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A new poll finds that nearly 1 in 5 Russians believe that LGBTQ people should be “eliminated” from society.
The poll is a project of the Levada Center, which surveyed 1,614 respondents from 50 Russian regions from Feb. 20-26 to examine societal attitudes towards individuals or groups whose behavior or lifestyle deviates from social norms. The questions in the survey were based on a set of questions from a 1989 sociological study on the “Soviet common man,” which captured attitudes among citizens of the Soviet Union in the final years of its existence. Those questions have been repeated in subsequent surveys, most recently in 2015.
In the 2020 survey, the Levada Center polled people about groups that have historically been ostracized from society, and expanded the number of groups representing various segments of society, including the homeless, people with HIV/AIDS, people with disabilities, LGBTQ people, sex workers, feminists, political “extremists” or radicals, members of religious sects, and pedophiles, to name a few. Respondents were asked whether a group should be “eliminated,” isolated from society, left alone, or given assistance.
The poll results revealed that the three groups that to whom Russians are most sympathetic are homeless individuals, people with HIV/AIDS, and alcoholics. Eighty-eight percent of respondents said homeless people should be provided with assistance, compared to 79% who said the same of people with HIV/AIDs, and 74% who said the same of alcoholics.
The most hated individuals were, unsurprisingly, terrorists, pedophiles, and murderers, with 80%, 75%, and 61%, respectively, of Russian citizens saying such groups should be “eliminated.”
Russian society is still quite conservative and unaccepting about deviance in terms of sexual behavior and traditional gender roles, as sex workers, gays and lesbians, and feminists are largely not embraced. But there has been some improvement over the decades in terms of attitudes towards those considered “deviant” by society — with the exception of members of religious sects, the only group towards whom attitudes had worsened since 2015.
With respect to gays and lesbians, 18% said they should be “eliminated” from society, while 32% say they should be isolated from the larger society. Another 32% say gays and lesbians should be left alone, 9% say it’s “difficult to say,” and another 9% say they should be given greater assistance by the larger society.
On the more positive side, the 32% saying gays and lesbians should be left alone is an increase over the 24% who said the same five years ago, and the number of people saying gays and lesbians should be given assistance has increased from 6% over that same time period, reports The Moscow Times.
“The stigmatization of socially vulnerable people has decreased over the past 30 years, and norms that require helping and not isolating from them have expanded,” Karina Pipiya, a sociologist with the Levada Center, told the newspaper Kommersant in an interview, citing the role that nonprofits play in advocating for vulnerable groups as influential in changing societal attitudes.
Pipiya also noted that younger people are more tolerant of “deviant” groups than older respondents, and people with higher educational attainment are more in favor of supporting vulnerable groups than those with lower educational attainment.
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