Recently there has been increasing discussion of whether opinion polls in Belarus reflect reality. Mistrust of the authorities and their institutions makes the results of state polls unreliable in the eyes of Belarusians. While independent surveys have a more reliable reputation, some consider it impossible to conduct them in the current environment.
Moreover, some people think that even in properly conducted independent studies, results can be skewed by respondents’ fear of answering political questions.
In this chapter, an attempt will be made to assess to what degree fear influences the answers to certain questions. We used several different techniques in the study to stimulate respondents' sincerity and reduce anxiety.
Concerns about the effects of fear while taking a survey on political topics are justified:
About nine per cent of respondents stop doing the survey when they reach the question at the very beginning of the questionnaire: ‘Which position is closer to you?’ (Support for the protests, neutral, support for the current government). Some of the responses from respondents also speak of concern:
Respondents’ feedback after completing the survey:
- Questions about politics are alarming, may regret answering later
- This is a very sore topic for Belarusians...
- Good survey that counts on frank answers, but many of the questions are frankly dangerous to answer
- There are a lot of sensitive questions, I will remember this survey well
We asked respondents how they thought others answered the questions: 'How sincerely do you think other people answered the questions in this study?’According to Belarusians, other survey participants were honest in 69% of cases
It can be assumed that when answering the question, respondents proceeded from their own personal level of honesty.
Thus, it can be assumed that the share of insincere answers is too high to be ignored.