Trust and Heterogeneity in Putin's Russia - Testing the "New Middle Class" Hypothesis

February 1, 2013 - 17:30 - 19:00
Nador u. 9, Faculty Tower
Event type: 
Event audience: 
Open to the Public
Alexander Bor
CEU contact person: 
Constantin Manuel Bosancianu

The main goal of this paper is to scrutinize the Russian public opinion to see whether recent events signify the existence of substantial cleavages in the public’s perception of the authorities. The “new middle class”-hypothesis is tested by inspecting whether there are social groups which differ significantly in their trust-attitudes from the rest of the society. We suggest that meaningful variance in political trust should reflect genuine social differences. We find that contrary to the expectations, there is little empirical evidence for the “new middle class”-hypothesis. Members of this class – highly educated, young city-dwellers – are not significantly more critical of the regime and tend to appreciate economic performance just as highly as the rest of society does. We argue that if there is a class whose trust does not depend on their evaluation of the economy, it is a class of unconditional supporters of the regime. Our paper provides some important contributions to the field of knowledge. First, our findings have important implications for Russian politics highlighting the importance of finding a social base for the newly emerged opposition movements, as the “new middle class” might not be supportive in its current form. Second, it provides some new insights to Russian public opinion by inspecting the heterogeneity in society, thus emphasising the importance of addressing questions about differences in public opinion on a sub-national level. Third, it demonstrates how new advanced statistical methods can be used effectively to scrutinise heterogeneity in society.