Levada Centre: most Russians have never heard of ‘foreign agent’ law
The Levada Centre carried out sociological research into citizens’ attitudes toward the Law on Foreign Agents.
According the results of research carried out by the Levada Centre, 73% of respondents have never heard anything about the enactment of the Law on Foreign Agents. Approximately 20% of those surveyed had heard of the law but did not have a concrete understanding of what it meant. Only 2% of respondents said they thoroughly understood the issue.
“Included in the small percentage of those who know about the law are the more active and better informed members of society, who are also likely to have a ‘liberal’ outlook. We can also assume that this is the most liberal segment of society; these people have an active civic position (for example through volunteering or charity work etc.) combined with a critical view of the authorities, and they also regularly read, watch or listen to independent Russian media. It is for this exact group of people that the issue is most significant, which cannot be said for the rest of the population,” explained the researchers.
Among those who know that the Law on Foreign Agents exists, 56% think that the law is aimed at “limiting the negative influence of the West on our country”; and 26% that the law is a means of “putting pressure on independent civil society”.
57% of respondents felt the term “foreign agent” evoked negative connotations; 33% felt neutrally towards the term, and only 3% felt the term had positive associations. By posing an open question (i.e. that people could respond without any prompts from the questionnaire), the researchers noted that the most common category of association was linked to espionage.
40% of those surveyed responded that grants from European charitable foundations are an ”unacceptable” source of finance for Russian NGOs. 29% held the opposite point of view. A parallel question concerning grants from American charitable foundations elicited a similar response.
The Levada Centre research is based on ta sample of 1600 people aged 18 or over in 137 towns in 48 regions of Russia. In 2013, sociologists published results of research showing that Russian citizens are poorly informed about NGOs’ activities.