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Opinions of a Modern Russia

Oct. 9, 2008

In the tabs on this page, Gallup presents the third part in a series on the Georgian-Russian conflict, placing a strong focus on voices from within Russia. Russia's leadership has received a good deal of press since the end of armed conflict in Georgia, with much of the West dubbing it the aggressor and debating various courses of action. Should Western powers intervene militarily? Should the European Union impose economic sanctions? Will falling stock prices serve as penalty enough?

Even as Russia withdraws troops from buffer zones in Georgia, the government continues to drawn scorn Georgia and the West for its insistence that South Ossetia and Abkhazia are independent regions. At the same time, Russia's Prime Minister Vladimir Putin and President Dmitry Medvedev are making waves: Putin for reasserting Russia's vitality by showcasing his own passion for hunting and martial arts, and Medvedev for discussing the possibility of providing financial assistance to Iceland, a NATO country.

With Russia playing a prominent part in the news media recently, placing government policy within the context of Russian public opinion as measured by Gallup's recent surveys in the country is important to gaining an understanding into what Russian citizens are thinking. Earlier this year, Russia passed legislation to limit foreign investment, and Gallup's data provide insight into Russians' opinions of foreign business and the creation of a free market economy. Russians have long held low confidence in the honesty of their national elections -- in the wake of this year's presidential election, has that changed?

Finally, the government is discussing plans to lend financial assistance to a NATO country for the first time in Russian history. But what are Russians' opinions on NATO?

The data and analysis in this series present the voices of the Russian public, which, at times, are not as readily captured in the foreign media as their government's actions.

I have long found myself drawn to the ever-changing dynamic between Russia and the West. Some foreign policy experts have compared this current climate to the Cold War. When I think of Nikita Khrushchev pounding his shoe at the United Nations in 1960, the modern relationship seems substantially different -- Russia is an active G8 member and a World Trade Organization hopeful. And unlike during the Soviet period, Gallup can now collect public opinion throughout the region. In today's atmosphere of mutual suspicions, the voices of the people can offer rich insight into modern Russia -- its ambitions, its needs, and its thoughts on the country's future.

--Ian T. Brown

Aug. 15, 2008

Gallup is releasing its Russia and Georgia 2008 survey data just in time to inform the current crisis in the region. For three years, Gallup has been annually surveying citizens of former Soviet Union countries (with the exception of Turkmenistan, where polling is not yet permitted) by conducting face-to-face interviews in each country to gain a true understanding of what their citizens are thinking. Over the next few weeks, we will share with readers our most recent findings and how they compare with the past two years' data.

We've observed growing tensions between Russia and Georgia over the past few years. That said, the majority of Georgians say that their country has to have good relations with Russia "by all means." Further, they also say it is more important for Georgia to have a close relationship with Russia even if it hurts the country's relationship with United States. At the same time, life is not easy for Georgians. In fact, of all the former Soviet Union nations Gallup surveys, Georgians are the most likely to say they have gone hungry in the past year.

Now in our third year of data collection, we welcome the opportunity to share with readers some of our findings, especially as they are so timely. Our goal is to help inform readers' opinions about Russia, Georgia, and other countries in the Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS) based on scientific and objective measurement of the many rather than the few. In many cases, the findings may be quite different from what the Western and Russian presses report.

By clicking through the tabs above, you will find citizens' views on the politics and policies of their countries, their everyday life, their nation, and their relationships with different countries. As we release more data, we will also explore what these citizens value, be it financial security, personal freedom, or democracy.

Pollsters do not judge -- pollsters measure. We hope that our measurement will provide readers a unique opportunity to deepen their understanding of Georgia and Russia and provide policy-makers with new insights to make informed decisions.

As a person born and raised in the Soviet Union, it breaks my heart to see that my former compatriots are fighting, and I hope these data can help foster a greater understanding among nations.

-- Neli Esipova, Gallup Regional Director for the former Soviet Union countries

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