Russians with a More Diverse Media Diet Show Higher Opposition to Ukraine War
Russians using the social media app Telegram are more likely to oppose the invasion of Ukraine than those that only use TV as their source for news, according to University of Florida College of Journalism and Communications doctoral student Ekaterina Romanova.
Romanova is the author of “Russians With Diverse Media Diet More Likely to Oppose Ukraine War” published in The Conversation on June 14.
Romanova writes about Russian public opinion polls since Russia’s invasion of Ukraine in February 2022 and the positive support that the “special military operation” has received. She found that Russian television viewers see news programs presenting a single point of view – the government’s –claiming the Ukrainian military is killing Ukrainian civilians and destroying Ukrainian cities, while also claiming the Russia military is suffering no losses and innocent of any alleged war crimes.
The online platform Telegram claims to be secure and offers encryption and cloud storage making it difficult to determine who has posted a message. According to an analysis by Time magazine, the number of subscribers to Russian-language news channels on Telegram grew from 16 million to 24 million in the month after the invasion.
According to Romanova, “It can be hard to accurately measure public opinion in authoritarian regimes, because people are reluctant to express views the government might not approve of. In Russia after the invasion, that task became even more difficult, because of a new law punishing people who spread whatever the government determines to be ‘fake news”’ – including unfavorable facts or opinions about the military action in Ukraine.”
She adds. “it’s clear that every poll, whether government-sponsored or independent, shows a high level of public support for the action in Ukraine. The group that used Telegram was more likely than TV viewers to say they would change the decision about invading.”
“The difference is not large; however, it is significant from a statistical point of view. And it stayed statistically significant even after accounting for differences in the respondents’ genders, income and ages,” she writes. “This finding is consistent with the results of a similar analysis I did on different data from a survey in early March: Russian Telegram users are more likely to oppose the war than Russian TV viewers. Unfortunately, in more recent surveys independent research agencies have not asked about respondents’ media sources, though I’m keeping an eye open to see if any future surveys do.”