The atmosphere of Russia’s offensive war and internal repression raises important questions about how to accurately gauge public opinion. In fact, regardless of whether the data were gathered in a democratic or autocratic setting, the reliability and validity of any public opinion surveys need to be considered, along with the social context in which the research was conducted.
There are two areas where academic research can contribute to broader knowledge about public opinion surveys. The first involves research about opinion formation in general, particularly in non-democratic contexts. The second concerns the more technical aspects of conducting survey research in contemporary Russia. Both bodies of research suggest that the differences between open and repressive societies in how opinions are formed and publicly conveyed are not very significant.
In fact, survey research is challenging from a technical perspective independent of regime type. If we take these findings seriously,