Individual experience of the first wave of the COVID-19 pandemic and political support in Russia: evidence from the Values in Crisis survey

Individual experience of the first wave of the COVID-19 pandemic and political support in Russia:
evidence from the Values in Crisis survey

Sokolov B.O.,

HSE University, St. Petersburg, Russia,

elibrary_id: 690118 | ORCID: 0000-0002-5151-8147 | RESEARCHER_ID: L-6331-2015

Zavadskaya M.A.,

Finnish Institute of International Affairs, Helsinki, Finland; HSE University, St. Petersburg, Russia,

elibrary_id: 787846 | ORCID: 0000-0002-3728-4073 | RESEARCHER_ID: O-1815-2016

Article received: 2021.11.11. Accepted: 2022.11.17

DOI: 10.17976/jpps/2023.04.11

Rubric: Russia today

For citation:

Sokolov B.O., Zavadskaya M.A. Individual experience of the first wave of the COVID-19 pandemic and political support in Russia: evidence from the Values in Crisis survey. – Polis. Political Studies. 2023. No. 4. P. 152-167. (In Russ.). EDN: YGPVWJ

The article was prepared in the framework of a research grant funded by the Ministry of Science and Higher Education of the Russian Federation (grant ID: 075-15-2022-325).


The article explores how the individual experience of the first wave of the COVID-19 pandemic affected the attitudes of Russians towards the country’s political system. Specifically, we use data from an online survey conducted in mid-June 2020 as part of the international research project ‘Values in Crisis’. The sample size is 1,527 respondents. The sample is representative in terms of gender and, to a somewhat lesser extent, age (as per the Russian census of 2010), although low-educated respondents and rural residents are somewhat undersampled. The dependent variable of interest is a composite index of political support that consists of four indicators: individual confidence in (1) government, (2) healthcare sector, and (3) institutions in general, as well as (4) evaluation of the efficiency of governmental efforts in handling the coronacrisis. Regression analysis demonstrates that the negative economic experience (job loss, transition to part-time job, or bankruptcy) during the initial stages of the pandemic, as well as the direct experience of the disease, are very weakly, if at all, connected to the confidence in national institutions and approval of anti-pandemic policies. The fear to contract the virus, or that respondents’ close ones would contract the virus, positively correlates with the level of political support. In its turn, anxiety about potential material losses is negatively associated with the index of support. Interestingly, COVID-19 sceptics, i.e. persons who do not view the coronavirus as a real threat or doubt its very existence, demonstrate systematically lower levels of political support. Yet, it remains unclear whether covid-skepticism causes institutional distrust or whether both variables simply reflect deeper hidden disappointment with the existing socio-political order.

political support, pandemic, COVID-19, retrospective voting, ‘rally-round-the-flag’ effect, institutional trust (confidence), COVID-19-scepticism.


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Content No. 4, 2023

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