The Russian invasion of Ukraine is also an information war: Russia tells its own media that they can only use official state sources when reporting on the war in Ukraine. How this propaganda affects the Russian population is difficult to assess from the outside, since only one Russian opinion research institute is considered largely independent: the Levada Center.
A survey by this institute showed that in April 74 percent of those polled supported the Russian army’s action (only a slight decrease compared to March).
The Russian propaganda that Ukraine would be liberated from Nazis with the so-called “special military operation” seems to be working. This is also indicated by a survey by the US newspaper “Washington Post” from April, about seven weeks after the start of the war, the results of which have now been published.
1880 people from Ukraine were interviewed. 48 percent of respondents have at least one relative in Russia. Respondents were asked to rate on a scale from one to ten how much the Russian relatives believed the propaganda at the beginning of their conversations about the war.
The average rating of eight indicates a high level of effectiveness of the propaganda.
Elderly relatives and relatives who get their news from state television were perceived to be more influenced by the propaganda. The place of residence – big city or rural regions – makes no difference.
54 percent of those questioned stated that their exchanges with the Russian relatives had not changed their opinions influenced by the Russian media. Eight percent even stated that their relatives were even more convinced afterwards. But at least 22 percent reported a successful change in perspective. The Russian propaganda was believed “a bit” less after the talks.
16 percent even stated that the Russian media was then believed significantly less.
Of those respondents who were still in contact with their Russian relatives at the time of the survey, only 37 percent reported that the exchange had had no effect at all. Only four percent felt that the opinion of the other side had strengthened. On the other hand, 59 percent stated that the state propaganda was then believed a little or significantly less.
An estimated eleven million Russians have families in Ukraine. According to the Washington Post survey, these connections can counterbalance the extensive, systematic influence of the Russian state on the population.
Especially since the “Washington Post” also refers to the results of social research, according to which facts and logic are less important when it comes to persuasion – and more on emotional connections: You tend to believe those you like and whose perspective you can empathize with. People who are close to you and with whom an exchange takes place.