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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Reticent Elderly Skewing Voter Polls, Analysts Say

President Boris Yeltsin is going into the final week before the June 16 presidential election appearing supremely confident of victory. But on Monday, just six days before the vote, pollsters and political observers warned that the elections are still closer than many think.


At a press conference Monday, Dmitry Olshansky of the Center for Strategic Studies and other colleagues reported an "unexpected trend" over the last few weeks: Elderly voters have more and more been refusing to speak with sociologists or answer their questions.


"All of our sociological services are running into the problem of 'refusers' -- people who refuse to tell us who they are voting for, or to speak at all with interviewers. And that's especially so in the Red Belt [of pro-Communist voters in southern agricultural Russia]," Olshansky said.


"It's as if it is indecent to say you are going to vote for Zyuganov. Or for [Vladimir] Zhirinovsky, the same is true of him. These are two figures with hidden support that's not picked up by the polls," he said.


The latest national polls show President Boris Yeltsin leading his nearest rival, Communist leader Gennady Zyuganov, by large margins. The latest Moscow Times/CNN poll, conducted by the Institute for Comparative Social Research, or CESSI, and released Friday, had 34.5 percent of voters backing Yeltsin against 15.9 percent Zyuganov.


Sunday the VTsIOM research institute gave Yeltsin 37 percent and Zyuganov 25, while a poll by the ROMIR group gave Yeltsin 35 to Zyuganov's 23.


"According to the information we have from the regions, a sense of euphoria, of victory is becoming dominant in some Yeltsin teams. In my opinion, this is premature," said Mikhail Gorshkov, director of the Russian Independent Institute of Social and National Problems. "Celebrating victory ahead of time, be it in politics, sports or anywhere else ... leads to sorrowful results."


The law stipulates that no polls can be published after June 13, three days before the first round vote.


Olshansky chided journalists and sociologists for concentrating on which two candidates would survive the June 16 cut to meet in a July run-off. That, he said, is obvious: Yeltsin and Zyuganov are sure to meet.


The interesting question is who would win this second race, a question that, in Olshansky's opinion, is far from clear. "The first round of voting will provide, if you will, a mild rating [of the candidates]," he said. "That's all."