DEMOSCOPE Bureau of Public Opinion Express Monitoring conducted a survey of citizens on the topic of The Russian Invasion of Ukraine.
By a certain method of representative sampling, respondents from all regions of Kazakhstan of different ages and gender were asked to answer sensitive questions about current events and indicate their vision the development vector of Kazakhstan. 1,100 citizens agreed to participate in the survey: 77% of them preferred to answer in Russian, 23% – in Kazakh. The language of the survey does not indicate the ethnicity or primary-speaking language of the respondent. Accordingly, the terms a “Kazakh-speaking” or “Russian-speaking” respondent are used conditionally in the study, denoting only the language in which the survey was conducted. Most of the respondents (47%) are in the age range of 25 to 44.
According to the results of the study, there is no dominant opinion among the respondents regarding the definition of conflict. 36% of respondents are convinced that a “Russian military operation against the Nazis” is currently underway in Ukraine. 26% believe that there is “a war between Russia and Ukraine to prevent the deployment of NATO troops there.” 13% perceive it as “a war between Russia and Ukraine with view to its further annexation.”
It is noteworthy that the language of the response significantly affects the perception of the conflict. The marker “military operation” was preferred by 39% of Russian-speaking respondents and 27% of Kazakh-speaking ones.
In the context of this survey, it is significant that the language factor can influence choices and preferences in such polarized situations. For example, answering the question “Which side of the conflict do you support?” only 10% of respondents chose Ukraine. Among the Kazakh-speaking respondents, Ukraine was chosen by 20%, and among the Russian-speaking respondents, three times less – 6%. A similar gap among Russian supporters is 20% and 45%, respectively.
39% of respondents support Russia in this war. Almost half (46%) are neutral. Gender preferences do not have such a range, but it can be seen that men (58%) are more for Ukraine and less (46%) for Russia.
When analyzing the results, you should also pay attention to the following factors. The organizers of the survey identify the opinions of citizens, regardless of their language of communication, based on the need to measure public sentiment in general. During the survey, no one insists on the choice of language, it is chosen by the respondents themselves. The choice of any language does not automatically mean the corresponding ethnicity of the respondent. For example, some bilingual respondents may prefer to respond in Russian due to the complexity of terminology and other reasons. Therefore, the terms “Russian-speaking” or “Kazakh-speaking” respondent in the study are rather arbitrary and refer only to the language in which the respondents answered the questions.
The survey participants were also asked to choose how Kazakhstan should react in this situation. Only 6% chose to support Ukraine and develop partnerships with Western countries. 14% chose to strengthen the union of Turkic states, 12% chose to build up military potential, while 36% to support Russia and develop partnerships with the EAEU countries. Only supporters of neutrality (39%) turned out to be more numerous.
An extremely important indicator was the assessment of the likelihood of such a conflict between Russia and Kazakhstan. 65% of survey participants are convinced that such a conflict is not possible. Such optimists are mostly women (58%), Russian-speaking respondents (72%) and, to a lesser extent, Kazakh-speaking respondents (39%).
In total, a quarter of Kazakhstanis admit the possibility of military aggression from Russia. These are mostly men (61%). 38% of the Kazakh-speaking respondents unequivocally admit such a possibility, and to a much lesser extent Russian-speaking respondents (9%).
The cross-section of opinions about the prospects for cooperation with Russia is also extremely important. 70% of respondents are not embarrassed by either the sanctions or the conflict itself. They are sure that in spite of everything Russia is the main strategic partner of Kazakhstan. Only 10% of those polled negatively evaluate cooperation with the northern neighbor and believe that it is necessary to withdraw from all integration alliances with Russia
Of the possible economic consequences of the war in Ukraine for Kazakhstan, the most obvious participants in the survey see inflation (42%), and 15% are even sure that there will be no special consequences. 10% believe that Kazakhstan, as a partner of Russia, may face secondary economic sanctions.
The study also revealed what citizens think about the migration of Russians to Kazakhstan as a result of sanctions and other factors. In total, the majority of respondents (59%) have a positive attitude towards the resettlement of Russians. Of these, more than a third (34%) support the traditions of hospitality, according to which Kazakhstan has always welcomedpeople who were forced to leave their homeland. 14% expressed some concerns and agree with the migration of Russians, only under the condition of a thorough check of their political views. 11% think more pragmatically and see this as an opportunity to attract new specialists to Kazakhstan.
18% of Kazakhstanis spoke out against possible migration. They are convinced that this can provoke interethnic and economic tensions.
In the context of the information war, which can also be observed by people in Kazakhstan, one of the most important factors influencing the public perception of the situation in Ukraine is the sources of information. According to the DEMOSCOPE survey, 39% of citizens most often use Kazakhstani media. At the same time, almost a quarter of respondents (23%) consume Russian news. Only 2% trust the Ukrainian media and 1% use the Western ones. One third of the respondents (35%) answered that they receive news from various sources.
The DEMOSCOPE study showed not only rather significant discrepancy in the perception of the situation in Ukraine, depending on the language spoken by the citizens of Kazakhstan.
To the greatest extent, the results of the survey may indicate an excessive dependence of the audience on the influence of the Russian media, an obvious imbalance of information sources for Kazakhstanis. In this situation, it is hardly possible to speak about the independence of the national information policy and the ability of the authorities to at least diversify the media landscape in accordance with the concept of multi-vector approach. This noticeably weakens the resistance of the Kazakh audience to the effects of propaganda, in this case, aggressive war, which is prohibited by the Kazakh criminal code and was condemned by the world community.
Obviously, in the perception of people in Kazakhstan, the aggressive narratives of the Russian media more confidently form the information field than the less distinct rhetoric of Akorda and the official media. In this situation, it seems an urgent task to increase the level of media literacy of citizens, including in the field of the ability to deconstruct propaganda, resist disinformation and fakes.
Press release and infographics in Kazakh and Russian are available here.
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Methodology: From March 15 to March 27, 2022, 1,100 people were interviewed in 14 regions and cities – Nur-Sultan, Almaty, and Shymkent. The survey was conducted in the Kazakh and Russian languages by phone calls to landline numbers. The survey involved 53% of men and 47% of women over 18 years old. The basis for the sample was the subscriber base of stationary telephone numbers in Kazakhstan. For this sample, the maximum size of the statistical error with a probability of 95% does not exceed 3%. The telephone survey was carried out by the KT Cloud Lab LLP contact center.
The project is implemented by MediaNet International Center for Journalism with the support of Konrad Adenauer Foundation. The survey data reflects the views of the respondents. For more information, please contact Snezhana Tsoy: firstname.lastname@example.org.