PENDULUM OF SYMPATHIES

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SOCIOLOGIST: ANTI-AMERICANISM WITHIN RUSSIAN SOCIETY IS MORE FUNDAMENTAL NOW THAN IT WAS IN THE SOVIET UNION

The Russians’ sympathies with the West will never be as complete and unconditional as they were in the early 1990s.


The Russians sympathize with the United States better than a year ago but not the way they liked it in the early 1990s. The Russian Public Opinion Research Center conducted an opinion poll before President Dmitry Medvedev’s visit to the United States and Canada. Its sociologists approached 1,600 respondents in 140 cities and townships in 42 Federation subjects. Statistical error is believed to be under 3.4%.

Fifty-four percent respondents admitted to like the United States “mostly”. This figure amounts to what it was in 1991 which is odd considering how hard the official propaganda tried to persuade society of Russia’s revival as a global power. A year ago, only 43% Russians “mostly” liked the United States. Five percent (3%, a year ago) expressed unconditional sympathies with the United States and 22% admitted to “mostly dislike” this country (25%, a year ago). Last but not the least, 5% respondents (8%, a year ago) said that they dislike America and the Americans.

It is the population of small townships and villages that likes the United States more than any other. Sympathizers there averaged 61-63%. Residents of major cities like Moscow and St.Petersburg turned out to be anti-Americans (about 33%). Quite predictably, CPRF voters turned out to be the least predisposed (46%) and United Russia voters (64%) the most predisposed towards the United States.

Peak of sympathies with the United States in Russia occurred in 1991 when 54% respondents admitted to mostly like the United States, 29% to like it, and but 4% to dislike. The number of sympathizers with Uncle Sam has been steadily going down ever since, and that of antagonists going up. Anti-American disposition peaked in September 2008, during the first wave of the financial crisis and in the wake of the shooting war with Georgia. Twenty-two percent respondents sympathized with the Americans then, 40% disliked them, and 25% disliked them actively.

Barack Obama was elected the U.S. President then (in autumn 2008). Moscow and Washington decided to de-escalate tension in the bilateral relations. These combined efforts immediately made their way into results of opinion polls.

“People watch TV and get brainwashed,” said Political Techniques Center Vice President Sergei Mikheyev. He emphasized that sympathies and antipathies greatly depend on news people learn from the media. “Antipathies peaked when people grew weary of George W. Bush’s aggressive Administration. Obama was regarded as a different leader altogether, one who offered a hope for betterment. Actually, basic trends with regard to society’s attitude towards the United States remain unchanged. Tell the people from TV screens that Obama failed to live up to the expectations, and antipathy will grow again.”

Mikheyev said that Russian society was through with unconditional love for and adoration of the United States. “The early 1990s were the only chance for the West to change this attitude towards itself. It was a period when old cliches were abandoned. Unfortunately, the West missed its chance. The illusions were dispelled by the mid-1990s, replaced as they were with international loans at exorbitant interest rates, revival of the Cold War logic, etc… Anti-Americanism within Russian society runs deeper now than ever before. It is even more fundamental now than it was in the Soviet Union when it was part of the official propaganda. I’m afraid that this trend is going to last,” said Mikheyev.

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