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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Shoigu Surges on ORT Alone

Last Sunday, Sergei Dorenko reported that "the only person who has still not fully realized himself as a politician is Sergei Shoigu."

He supported this conclusion with data showing that Emergency Situations Minister Shoigu alone of the five politicians shown on the television screen - the others were Vladimir Putin, Yevgeny Primakov, Gennady Zyuganov and Grigory Yavlinsky - had a lower "political trust" rating (10 percent) than "personal sympathy" rating (13 percent). This means, Dorenko said, that "people are favorably inclined toward [Shoigu], but aren't entirely clear what kind of politician he is."

These "political trust" and "personal sympathy" questions were posed by the Fund for Public Opinion specifically for ORT and Dorenko, and the polling agency declined to share that data, saying it belonged to ORT.

However, nearly all electoral rating polls - including those published by the Fund for Public Opinion - show Primakov and Putin as the men to beat, Luzhkov as a player and Shoigu as a non-entity. ROMIR puts Shoigu's rating at less than 2 percent; ARPI's spokeswoman, Inga Zakharova, says bluntly of Shoigu, "His rating is unpalpably low." Even in polls by the Fund for Public Opinion where Shoigu has done best, his electoral rating is just 3 percent (with a margin of error of 3.6 percent).

Unlike "political trust" or "personal sympathy" questions, the electoral ratings are based simply on whom people say they would vote for. Of course, it would not help Berezovsky-backed Shoigu by publishing polls showing no one intends to vote for him on Berezovsky-loyal ORT. So it's not surprising to see Dorenko ordering up heavily qualified polls and mixing and matching them to reach a desired conclusion.

Nor is it surprising that some might have an instinctive sympathy for Shoigu. His name and his distinctive face with its high cheekbones are familiar to the public because he has been shown on television at the site of serious disasters from Russia to Turkey to Japan, ordering cleanup efforts.

Shoigu's politics are poorly known because he has made few of them public - with the exception of a proposal to rescind citizenship for those ordinary Russians who fail three times in a row to vote in a national election. The No. 2 man on Shoigu's Unity bloc sums up his position nicely: Wrestler Alexander Karelin's position is that he wants to get into the Duma "to have a look at what are they doing there."

A call to the Fund for Public Opinion helped clear up why its polls for Dorenko tracked Shoigu doing better than its other polls.

The Fund for Public Opinion's electoral polls ask: "If the elections took place this Sunday, whom would you vote for?"

But in Dorenko's poll, respondents were handed a list of politicians and asked to mark any names - or even all - of politicians "close" to them politically, or "sympathetic" to them. That inevitably raises the scores of each candidate - and particularly of no-name candidates - since no one has anything against them.

After presenting his convoluted case for why Shoigu is "the only person who has still not fully realized himself as a politician," Dorenko went on to say that ratings for Primakov, Luzhkov and Stepashin were all dropping - offering no details - and then moved to a new report linking Luzhkov with the 1996 murder of U.S. businessman Paul Tatum.

According to the Fund for Public Opinion, ORT is watched by 95 percent of the respondents to their polls. By contrast, Luzhkov's pet channel, TV Tsentr, is not available in most Russian regions and doesn't run polls on its weekend analytical program "Nedelya." Alexander Fedorchenko, producer of "Nedelya," said polls "don't fit the [show's] stylistic concept."

- Yevgenia Borisova