do not agree with both statements

17,8

17,5

20,3

 

Regional distribution, %

 

West

Center

South

East

2019

2020

2019

2020

2019

2020

2019

2020

Ban of the certain Russian show-biz celebrities and Russian movies is a necessary step toward protection of the state

41,4

 

 

63,2

36,0

 

 

39,7

 

 

10,0

 

 

15,9

 

 

7,3

 

 

16,2

Ban of the certain Russian show-biz celebrities and Russian movies is a mistake and violation of peoples’ rights

39,1

 

 

18,9

47,4

 

 

39,5

 

 

74,9

 

 

56,0

 

 

72,6

 

 

65,4

Hard to say / Don’t know / I do not agree with both statements

19,5

 

17,9

16,7

 

20,8

 

15,1

 

28,1

 

20,0

 

18,4

 

Mother tongue distribution, %

 

Russian

Ukrainian

Ban of the certain Russian show-biz celebrities and Russian movies is a necessary step toward protection of the state

10,4

45,1

Ban of the certain Russian show-biz celebrities and Russian movies is a mistake and violation of peoples’ rights

71,5

34,2

Hard to say / Don’t know / I do not agree with both statements

18,1

20,7

 

Political affiliation distribution, %

 

Servant of People

Opposition Platform

European Solidarity

Batkivshshyna

Ban of the certain Russian show-biz celebrities and Russian movies is a necessary step toward protection of the state

36,2

10,3

70,1

43

Ban of the certain Russian show-biz celebrities and Russian movies is a mistake and violation of peoples’ rights

41,8

76,3

17,8

35,6

Hard to say / Don’t know / I do not agree with both statements

22

13,4

12,1

21,4

 

Native language has role in defining attitude toward Ukraine’s independence

While conducting poll for Detector Media, DIF also included number of other questions regarding attitudes toward Ukraine and Ukrainian domestic and foreign policy issues. When we found strong connection between Russian native language and susceptibility to the Russian propaganda messages, we decided to check whether there is a connection between Russian native language and other sensitive political issues.

For instance, during the poll respondents were asked what they think about changes in the country since 1991. As a matter of fact, 42,4% of the Russian native speakers said that there have been mostly negative changes, while the same opinion was shared only by 20,8% among the Ukrainian native speakers. The strength of connection between factor of native language and choice of answer was moderate (.24). Furthermore, this connection becomes stronger (.35) when respondents with the different native languages were asked how they would vote in the hypothetical referendum on the Ukraine’s independence.

The same strength of connection on the same issues is observed between respondent’s political affiliation and his/her choice. And again, supporters of the Opposition Platform have more negative attitudes toward Ukraine and its independence.

If referendum on Ukraine’s independence were today, how would you vote? Mother tongue distribution, %

 

Russian

Ukrainian

For Independence

39,9

76,7

Against independence

29,5

7,7

I would not vote

13,6

7,6

Hard to say / Don’t know

17,0

8,0

 

Political affiliation distribution, %

 

Servant of People

Opposition Platform

European Solidarity

Batkivshshyna

For Independence

81,1

41,2

92,4

80,4

Against independence

5,2

37,3

2,4

7,8

I would not vote

4,0

8,2

3,0

3,1

Hard to say / Don’t know

9,7

13,3

2,2

8,7

 

In your opinion, has Ukraine experienced more positive or negative changes since independence? Mother tongue distribution, %

 

Russian

Ukrainian

More positive

10,5

29,9

Both positive and negative

39,1

42,0

More negative

42,4

20,8

Hard to say / Don’t know

8,0

7,3

 

Political affiliation distribution, %

 

Servant of People

Opposition Platform

European Solidarity

Batkivshshyna

More positive

39,3

7,1

38,7

27,6

Both positive and negative

39,4

34,8

51,8

49,9

More negative

12,4

53,6

6,3

18,8

Hard to say / Don’t know

8,9

4,5

3,2

3,7

 

To sum it up, we see that Russian native speakers are less unified when they are asked about attitude toward Ukraine’s independence. However, the strength of connection between native language (Russian) and attitude toward Ukraine is comparable with connection between native language and susceptibility to the Russian propaganda.

To put it in another way, native language (whether Ukrainian or Russian) definitely influences how a person perceives and interprets facts about the past and current events in Ukraine. And such perception is as strong as political affiliation, although we cannot say native language determines or enables certain political choice.

So far, there is no ground to state that the Russian native language automatically makes a person less loyal toward Ukraine. At the same time there is evidence that it is much easier for the Russian speakers to become under certain influence more hostile toward Ukraine since they are consuming information in Russian and from the Russian open or hidden sources.

Russian propaganda messages have become a competitive advantage for number of the Ukrainian TV channels

After we found out that native language and political affiliation of a person have statistically strong connection with the choice between the pro-Russian interpretations and fact-based statements, we decided to look whether preferences of different TV channels influence that choice too.

In the first table below in the columns we put how many respondents (%), who believe in Russian propaganda, watch pro-Russian TV channels. In the second table in the columns we put how many respondents (%), who share fact-based statements, watch pro-Russian channels.

The gap between these shares illustrates to some extent that pro-Russian channels are quite popular among people who choose Russian propaganda statements while few people who share fact-based statements watch them.

It is also worth mentioning that the strength of connection between choice of Russian propaganda and preferences of the certain TV channel is the biggest for the NewsOne and 112.Ukraina.

It means that if these TV channels for some reason stopped to broadcast Russian propaganda, they would lose substantial part of their audience, which make them dependent on dissemination and favorable attitude to propaganda content.

 

Ukrainian government and oligarchs have started a war in Donbas

Conflict in Donbas is a Ukrainian domestic conflict, a civil war

Events in Maidan in the end of 2013 and in the beginning of 2014 are illegal coupe d’état, seizure of power by a group of armed men

Cooperation between Ukraine and International Monetary Fund results in external control over Ukraine

Ban of the certain Russian show-biz celebrities and Russian movies is a mistake and violation of peoples’ rights

Inter

43,0

41,5

41,6

37,4

37,7

112.Ukraina

39,7

39,1

35,8

31,3

31,1

NewsOne

33,6

33,2

30,2

23,5

25,0

ZIK

20,1

20,4

20,2

16,3

17,3

 

 

Russia has started a war in Donbas

Conflict in Donbas is a Russian aggression assisted by the local militant proxies

Events in Maidan in the end of 2013 and in the beginning of 2014 are Revolution of Dignity and rightful popular uprising against authoritarian rule

Cooperation between Ukraine and International Monetary Fund results in the necessary economic assistance for Ukraine

Ban of the certain Russian show-biz celebrities and Russian movies is a necessary step toward protection of the state

Inter

23,7

25,8

23,2

22,9

21,5

112.Ukraina

14,3

14,5

13,0

13,3

12,1

NewsOne

7,2

7,0

6,6

6,5

6,2

ZIK

8,3

8,4

7,5

6,8

6,1

 

***

Nationwide opinion poll was conducted by DIF and sociology service of the  Razumkov Center on request of Detector media. The poll was conducted on between 14 and 19 of August, 2020 in all regions of Ukraine except the occupied territories of Crimea, Donetsk and Luhansk regions. 2022 respondents were polled by face to face interview at their places of residence. Polling sample is representative of the adult population of Ukraine. Theoretical margin of error is less than 2.3%

In this survey the microregion composition is as follows: West (Lviv, Transcarpathia, Ivano-Frankivsk, Ternopil, Chernivtsi, Khmelnytskyi, Volyn and Rivne regions), Center (Zhytomyr, Kyiv region, city of Kyiv, Chernihiv, Sumy, Poltava, Cherkasy, Kropyvnytskyi, Vinnytsia regions), South (Odesa, Mykolaiv, Kherson regions), East (Zaporizhia, Dnipro, Kharkiv, government-controlled territories of Donetsk and Luhansk regions).

For comparison we use data of the two polls conducted by the Kyiv International Institute of Sociology on request of Detector Media in February 2018 and February 2019. KIIS includes Zaporizhia and Dnipro regions in the southern microregion.

Думки, висловлені в рубриці Column, передають виключно погляди самих авторів і можуть не збігатися з позицією редакції «Детектора медіа». Тексти авторських колонок суб'єктивні та не претендують на всебічне висвітлення теми.
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