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SENTENTIA. European Journal of Humanities and Social Sciences

The attitude of the Russian youth towards politics and political parties: sociological perspective just before the federal electoral cycle

Buchkova Alla

PhD in Sociology

Associate Professor, Department of Political Science and Sociology, Plekhanov Russian University of Economics

117997, Russia, g. Moscow, per. Stremyannyi, 28, k. 1, aud. 340

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Abstract: The object of this research is the youth of the modern Russia. The subject of this research is the attitude and interest of the youth towards politics as a whole, including political parties and federal level elections. The author examines the importance of political sphere for the young generation, as well as specificity of their interest towards the political processes and political parties, which at the present stage are one of the active conduits of political ideas. Special attention is given to the analysis of youth’s perception of the upcoming elections into the State Duma of Federal Assembly of Russia along with the Presidential elections. Scientific novelty lies in the comparative analysis that is based on sociological snapshots right before the federal electoral cycles of 2011-2012 and 2016-2018 with regards to the attitude of the young generation towards politics, political parties, and elections. The following trends are highlighted: the number of youth interested in political life of society on the permanent basis is decreasing; portion of those who is randomly shows interest in politics alongside those who do not show any interest in politics is increasing; the growing sympathy of the youth towards the political parties, etc. The conclusion is made that there is no significant changes are observed in the views, orientations, and interest of youth towards politics, political parties, and elections.


youth, political sphere, attitude, politics, interest, electoral cycle, political party, elections to the State Duma, Russian Presidential elections, political socialization

A new electoral cycle has started in Russia in the second half of the 2016. The Parliament elections will be held in September of 2016, and Russian citizens

will have to elect a new president in 2018. Traditionally, this is the time when various institutions and agents of influence are activated, including state political institutions, political parties, public movements, and independent political leaders. Majority of them try to include youth into the ongoing political struggle. Involvement of the young generation into the political life of the country characterizes most of the modern societies. At the same time, young people are seen not only as passive objects of influence, but also as subjects of active political transformations and reforms, including those of radical nature. Moreover, it is namely the youth’s attitude towards the political processes and political parties, which are currently some of the most active channels of political ideas, will determine the possibilities of impacting the political activity of the youth. As a result, the inquiry into the attitude of the youth towards politics and political parties seems especially relevant prior to the upcoming federal electoral cycle. Understanding and considering not only the nature of the young people’s attitude towards politics, but also the dynamics of their political views and interests, will allow forecasting the key trends in the process of political socialization of the youth, as well as in the development of the modern Russian politics as a whole.

The questions of political activity of the youth and its political socialization, as well as the youth’s attitude towards politics, specificity of their political views and orientations are being addressed in the works of Y. M. Tradina [1, p. 269-272]; O. M. Karpenko, I. A. Lamanov [2]; V. A. Dines [3, p. 3-8]; V. V. Petukhov [4]; O. N. Khlobustov [5, p. 21-26]; P. I. Babochkin [6, p. 25-29], V. S. Vatoropin [7, p. 39-43]; B. A. Ruchkin [8, p. 146-165]; A. M. Novozhilov [9].

We have set a goal to determine the main trends that are associated with the interest and attitude of the Russian youth towards politics, elections, and political parties, comparing the data against the sociological research of the 2011 and 2016.

This article presents the results of the monitoring and analytical research and sociological survey on the subject of “Specificity of the political socialization of the modern Russian youth”, conducted by the author in two stages: in 2011 with support of the Scientific research laboratory of the social issues of modern society of the department of Sociology at the M. V. Lomonosov Moscow State University, and in 2016 on the platform of the scientific laboratory “Sociopolitical analysis and forecasting” of the Politology and Sociology department at the Plekhanov Russian University of Economics.

The acquired data confirmed the fact that the political sphere in modern Russia is not that important for majority of young people, often being at the very bottom on the scale of importance. The upcoming generation gives preference to family, education and work spheres. In 2011 56% of young people surveyed highlighted the family sphere as the most important, and in 2016 that percentage increased to 68%. Another 32% selected education as the most important sphere in 2011, and 28% in 2016. The work sphere was chosen by 17% and 24% respectively, while political sphere was elected by only 3% in 2011 and 4% in 2016. Moreover, the political sphere was graded 3-5 on a on a scale from 1 to 10. Thus for majority of young people politics do not represent a high priority sphere, even despite the fact that young generation acknowledges the inevitability of the impact of political process upon their lives.

The interest towards political life in the modern Russia was expressed by 80% of the young respondents. Only 7% of respondents in 2011 and 14% in 2016 stated that they are uninterested in politics. At the same time, only 37% in 2011 and 21% in 2016 are constantly inquire about politics, and 50% and 64% respectively inquire about politics periodically. The results of the sociological research confirmed the 2011 conclusion that the interest towards politics among

significant part of the youth is unsystematic and episodic, not always substantiated by some type of strive towards political involvement or activity in the political sphere. Moreover, over the last 5 years the portion of young people uninterested in politics has increased by 7%, while the portion of those who inquire about the political life of the country periodically has increased by 14%.

On one hand, the acquired data corresponds with the opinion of many scholars, who claim that compared to the 1990’s and early 2000’s there is an increase in young people’s interest towards politics [10]. But on the other hand, this interest, as we were able to establish, carries an episodic, unsystematic character. In addition to that, research has been conducted that demonstrated the differences in the interests towards politics based on the socio-demographic characteristics. According to number of scholars, the youth is fairly monolithic in their attitude towards politics and political processes without substantial differences between separate subgroups. The significant changes are only evident between the gender of respondents (young men are more interested in politics) and financial situation (the higher the financial wellbeing, the more interest is shown towards politics) [11]. This is also confirmed by the fact that among the participants of the 2011-2012 protests, high percentage of the representatives of the middle class was recorded (68% could afford some expensive purchases, and 28% could afford an automobile) [12, p. 246-248]. By other criteria there are insignificant differences that aren’t substantial. But the acquired data allowed us to draw a conclusion on the following trends: the decrease in interests among students with high grades; strong politicization among the youth from large cities, compared to the young people from small towns and rural areas [11]. According to S. V. Kuzina, the interest of young people towards politics grows with the level of their education. Thus, among those who are always interested in politics 17% are

young people with college degrees, and only 7% with a high school diploma. But it is namely the latter that compared to those who continue their education are more politicized [13, p. 22].

The most interesting case study is with regards to not only youth’s attitude towards politics as a whole, but also to Russian political parties, which often acts as the transmitters of political values, norms, and relevant political views and orientations.

The civil society in Russia is represented by a number of organizations that reflect the interests of various categories of the country’s population. Among them, the currently significant places are held by political parties and sociopolitical movements, which are formed for the purposes of constant active participation in the political life. Political parties are oriented towards the struggle for power and act as the intermediaries between the state and civil society.

According to the current Russian legislation, a political party is a “public organization, created for the purposes of participation of the citizens of the Russian Federation in the political life of the society through formation and expression of their political will, participation in public and political actions, elections and referendums, as well as for the purposes of representation of civil interests in the branches of government and local self-governance” [14].

The political parties reach the pinnacle of their sociopolitical activity within the framework of electoral campaigns at the federal level elections. The main task of the political party – gain and retention of power – is being solved namely during such periods. The victory opens opportunity to receive representation in legislative authorities, become a member of the ruling elite, influence the process of political

decision-making and participate in controlling its execution, as well as select and establishes the administration of the executive branches of government.

As of April 1, 2012, in other words, prior to the amendments in the Federal Law “On the Political Parties” [15], only 7 political parties were officially functioning in Russia. But the number of parties is constantly growing due to the changes in legislation. Within 4 years, this number has increased by nearly 10 times and exceeded 70 (as of July 1, 2016) [16]. Many of the officially registered parties are few in numbers and are yet not very known; but nevertheless, they represent an actual political power, especially at the regional level.

Within the performed sociological research “Specificity of the political socialization of the modern Russian youth”, the question about the political preferences in both, 2011 and 2016, suggested making a choice outs of 7 parties registered prior to the legislative changes. At the same time, in 2016 the participants of the survey did not add any other parties to this list. In the context of the answer “other” in both years we can observe the manifestation of the lack of preference or interest. As a result, in 2011 the party “United Russia” was chosen by 27% of respondents, and in 2016 – already by 37%. The CPRF and LDPR in 2011 each received 11% of the votes, while in 2016 – 2% and 14% respectively. The party “A Just Russia” slightly lags with the potential support of 8% in 2011, and 9% in 2016. More than half of the respondents in 2011 (51%) and half of that in 2016 (only 24%) have chosen the version of the answer “other”, by not expressing their preference to a certain political party. As we have already noticed, most often than not the respondents were saying that they do not have any preferences or are not interested in politics. Moreover, it was determined that the youth did not perceive the political parties as the source of news about the political

life of the state, and only 4% in 2011 and 3% in 2016, selected the parties as the source used for information.

Thus, we can conclude that the interest towards the political parties among youth is gradually growing. At the same time, the quarter of the respondents did not express their preferences to one or another party, which can testify about their political apathy or lack of trust towards the selected political parties. Therefore, the political parties being one of the active transmitters of the political norms and values, as well as exemplary behavior within the framework of the political processes, certainly affect the attitude of the youth towards the political life of the country along with the interest of young generation as a whole.

However, the situation can transform in the nearest future due to the possible changes in composition of the political parties in the parliament after the elections; according to the data of the Central Election Commission of the Russian Federation, 21 political parties are allowed to participate in the State Duma elections. The elections will be held in compliance with the mixed electoral system [18], which can also influence the results by changing the number of the parties that have their representatives in the State Duma of the Federal Assembly of the Russian Federation.

In addition to that, the leading political parties in Russia acting as the agents of political socialization of the youth are interested in their reproduction and renewal by means of recruiting the future members of their organization from the youth environment, as well as create certain movements as a functional niche [13, p. 22] – the youth wings of political parties. Such trends also contribute into the increase of importance of the political parties during the process of inclusions of the young generation into the country’s political life.

Peculiar attention deserves the analysis of the attitude of the youth towards the State Duma election of the current year, as well as the Presidential elections which will be held in 2018.

Assessing in 2011 the upcoming elections into the State Duma of the Federal Assembly of the Russian Federation , 59% of respondents noted that reelection of the parliament will lead to the decrease in living standards. But 53% indicated that the elections “will not make any changes”. In 2016, 23% of the polled underlined the decrease in the living standards, and only 21% believed that the elections will not produce any changes. As far as the upcoming Presidential elections of 2012, more than half of the respondents (55%) have also stated that the elections will not lead to any changes; in 2016 – 33% of respondents stated as such. Therefore, we can follow the trend towards the decline in the portion of young adults who believe that the elections are ineffective, or express the negative attitude towards them.

Only 4% of the surveyed youth are indifferent about the influence of the 2011 State Duma elections upon the development of state and society; 3% of respondents share same feelings with regards to the Presidential elections in 2012. As to the federal elections of 2016 and 2018, the percentage is a little higher: 4% are indifferent towards the 2016 State Duma elections, and 7% – towards the Presidential elections of 2018, perhaps due to their significant remoteness. However, we can claim that youth’s interest in the outcome of the elections is growing.

According to number of scholars, the youth considers the President to be the central political institution. In the opinions on the current President there is a clear controversy of political orientations of the young people in modern Russia. The presidential administration is viewed by the young generation as a factor capable of countering and neutralizing the negative influence of Russia’s other political institutions. Thus, at the Presidential elections of 2008 and 2012 the support for current administration from the youth was rather high; this in turn confirms that young people could see themselves grow within the framework of the present course [19, p. 149-145]. We can suppose that this support remained fairly high even today, especially due to the fact that the youth actively supports the Russian foreign policy, which is viewed as an intrinsic component of the Presidential office.

The current global processes are greatly defined by the geopolitical factors. Geopolitical approaches are used everywhere for achieving strategic goals in foreign policy [20, p. 144], as well as influencing the domestic processes at home or abroad. This claim is also proper with regards to Russia. Moreover, the young generation supports the decision of current Russian administration regarding its foreign policy. In particular, over 57% of respondents support Russia’s annexation of Crimea, counter-sanctions with regards to EU, U. S., Canada, Australia, Japan, and other countries (48%), as well as support of Syria in the fight against “ISIL” (DAESH) (56%). The disproval towards these processes was expressed by 11, 15, and 8% of young people respectively. It would be logical to suppose that the support towards the foreign policy has also affected the nature of youth’s attitude towards politics as a whole, as well as the upcoming Presidential elections. An interesting fact is that only 3% of the young people surveyed in 2016 believe that the Presidential elections will lead to a lower living standard, while 6% have expressed this opinion in 2011.

Thus, as a result of the conducted sociological survey “Specificity of the political socialization of the modern Russian youth”, we were able to establish that overall there are no significant changes in the views, orientations, and interest of

youth towards politics and political parties. In addition to that, there are emerging trends towards certain shifts in this direction.

In particular, there is a decreasing number of young people who are constantly interested in the political life of the country, while there is growing number of young men and women who are interested in the politics periodically or are completely disinterested. Therefore, there are fewer young people who are systematically and deeply interested in the events of the political life. We can thus suppose that the young generation will be interested in bright political events, acts and movements that do not require deep knowledge and preparation. The political leaders will also be assessed by the same principle.

Despite the fact that the youth’s sympathy towards political party is growing, they are still not being the socializing agents within the framework of the political sphere. The appearance of new parties on the political arena that are oriented towards the young audience, solution of issues of studying and working youth, as well as formation of perception of positive importance of political parties and their role in the process of positive economic and social reforms in the public opinion can increase the socializing potential of all political parties.

And finally, there is a decreasing portion of young people who are indifferent towards elections, who believe that the federal elections will not lead to changes in the society, and are oriented towards changes for the worst after the upcoming parliamentary and presidential elections. In other words, such form of political participation as realization of active electoral right is not being rejected by the young generation; instead, the interest towards the elections is growing.

The determined trends allow us to conclude that with absence of external intervention the federal electoral cycle of 2016-2018 will be rather predictable

from the perspective of both, the involvement of youth, and manifestation of their political activeness. In the future we are planning to go more in-depth on the specificity of the political participation of Russia’s modern youth in order to highlight the most interesting and demanded forms of the youth’s inclusion into the political life of the country.

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