Ryhor Astapenia
Belarus Initiative Director, Russia and Eurasia Programme, Chatham House
Belarusians’ views on the war and the impact of the fear factor on online public opinion polling
The first report of the “Belarus Narratives”.
Filip Bikanau,
Sociologist specialising in quantitative research
Konstantin Nesterovich
Master of Sociology specialising in quantitative research and data visualisation
Photo by Yohan Marion / Unsplash
The Center for New Ideas, in collaboration with Chatham House, is delighted to announce the publication of the first Belarus Narratives report.

  • Belarusians are divided in their attitudes towards the Russian war against Ukraine. However, the number of opponents to the Kremlin’s military actions slightly exceeds those who support them. Over the course of a year and a half, Belarusian public opinion regarding the war has not changed significantly, indicating a clearly delineated fracture in Belarusian society.

  • Even supporters of the war, who constitute a third of society, do not wish for Belarus to participate in it directly. An anti-war consensus has formed in Belarusian society based on the fear of military operations spilling over into Belarus and a desire for a swift resolution to the conflict.

  • Those most inclined to support the Russian army’s actions in Ukraine are individuals over 55 years old from the regions who possess a secondary education. In contrast, opponents of Russia’s actions are more often residents of Minsk with a higher education. A significant segment of the population has no specific sympathies for either side—they are most likely to be young women from the regions with a secondary education.

  • Survey results on political issues are susceptible to the influence of the fear factor, as respondents provide false answers during surveys, and the opinions of those who withdraw from surveys due to the sensitivity of the topic at hand are underrepresented. In both cases, the opinions of more neutral segments are underrepresented, unlike those of the pro-democratic core.

  • Qualitive analysis conducted through in-depth interviews shows that respondents do not perceive all topics related to politics as equally dangerous. Questions related to Belarus’s internal political life and trust in governmental institutions often cause tension. The most problematic theme for surveys is the 2020 elections and protests. The topic of Russia’s war is less sensitive, but nevertheless, some people are afraid to express their opinions on this subject, as this might give rise to interpersonal conflicts.

  • Results from in-depth interviews suggest that it can be assumed that people with a more pronounced political stance—either supporters of the regime or its opponents—tend to answer honestly.

  • If we attribute all survey withdrawals to the sensitivity of the topic and assume that all those inclined to give false answers are concealing their anti-Kremlin views, the number of pro-Ukrainian responses would be higher, as quantitative analysis shows that underrepresentation of pro-Ukrainian responses varies from 3 to 16 percentage points.

Read the report

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