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Reading Between the Data: The Truth About Russian Sentiment

Reading Between the Data: The Truth About Russian Sentiment

As Russia has grown more isolated from the rest of the world due to social media shutdowns, communication cutoffs, and global companies withdrawing operations, we need to work harder to understand what the Russian people think and believe.

At Kivvit, we uncovered public sentiment through our data-driven analysis of social media conversation, audience engagement with news coverage, and understanding spheres of influence. Given the lack of access to the Russian people and their inability to express themselves honestly via digital channels, we navigated these issues based on various sources of the most credible data available to draw conclusions.

We’ve identified 5 key themes:

  1. Putin’s propaganda is working. A majority of Russians are pro-Putin and support the actions of the Armed Forces of Russia in Ukraine.

  2. Russian comfort with discomfort. Over 60% of Russians say Western sanctions have not affected them, however, they do believe their financial situation will worsen in the next 12 months.

  3. Search behavior shows Russians’ most proactive interest. While broad searches about Putin are down, specific searches about Putin’s health is up.

  4. Brain drain and a looming recession signal darker days to come. The economic impact of sanctions coupled with increased search interest in emigration suggests the Russian economy will suffer for years to come in part as educated, middle class Russians with financial means to leave the country.

  5. Putin’s art of distraction. After analyzing online engagement with headlines from Russia Today – a Kremlin-owned media outlet – since the February 24th invasion, we uncovered that trending stories reinforce the Russian government’s key propaganda points in communications, including Russia’s solid partnership with India, Russia’s energy capacity as a weakness for Western Europe, as well as the increased value of the Ruble. 

In Russian there are two words for truth, “pravda,” which means truth that appears on the surface and “istina,” meaning certain, unshakeable truth.

Given the indicators we have found, it is fair to say that Putin’s messaging appears to be ringing true, or pravda, for a majority of Russians. We also know the deeper, istina: there is much more to learn, for the world and for the Russian people navigating their growing information desert.

 

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Methodology: Kivvit analyzed the most credible available public data of Russian sentiment, including polling, news coverage, and expert commentary to draw conclusions and identify trends. Kivvit also analyzed Google Searches from users based in Russia around six topics: Putin, Ruble, Emigration, Employment, Inflation, and Sanctions. Each category includes various queries (including Russian language) determined by Google’s taxonomy.