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Russian and Western Media Battle for Influence

Russian and Western Media Battle for Influence

by Neli Esipova

Gallup took part in a Broadcasting Board of Governors/Gallup conference last week aimed at understanding the media's influence on audiences in Russia and neighboring countries.

At the conference, Gallup shared results from its World Poll surveys in Russia and 11 neighboring states on people's perceptions of Western and Russian news coverage of the situation in Ukraine and Crimea. Chief among these findings is that people in these countries were following the news about Ukraine and Crimea closely in 2014, with most getting reports from their own local media or Russian media. Few used Western media for news about the situation. It is important to note that Gallup did not define "Russian," "local" or "Western" media for those taking the survey or name any examples of these media. The definition was left solely up to the individual.

Residents in most countries surveyed were more likely to find their local coverage and the Russian coverage of these events reliable than Western media coverage. Even if residents used both Russian and Western media, they were typically more likely to find the Russian version of the conflict reliable. The only exception was Georgians, who have tended to dislike anything Russian, particularly after the South Ossetia war in 2008.

With influence appearing to tip decidedly in Russia's favor, questions naturally arise as to what these survey results mean. First, the results clearly reflect that people in the region still have strong ties to Russia -- linguistically, culturally and economically -- and that the Russian media appear to know their audiences well and how to speak to and appeal to them. Second, the findings suggest that Western media -- whoever that may be to respondents -- will need to make some changes to their communication strategies to stay relevant with these audiences.

Regardless of what the next volleys are in this race for media influence, Gallup will continue to monitor these important attitudes in the region.


Neli Esipova is the Regional Research Director for the former Soviet Union and Eastern Europe for the Gallup World Poll.

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