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Do ordinary Russians support the war?

Expert panel discusses how media crackdown affects support for Ukraine invasion
ukraine invasion
Polls show a majority of Russians support the invasion, at a rate of 58-71%.

Experts on Russian public opinion convene March 15 in an online discussion of how support for the invasion of Ukraine is affected by Moscow’s recent crackdown on the news media and other avenues of domestic dissent.

The event is sponsored by the Northwestern Buffett Institute for Global Affairs and the department of political science in the Weinberg College of Arts and Sciences. It’s free and open to the public. Registration is required here.

Panelists include Olga Kamenchuk, Vasily Gatov and Jeffrey Trimble. 

Olga Kamenchuk is an associate professor of research and instruction with the Institute for Policy Research and the School of Communication at Northwestern. She has 15 years of professional polling and public opinion research experience in the former Soviet Union and is a leading expert on Russian public opinion. Her scholarship focuses on international public opinion and strategic public diplomacy.

Vasily Gatov is a senior fellow at USC Annenberg Center on Communication Leadership and Policy and an expert on Russian media. Prior to joining USC, Gatov worked as a journalist for prominent Russian media organizations for over 20 years. His last position was director of the Novisti Media Lab for RIA Novosti.

Jeffrey Trimble is the former deputy director of the U.S. Global Media Agency (formerly Broadcast Board of Governors), former acting president of Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, and former Moscow Bureau Chief for U.S. News & World Report. Currently a lecturer at the Ohio State University School of Communication, Jeffrey has over 30 years of experience as an international journalist, editor and media manager. Fluent in Russian, he is an expert on international and Russian media.

The panel will be moderated by Erik Nisbet, Owen L. Coon Professor of Policy Analysis and Communication, and director of the Center for Communication and Public Policy in the School of Communication. His research lies at the intersection of media, public opinion and public policy in the areas of science, technology, and environmental policy, governance and elections, and international security. An expert on cross-national surveys, Nisbet has led research projects in the U.S., Russia, Ukraine, Serbia, Turkey, Iran, France, Great Britain, Germany, Poland and several Arab countries.

Older Russians are more supportive

“Among Russians, the major cleavages in public opinion about the war are based on age and media use,” said Kamenchuk. “Older Russians are twice as likely to support the war than younger Russians. Those who rely mostly on TV as the major source of information are also significantly more likely to support the invasion than those who rely on the internet.

Several opinion polls conducted in Russia over the past two weeks demonstrate that the majority of Russians support the invasion, at a rate of 58-71%.

“Support for the war amongst the public seems to have increased since the beginning of the invasion due to massive domestic propaganda efforts by the Russian government,” Kamenchuk continued. “However, the level of support for the war on Ukraine is not like the ‘Crimean consensus’ observed after annexation of Crimea in 2014, which at the time was 85-95% of Russians.

For Journalists: view the news release for media contacts