How the U.S. election is playing out in Russia
According to experts, the interest of Russians in the current presidential campaign in the United States is inferior to other topics of domestic and foreign policy.
Interest in Russia in the US presidential elections in 2020 remains, but it is noticeably lower than it was during the previous campaign. Experts interviewed by the Russian service of the Voice of America are inclined to this opinion..
At the same time, the elections in the United States overshadow the more relevant, from the point of view of Russians, recent events. According to an October survey by the Levada Center, respondents are much more concerned about, for example, the “second wave” of coronavirus and everything connected with it, as well as the development of the situation in Belarus (19% each). They are followed by the United Election Day (12%), the poisoning of Alexei Navalny (8%), the conflict in Nagorno-Karabakh (5%), and others..
Events in the United States, including elections and protests, were singled out as significant by only 1% of the respondents. Thus, this topic took a place in the second ten priorities of the interest of citizens of the Russian Federation, along with, say, the scandalous case of the artist Mikhail Efremov and the fires in the Voronezh and Rostov regions..
At the same time, however, 32% of respondents either did not decide at all about their attitude to what was happening, or found it difficult to rank events..
Sociologists explain the decline in Russians’ interest in the US elections in many respects by the fact that the outcome of the presidential campaign, in their view, no longer bodes well for any special sensations given the latest ratings of candidates. The rest of the interest is based mainly on the fear of introducing new sanctions against the Russian Federation in the event that Joe Biden comes to power..
Anti-Americanism in Russia also remains at a stable level. According to a poll by the same Levada Center, out of 82% of respondents who believe that Russia has “main” enemies, the United States is ranked among the latter (70%), followed by Ukraine (14%) and Great Britain (10%). ).
“Protests in Belarus and the situation with the pandemic overshadowed the elections in the United States for Russians”
Petersburg sociologist Maria Matskevich notes that there is little research done in Russia on the upcoming American elections. And he adds that according to the opinion poll of the Public Opinion Foundation, the Russians put the elections in the United States on one of the last places of the most significant events of recent times. “Events at the top of this list are changing very quickly,” says Matskevich. “Now, of course, these are events in Belarus and the war between Azerbaijan and Armenia – in a word, what reflects the news agenda of information channels”.
The interlocutor of the Russian service “Voice of America” also stressed that the Russian population as a whole – unlike the expert community – is not characterized by an increased interest in domestic political events abroad, with the exception of some post-Soviet states. At the same time, according to the sociologist, even in the expert environment, the activity of discussing the American elections is now incomparable with 2016..
“On the one hand, today there is no significant intrigue, and we are accustomed to Trump’s outrageousness, which was new four years ago. And partly the decline in interest in the American election campaign is explained by the information background against which it took place then and now. Russians today are more worried about, for example, the situation with the pandemic. In addition, if you look at the poll data on what feelings the US president evokes in Russians, it turns out that this is primarily indifference, partly mistrust and skepticism. And faith in any positive intentions of his, frankly speaking, is not too great, ”Maria Matskevich describes the situation..
As for the coverage of the American elections in the Russian official press, according to the sociologist, it mainly reflects the American policy towards the Kremlin: “Even Barack Obama was not always scolded in our country with the last words. It is clear that the imposition of sanctions or negative statements against Russia (from the American side) immediately evoke an easily predictable response in the Russian media “.
At the same time, if you look at the research data on the content of Russian TV channels as the main information source, then the American topic does not take the first places there either, Maria Matskevich stated..
“Among my friends on social networks, most Russians support Trump”
On the whole, the professor of the European University at St. Petersburg, an Americanist, agrees with the conclusions of Maria Matskevich. Ivan Kurilla. Assessing the content of the Russian segment of the Internet, and primarily social networks, the expert in his comments to the Russian service of the Voice of America notes: “There is interest in the presidential elections in the United States, but they are not the main topic of the information agenda. This year is so eventful that the American election campaign even 4 years ago, it seems to me, occupied a greater place in Russian debates than it does today. “.
Following the previous interlocutor of the Voice of America, the professor emphasizes that the protests in Belarus, the next change of power in Kyrgyzstan, the war in Nagorno-Karabakh and the situation with the coronavirus pandemic concern Russians much more than the question of who will be the next owner of the White House in Washington.
“But here I am proceeding from my own ‘information bubble’, so I cannot assess how this issue is used by the official propaganda,” adds Ivan Kurilla. And it is stipulated that, of course, America did not leave the field of vision of Russian politicians, experts, and ordinary citizens completely: “It’s just that a lot of different events began to happen closer to our borders, but Russians have no special expectations from the American elections. In other words, there is a feeling that any result will leave the situation at the same level. When Trump was elected four years ago, there were expectations of radical changes, but today they are not. “.
As for the mood in the expert environment, Ivan Kurilla notes: “Both Russian and American experts are represented in my information space. Moreover, I mean not only professional political scientists, but also journalists and university professors. And I got the impression that there are more people among Russians who support Trump, or at least see him as a more understandable candidate. But among my American colleagues there are many who have a better attitude towards Biden, “sums up the professor at the European University at St. Petersburg..
Nikolai Svanidze: “In the media, Trump is always served with a plus, and Biden is almost always with a minus”
According to the observations of a TV journalist, head of the journalism department of the Institute of Mass Media of the Russian State University for the Humanities, professor Nikolay Svanidze the presentation of the current American presidential campaign in the Russian media is somewhat different from how the previous “race” was covered. And there is nothing surprising in this, he believes..
“Because at that time Donald Trump was a candidate (for the presidency) with whom the Russian authorities pinned certain hopes, bet on him (another question, how justified it was),” the professor explained in a commentary for the Russian service of the Voice of America. – Hence – a kind of “enthusiasm” associated with the increased intensity of the presentation of the American election race. Now Trump is the incumbent president, but practically a lame duck. “.
However, both then and now, the Russian media “drown” for Donald Trump, says Nikolai Svanidze. And in this, in his opinion, there is already an undeniable similarity in their approach..
“That is, everything seems to be objective, but Trump is always served with a plus, and Biden is almost always with a minus,” he said. – Moreover, this happens absolutely regardless of the rating alignments of the opponents. Yes, rating messages are broadcast too. But all the same, at the same time, Biden is often reported with irony, not to say a mockery, and about Trump – rather neutrally or positively … “.
The position of the Russian authorities is reflected in the policy of the media, the journalist claims. According to him, television clearly broadcasts the mood of the Kremlin: “But officially, as usual, it is said that we will agree with any outcome of the American elections, determined by the voters, and this is absolutely correct. However, in fact, of course, there are all signs that they are “sick”, in sports terms, for Trump. This is certainly true “.
At the same time, Nikolai Svanidze noted that the general interest in the American elections in Russia “is cooling a little”, especially as Biden’s chances of becoming the new president increase and Trump’s chances of retaining his post decrease..
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