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More on Obama’s visit to Russia: What does the Russian public think?

We have already seen that Russian mainstream media have mostly neglected the meeting between Obama, Putin, and Medvedev, and the blogosphere was more interested in beer than in the US-Russia relationships. While the mainstream media can be viewed as the voice of the government and the bloggers as online elite, one can still wonder what did ordinary Russians think about this visit.

There is limited public opinion data about that. In June, the Analytical Center Levada ran two relevant surveys prior to Barak Obama’s visit. In the first, they asked about the Russians’ attitudes towards the US and in the second specifically towards Obama. It seems that the Russian attitude towards the US is cooling down. In May, only 36% of the respondents expressed a generally positive attitude, compared to 50% who expressed a generally negative attitude. Interestingly, however, when asked about their attitudes towards “Americans”, 68% expressed positive attitudes compared to only 22% who expressed negative attitudes. In the graph below you can see an index of Russian attitudes towards the US (not sure how it is calculated, but the general trend is consistent with the rest of the data).

Index of attitudes towards USA

Russian Attitudes towrds US

(Source: Levada Center)

Similar trends can be found in a survey conducted by the Public Opinion Foundation (FOM). There, prior to the visit, 62% of the respondents viewed the global role of the US as negative, and only 12% viewed is as positive. Also, 64% of the respondents viewed the US as an unfriendly to Russia country and only 18% viewed it as friendly.

Consistent with the attitudes towards the US, Levada data suggests that most Russians (65%) view the US-Russian relations as normal or “cool”. Majority (57%) of the respondents did not think that Obama replacing George W. Bush as the president of the US changed anything in the US-Russia relations, but 28% believed it would have a positive meeting. Also, 42% of the respondents expressed optimism that the meeting between Putin and Medvedev will have a positive impact on the US-Russia relations, while 39% thought it would make no difference. At the same time, according to FOM survey 24% of the respondents reported a positive attitude towards Obama, as opposed to 9% who reported a negative attitude (54% did not have any opinion).

How will the relationships between Russia and USA change following the June meeting between the two presidents.

Russian Opinion about the prospects of the meeting

(Source: Eurasian Home)

Some post-visit data provided by FOM suggests that Obama’s visit actually had positive impact on the Russian attitudes towards the US. To start with, 40% of the respondents viewed the results of the meeting as important (as opposed to 18% who thought the results were insignificant). Prior to the visit, only 18% of Russians viewed the US as a friendly to Russia, after the visit this percentage went up to 31%. Also, the percentage of those who view the global role of the US as positive went from 12% to 23%.

It is really interesting to see that despite the very limited media attention, Obama’s visit was the main media event of the week for the Russian people. 19% of the respondents viewed Obama’s visit as the most important event covered in the media during that week, placing it in the first place. This is almost twice as much as the percentage of people who expressed the same opinion about the G8 summit in Italy (10%) and Michael Jackson’s death (6%) – the other leading topics of that week. For comparison, during the previous week, Michael Jackson’s death was the leading media event, but with only 8% of the respondents indicating it as such. Yet, we should take these numbers in context, as 53% could not identify a leading media event of the week at all.

“During the last week, what event reported in the media drew most of your attention or was the most interesting?” (open question)

Russian Public Opinion July15

(Source: FOM)

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