In 2003, sociologists at the Levada Center, an independent public opinion research organization that has been producing polling data since the perestroika era, survived a hostile takeover. More recently they have been accused of inflating President Vladimir Putin’s approval ratings, which topped 80 percent following the annexation of Crimea.
But that apparently was not enough to save them. In early September, Russia’s justice ministry added the Levada Center to its ever growing register of “foreign agents” – organizations that ostensibly carry out political activities while receiving funds from abroad. The decision effectively bars the group from dealing with state institutions and creates a public image of them as mercenaries paid by foreign powers to undermine Russian state security.
Needless to say, neither of these consequences are compatible with the role of pollster publishing regular dispatches on everything from political preferences to how often Russians use the internet.
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