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Russians surprise sociologists with increasing happiness about their lives

November 14, 2013, 17:10 UTC+3 Zamyatina Tamara
© ITAR-TASS/Alexandra Mudrats

MOSCOW, November 14 (Itar-Tass) - The results of the latest major poll are bound to dispel the Russian liberal community’s concerns about deteriorating life conditions in the country. The sociological survey has shown Russian people have seen positive shifts in their lives in the last 10-15 years.

The survey is unique in that it has been carried out not by some servile sociological centre, but three competing organizations - the Russian public opinion studies centre WCIOM, the public opinion foundation FOM, and the Institute for Market Research GfK-Rus that have pooled efforts in a joint project and summarized the collected data.

The Russian mass media frequently point out that poverty is aggravating and defiant mood is increasing, while educated youth aspires to go to Western countries. However, the poll conducted in 2013 in 42 regions among 1,600 men and women of age has revealed a somewhat different sentiment.

“The percentage of people satisfied with their lives has considerably increased in the last eight years. Moreover, the share of people who voiced discontent with their lives dropped by half. In 2013 it is 19% against 37% in 2005,” the survey says.

The rate of positive evaluation of the family's financial standing has risen as well. Negative estimates made 34% and 15% in 2005 and 2013 respectively.

Most Russians feel happy (76%), with the happiness rate up almost twice from 42% in early 1990s.

In 2006 most Russian families (63%) had no car, but their percentage has been decreasing during the last seven years and has dropped to 48% in 2013. In other words, almost every second family has a car.

In 2005-2013 the minimal amount of savings increased almost 2.5-fold from 99.500 rubles to almost 250,000 rubles.

Despite the common delusion the people are mostly critical of the Russian army, most respondents (63%) spoke in favour of preserving universal conscription in Russia. An increasingly positive mood has been recorded here since mid-2000s (from 28% in 2002).

The share of those intending to emigrate has remained almost unchanged as compared to 1991 statistics (it dropped from 18% to 13%), while an overwhelming majority of Russians (85 percent) do not want to leave the country.

Personal protest potential has declined considerably in 2006-2013. While 24% of respondents said they were ready to take part in a protest rally in 2006, only 17% would do so in 2013.

Having drawn the conclusions, the scientists came up with a brief title for the survey - Russia Surprises. They are intending to publish the work that challenges negative stereotypes about different spheres of Russian life in several thousands of copies.

“The project is not intended to promote Russia’s image in the West, as there are other resources for this, like the Russia Today channel. This is a domestic project. The main messages to be then broadcast to the West are formulated here, by the intellectual media environment that largely controls the information,” the director of the Institute for Social Planning, Valery Fadeev, told Itar-Tass.

“I cannot question the reliability of the survey, as the WCIOM, the FOM, and the Institute for Market Research GfK-Rus are trustworthy organizations that value their reputation. The only question is how to interpret the results, because other surveys of the Russian image do not indicate Russians’ positive sentiment,” senior lecturer at the political science department of the Moscow State University, Yelena Shestopal told Itar-Tass.

“The survey Russia Surprises reflects the changes in the popular mood in the last successful decade that saw economic growth and increasing consumption rates. But this decade ended in 2011-2012. Meanwhile, the crisis of values was aggravating, so Russia ranks top by the number of families that abandon their children, wilful murders and mental illnesses,” the director of the Centre for Political Technologies, Igor Bunin, told Itar-Tass.

“The survey has discovered two societies within our country - the active minority widely represented in the press and the moral majority. While the minority, that is high-income residents of large cities, is critical and negative about the reality, the moral majority in the regions is satisfied with the way the state has turned to address their needs,” a member of the Civic Chamber, deputy rector of the Plekhanov Economics University, Sergey Markov, told Itar-Tass.

The expert has also distinguished the two groups’ specific demands: “One would like to see political censorship on the federal TV channels abolished, while the other urges the authorities to introduce moral censorship on the TV. The minority demands a visa-free regime with the European Union, while 85% of the moral majority do not travel abroad and insist Russia should build closer relations with Belarus and Ukraine.”