Program 2021

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Societal Effects of the COVID-19 Pandemic in Russia Compared to Other European Countries

Session Organisers Dr Natalia Soboleva (Laboratory for Comparative Social Research Higher School of Economics)
Dr Anna Shirokanova (Laboratory for Comparative Social Research Higher School of Economics)
Dr Margarita Zavadskaya (Aleksanteri Institute University of Helsinki, Laboratory for Comparative Social Research Higher School of Economics)
TimeFriday 2 July, 15:00 - 16:30

Coronavirus pandemic has had a profound impact on social life, resulting in higher mortality, changing lifestyles, and decrease in well-being. However, the impact varies by country. There were about 200,000 corona-related deaths in 2020 in Russia, which makes it one of the most heavily hit countries in Europe. Welfare protection measures have been scarce though, focusing largely on families with children. Russia is also one of the most authoritarian regimes in Europe. How exactly have these structural and situational cross-country differences affected mass-level reactions to the coronavirus crisis? This panel presents five studies based on the first wave of the “Values in Crisis” project to explore how the pandemic has influenced values and attitudes. The goal of the panel is to put the Russian experience of the pandemic into a broader context by comparing it to what has been going on in other European countries.

Keywords: COVID-19 pandemic, ViC, online panel, comparative research, values, attitudes, Russia, Europe

Do online surveys help to measure liberal attitudes in conservative contexts?: A comparison of the results of an online and face-to-face survey in Russia

Dr Violetta Korsunova (Laboratory for Comparative Social Research Higher School of Economics) - Presenting Author
Dr Boris Sokolov (Laboratory for Comparative Social Research Higher School of Economics)

The current project aims to compare the quality of data and the substantive results of the online survey "Value in Crisis" to the respective results of the World Values Survey wave 7 in Russia. Online surveys offer several advantages over traditional interviews, as they are low-cost, less time-consuming, and minimize the interviewer effects. The latter one is especially important since it makes online surveys an effective tool in gathering information about sensitive topics including value orientations, which may be invaluable when fieldwork is conducted in hostile, authoritarian, or conservative contexts where one may expect strong pressure on respondents in order to provide socially desirable responses. However, online surveys have their own shortcomings and limitations. In particular, they seldom use representative samples and therefore tend to provide biased estimates of various quantities of interest, such as mean scores on some attitudinal indicators or regression coefficients. The ViC survey provides an unique opportunity to test how large can be the differences in the results between online and offline surveys in an authoritarian society, such as modern Russia, as its questionnaire is designed to resemble that of the WVS. To test the differences, we compared the distributions of the socio-demographic profiles of the respondents in the two surveys to each other and also to the results of the latest available Census data (from 2010). We found that the ViC sample is representative by age and gender; yet, it has fewer low-educated respondents and those living in the rural area. Furthermore, the results indicate the presence of measurement invariance of choice and equality values between the surveys. At the same time, the mean values of both choice and equality values are greater in ViC in all socio-demographic groups which raise further questions about methodological features of online surveys.

Subjective well-being as a result of labor market status change in the era of coronavirus pandemic

Dr Natalia Soboleva (Laboratory for Comparative Social Research Higher School of Economics) - Presenting Author

The ongoing coronavirus pandemic has strongly affected the labor market. A lot of people lost their jobs, had to cut their working hours or started working from home. Undoubtedly, these changes should influence the level of subjective well-being of the affected individuals. Job loss and cutting working hours should result in decreasing subjective well-being whereas working from home (WFH) might affect life satisfaction in different ways. On one hand, WFH reduces social contacts with colleagues and makes the balance between work and family life more difficult. On the other hand, WFH allows saving time while commuting, increases job freedom, gives more opportunities for spending time with family and reduces health risks, which needs looking into. The objective of the current research is to reveal the factors that could explain the effect of the labor market status change upon individual subjective well-being. More specifically, we look at the direct effects of various changes of the labor market status on well-being and also explore the moderating role of several socio-demographic characteristics, as well as individual values and big five personality traits in the effect of labor market status change upon subjective well-being. Our data were collected in May-June of 2020 in 11 countries using an online survey. At this stage we focus on the sample from Russia (1527 respondents).
Our results show that those who lost their jobs have a lower level of subjective well-being than those who did not lose their jobs although the effect is not very strong. It could be due to the fact that at the time of the survey (mid-June 2020) the scope of the pandemic and the scale of its consequences had not yet been evident for the Russian population. WFH or being reduced to part-time work does not have any effect upon life satisfaction. Among the socio-demographic variables, having children has a largest moderating effect. For individuals without children job loss reduces life satisfaction stronger than for individuals without children. At the same time WFH negatively affects life satisfaction for individuals without children. Individuals without children are more satisfied with life when they work part-time. To observe and explain these effects of having children we will take into account the age of individuals. No moderating effects of gender, educational level and level of income were found. Job loss negatively affects life satisfaction of unmarried individuals and does not have any effect on well-being of those who are married. Individuals with strong self-enhancement values (that include power and achievement, in terms of S. Schwartz’s values theory) have a stronger drop in life satisfaction when they experience job loss. The effect of job loss upon life satisfaction is also moderated by extraversion and conscientiousness personality traits. In the presentation we will also discuss whether the results we found are specific for Russia or resemble the other European countries.

Religiosity and Confidence in Healthcare System During the Pandemic

Dr Anna Shirokanova (Laboratory for Comparative Social Research Higher School of Economics) - Presenting Author

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Over a year into the pandemic, there is a perspective of mass vaccination as a way to contain the spread of Covid-19 and to mitigate behavioral regulations. The success of vaccination will partly depend on public trust in healthcare system. Religious communities are in a special position as they have higher social capital, but are also more likely to continue meetings and believe in non-medical cures. Previous research has already shown that social capital plays an ambivalent role in the pandemic, where higher organizational affiliation and trust increase the negative impact. The goal of this project is to identify whether to expect - and under which conditions - any systematic differences among religious individuals in regards to confidence in healthcare as of 2020. I will evaluate the interplay of religiosity with confidence in government, trust in conspiracy theories, and social inequality in the country with random-effect models. The individual data come from the Values in Crisis online survey held in 11 countries in mid-2020 (n=26,800). I will also compare the change in confidence in healthcare for the religious in the 2020 dataset with WVS representative survey in those countries from 2018. The results could be useful for vaccination campaigns.

The Symphony is Over? The effect of the COVID-19 pandemic on the Russian Orthodox Church-State relations

Dr Andrey Shcherbak (Laboratory for Comparative Social Research Higher School of Economics) - Presenting Author
Dr Maria Ukhvatova (Laboratory for Comparative Social Research Higher School of Economics, Saint Petersburg State University)

The Conservative Turn in Russian politics made the Russian Orthodox Church (ROC) a key beneficiary of new policy. However, the COVID-19 pandemic has appeared to delay a strong alliance between the Kremlin and the ROC. When the government announced a lockdown and demanded to close all churches, not all priests agreed to comply. The church-state crisis manifested in three cleavages (divisions?): between Church and the State, between loyalists and fundamentalists within the ROC and a spatial cleavage. We argue that although these cleavages posed a threat to the Patriarchate stability and power, the church leaders managed to keep loyalty of most believers. We show that the ROC proved its political loyalty to the Kremlin. Using regional and individual level data, we explore the effect of religiosity on a) the constitutional amendments vote in July 2020 and b) support of government public health measures. Our findings reveal that higher religiosity is associated with higher levels of electoral and political loyalty, and the flock remained faithful to the pastors. However, the coronavirus crisis shows that the illusion of an equal partnership between the state and the church vanished.

COVID-19 skeptics and political support in Russia: Evidence from the online panel survey ‘Values in Crisis’ 2020-2021

Dr Boris Sokolov (Laboratory for Comparative Social Research Higher School of Economics) - Presenting Author
Dr Margarita Zavadskaya (Aleksanteri Institute University of Helsinki, Laboratory for Comparative Social Research Higher School of Economics)

The pandemic has left deep traces in everyday lives of all Russian citizens as well as the key economic and political processes. Almost 80% of Russians were forced to change their lifestyle because of the cororonavirus and about half of them reported decrease in their disposable income. The existing research assumes the two main mechanisms that define the dynamics of political support in the times of pandemic: 1) exogenous shock and a short-term rallying effect, and 2) ‘hyper-accountability’ of the government with subsequent punishment. How does the exposure to COVID-19 affect political support in Russia? We rely on the data obtained from the online panel survey ‘Values in Crisis’ Our results demonstrate that the one of the strongest correlate that leads to a significant decrease in support is whether a respondent belongs to the group of the COVID-19 skeptics. Meanwhile, a direct experience of COVID-19 as well as dealing with the national healthcare system are weakly, though negatively associated with political support.