Russian voters revealed

March 10, 1995

Researchers at Keele and Glasgow universities are to prise open one of Russia's deepest secrets - how its people vote.

Matthew Wyman of Keele's politics department is being funded with Pounds 52,000 by the Leverhulme Trust to study the effects of social change on voting patterns and the rise of extreme political groups in Russia. A Glasgow research assistant will help him.

Dr Wyman is not new to this field. Having studied voting patterns in Russia's 1993 elections he knows how hard it is for some officials to give out information.

"It is difficult for a lot of officials to adjust from a culture of secrecy to a culture of openness," he says.

But he argues that new polling organisations are developing, similar to Gallup UK, that are highly professional in their approach. He can also draw on information in the 1989 census and in the Russian Central Election Commission.

"There is very little understanding of regional difference in Russia," says Dr Wyman. "It is generally perceived that the north and far east are more pro-democracy than the south, but that is about it."

A study of voting patterns in 1993 revealed what Dr Wyman calls "intriguing data on social groups". In particular, it revealed that support for Vladimir Zhirinovsky did not just come from ultra-nationalists, but also from whole towns which had relied heavily on one military factory for employment.

"The closure of such plants has a devastating effect on whole communities, which would clearly influence the way they voted. It could help to explain the move towards fascism," he said.

Russia will have parliamentary elections at the end of the year, with the presidential ballot to follow in mid 1996.

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