Sociologists Agree—The Polls Are Lying

An international research body has found that the majority of sociologists in Russia and the CIS don’t believe the results of national polls.

Two thirds (63.5%) of experts in the sociological community of the Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS) don’t believe that the polling results reported in the mass-media are representative of public opinion. The other 36.5% consider that one way or another, nearly all poll results are representative. These figures are the result of a scientific study, completed by specialists in a department of the International Institute for Strategic Studies named “Vector”, and were presented on November 15th at a press-conference in Moscow.

The most critical responses about public opinion data came from sociologists in Russia. A mere 15% are convinced that all the data published in the mass-media is representative of the public, and another 19% think that a large part of the sociological information is accurate. The largest slice of respondents, 42%, is composed of sociologists who are only prepared to assert a small part of published results as representative. Finally, the last 24% of Russian sociologists refuse to accept any of the results of public opinion polls published in the mass-media.

Participants of the press-conference included “Vector” researchers, as well as Aleksandr Roslyakov and Andrei Khrienko, professors from the Russian State University for the Humanities (РГГУ), who commented that  present-day Russian sociological and journalistic communities are facing an ethical crisis.

According to Roslyakov, the situation in Russia is such that poll results printed in the mass-media most often don’t paint a realistic picture.  Rather, the figures are usually pre-determined by whoever orders the research. “Sociologists serve the interests of the customer,” he commented.

As a way to ameliorate the situation, specialists from “Vector” proposed that journalists and sociologists come together and sign a “Memorandum on the fundamental principles of illuminating sociological information.” This project was revealed at the press-conference.

Khrienko explained that a round-table is to be held in the near future, pairing noted Russian sociologists and representatives of the journalist community. The discussion will finalize the text of the “Memorandum” and afterwards, the document will be signed.

The sociological poll that “Vector” led took place between November 7th and 12th in Russia, Belarus, and Ukraine. The organization questioned 224 respondents, who were all professors of sociological disciplines. 85 % were professors of applied sociology, and 15% professors of standard sociology. 75% of the respondents hold advanced degrees in the field.