Almost a year after a huge majority allegedly opted for joining Russia in a referendum, two much more neutral polls show that a considerable majority still support the decision.
The referendum on joining Russia was held back on March 16th 2014. The international community rejected the referendum as being illegal. Many complained that people were voting while threatened by Russian forces and allied Crimean militia to vote in favour of joining Russia. The official results claimed that the vote was 96.77 percent in favour of joining Russia with an 83.1 percent turnout. Both the results and the turnout are questionable. Two recent polls give a much less biased view of the degree of support for joining Russia among Crimeans.
The two recent polls were taken by groups that reject the whole process by which Crimea joined Russia and both were organized by groups in the west. The first survey was of 800 Crimean residents 18 years and over. The survey was conducted by telephone from the Ukraine between January 16 and 22, 2015. Among the few major western sources to report on the survey wereBloomberg. Bloomberg describes the circumstances which gave rise to the poll:
Of the Crimeans polled 82 percent fully endorsed joining Russia and 11 percent mostly endorsed the decision. Only 7 percent expressed disapproval. Crimeans watch both Ukrainian and Russian TV. 45 percent of Ukrainians believed that Ukrainian mass media relay absolutely false information about the Crimea while another 35 percent believed that the information was more often false than true. One might conclude that Crimeans are taken in by Russian propaganda. Not at all, as only 10 percent of the 84 percent of Crimeans who watch Russian TV from time to time say they trust it as a source of information. The most trusted source of information for Crimeans are social networks.
In spite of problems in the Russian economy over half of Crimeans said their economic situation had improved since they joined Russia while only 13 per cent said that their situation had become worse. Seniors in particular benefit from higher pensions coming from Russia than they received from the Ukraine.
The second survey was commissioned by John O'Loughlin, a professor at the University of Colorado in Boulder and Gerard Toal of Virignia Tech. This survey was conducted in December of 2014. Both authors claim that Crimea joining Russia was an "illegal act under international law". However, they also write that “It is also an act that enjoys the widespread support of the peninsula’s inhabitants, with the important exception of its Crimean Tatar population.” The results of their own survey however show that at least a bare majority of Tatars support the decision to join Russia:
The results of the December poll were published in Open Democracy on March 3. There are graphs of the answers to key questions. On the question of whether Crimea is headed in the right direction there is evidence that many Tatars think that Crimea is going in the wrong direction but it is not a majority. About 40 percent of Tatars consider that Crimea is going in the wrong direction. However about 30 percent think that it is going in the right direction and another 30 percent do not know or refuse to answer. In contrast, fully 90 percent of Russians felt that Crimea was going in the right direction joined by about 80 percent of Ukrainians. There are still plenty of problems in the Crimea but the populace on the whole obviously approve the move to join Russia whatever the international community may think about the way this came about.
Ukrainian political scientist Taras Berezovets, a Crimea native, recently started an initiative he called Free Crimea, aided by the Canada Fund for Local Initiatives and aimed at building Ukrainian soft power on the peninsula. He started by commissioning a poll of Crimean residents from the Ukrainian branch of Germany's biggest market research organization, GfK. The poll results were something of a cold shower to Berezovets.
Approximately 30 per cent of Tatar respondents say it was “wrong”, while an equal number say it was “generally right” and another 20 per cent say it was “absolutely right”. The final 20 per cent “don’t know” or refused to answer.