Qantar: the overwhelming majority of the surveyed people in Kazakhstan condemn the shooting and torture of protesters

More than half of citizens do not trust official information

From December 29, 2022 to January 14, 2023, the DEMOSCOPE Public Opinion Express Monitoring Bureau and PaperLab Research Center conducted a survey of citizens on the topic of What People in Kazakhstan Think of the January events.

The tragic events of January were the most significant shock for the majority of people in Kazakhstan in 2022. International human rights organizations have sharply condemned the actions of the Kazakh authorities – shootings, mass detentions and torture of protesters. DEMOSCOPE Bureau studied public opinion a year after the tragic events.  The study touched upon the most controversial decisions of the authorities, as well as the perception and forecasts of people in Kazakhstan.

According to the survey, 71.1% of citizens disapprove of Tokayev’s order to shoot protesters to kill. While 11.3%, on the contrary support this decision. 11.1% found it difficult to answer, and 6.5% did not know anything about it at all.

It is important to note that 71.6% of Kazakhstan people also condemn the use of torture. 7.1% of respondents who justify the use of torture oppose them. 12.5% could not answer, and 8.8% did not know anything about it.

A key indicator of public opinion is the level of confidence in the information broadcast by official sources regarding the January events. In total more than half (53%) do not trust the reports of the authorities including 30.8% of those who do not trust at all and 22.2% rather do not trust. Whereas, in total, about a third of citizens (29.6%), on the contrary, trust official sources of information including 13.7% of those who fully trust and 15.9% rather trust.

It is characteristic that in the assessment of the January tragedy, there is still no consensus in society. Thus, more than a third (37.9%) are convinced that it was a provocation organized by some political forces to seize power in the country.  27.7% believe that it was a peaceful protest, which in some places turned into riots and looting. 14.6% believe that the country was attacked by terrorists who tried to destabilize the situation. 3.8% see another reason in what happened. 15.9% found it difficult to answer.

In an attempt to resolve the situation in many cities, local authorities have used the tactics of forceful dispersal, which increased the resistance and discontent of the protesters. At the same time, 42.2% of respondents consider the forceful suppression of protests acceptable. They are opposed by 36.8% of respondents who do not approve of the dispersal of the rally by force. 

Tokayev’s decision on the introduction of CSTO troops became very resonant. The survey showed that the step of the president is more often disapproved of by Kazakhstan people. Thus, 43.6% of the survey participants reported that they do not support the introduction of the CSTO contingent, while 36.8% of respondents approve of this decision.

In some cities, in an attempt to resolve the conflict, akims went out to the protesters for negotiations. The majority of respondents (64.8%) approve of this approach, while 14.6%, on the contrary, do not support such an initiative. 

Moreover, as a measure to suppress riots in Almaty and Astana, the authorities completely turned off access to the Internet.  This has limited citizens’ access to information about the events taking place. Significantly, regarding the expediency of disabling the Internet, the opinions of citizens were divided almost equally – 44% of respondents do not approve of a total shutdown, and 43.2%, in turn, support it.

Besides, as part of the DEMOSCOPE survey, an analysis of the emotional perception of citizens who survived the tragic January was carried out. During the survey, respondents were asked to name the feelings they have when they recall the events of January. The question involved multiple choice. So, most often respondents experience fear and anxiety (33.3%), feel condolence (26%), sadness (13.5%), indignation (8.2%), disappointment (6.1%), injustice (5.6%) and anger (3.7%). Less than 2% experience irritation, apathy, hatred, aggression. Interestingly, that respondents feel pride and trust the least.

The tragic events of January became the bloodiest protests in the history of modern Kazakhstan. An important stage of comprehension and reflection is the search for those responsible. About a third of citizens (28.4%) are convinced that the country’s top leadership (the president and the presidential administration) are more responsible for the tragic outcome of the January protests. In turn, 21.3% are convinced that the citizens themselves are to blame for the tragedy.  11.3% tend to blame law enforcement agencies; and 5.2% – local akims. 10.5% see other reasons for what happened.

As part of the survey, citizens were asked if they personally feel any changes over the past year in the governance of the country. The majority of respondents (39.3%) noted that they do not experience significant changes, but believe in them in the future. They are opposed by 24.7% who are convinced that there are no changes and will not be. The same number of citizens (24.6%) believe that positive changes are obvious. 6.5% are convinced that it has become worse than before.

The final, but no less important question of the study found out the probability of a repeat of events similar to January in the future. So 31% of respondents admit a repeat of the tragedy with a probability of 50/50. In total, 36% are convinced that the probability of repetition is very low. 13.7%, on the contrary, are convinced that the risk of a repeat of events is quite high. 

The results of a survey by the DEMOSCOPE Bureau and PaperLab Research Center showed that more than half of people in Kazakhstan do not trust official information and tend to blame the country’s top leadership and law enforcement agencies for the tragic outcome. Society does not approve of the order to shoot to kill and mass torture of detainees. After a year, citizens still feel fear, anxiety and condolence, remembering the tragedy.

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Methodology: From December 29, 2022 to January 14, 2023, 1,047 people were interviewed in 17 regions and cities of republican significance (Astana, Almaty, Shymkent). The survey was conducted by telephone interviews among mobile subscribers in Kazakhstan. The sample was based on a database of numbers obtained using a random number generator. A total of 1,047 respondents aged 18 and over were interviewed. 54.2% of men and 45.8% of women over 18 years old took part in the survey. 60.3% preferred to answer in Russian, 39.7% – in Kazakh. At the same time, 69.9% of respondents are Kazakhs, 16.1% are Russians and 13.9% are representatives of other ethnicities. The data is weighted by parameters such as gender and age of respondents. The maximum margin of error with a 95% probability does not exceed 3%. The respondents’ reachability level (response rate) was 12%.

This survey was implemented by MediaNet International Centre of Journalism with the financial support of the Konrad Adenauer Foundation and in partnership with PaperLab Research Center. The survey data reflect the respondents’ point of view. For more information, please contact Snezhana Tsoy:

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