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The Moscow Times, December 18, 2003

Young, Educated and 'Against All'

By Anna Dolgov

In the vote for single-mandate candidates, where choice in each district was limited to representatives of only a handful of parties competing for State Duma seats, the vote "against all" was substantially higher than in party-list balloting.

But while younger and better-educated people opted for the protest vote with apparent ease, the elderly were often reluctant to do so even when faced with few other choices, the MT-Soros-RenCap exit poll indicates. Detailed data from the poll were posted this week on The Moscow Times web site, elections.themoscowtimes.com.

Of the more than 33,500 voters in 40 districts interviewed for the poll, 15 percent said they voted against all candidates in single-mandate balloting. College graduates were more likely to vote against all than those with less education, men more than women, the young more than the elderly, and students more than any other group.

In a surprising twist, among those who voted against all on the party list, only 34.7 percent did so in single-mandate balloting. This may stand to reason, though: While some people are disappointed with political parties or uncertain what those parties stand for, they may have a specific, familiar candidate they want to support.

"Maybe this is a category of people for whom personal acquaintance or the feeling that their candidate is a local one is important. They say, 'I can come into his office, I can demand something,' while appearances of abstract parties on television have no influence on them," said Andrei Milyokhin, head of ROMIR Monitoring, which conducted the poll.

In the average single-mandate district, about 10 candidates, many of them at least nominally independent, were running in the Dec. 7 elections, the Central Elections Commission said.

The smaller parties could not field a candidate in each of the country's 225 single-mandate districts, and even representatives of pro-reformist parties Yabloko and the Union of Right Forces, or SPS, were often absent from the ballots. As a result, many liberal voters were effectively left with no choice but to vote against all.

This may not be the only reason, however, for the popularity of the protest vote among the group. Detailed data collected during the exit poll indicates that younger and better-educated people -- who are considered the core liberal electorate -- are generally more willing to engage in protest voting, even when presented with a wider array of candidates. Another apparent factor is that the top choices among the elderly and the conservatives -- the Communist Party and pro-Kremlin United Russia -- were large and organized enough to field their candidates in most single-mandate districts. This means that their supporters did not face the dilemma of picking a random candidate or voting against all.

According to the poll, 22.9 percent of people aged 18-24 said they voted against all single-mandate candidates. The number gradually declines to just 9 percent among those aged 60 and up.

A total of 16.6 percent of men interviewed said they voted against all, compared to 13.7 percent of women.

The popularity of the protest vote also increases with education level, from 11.8 percent among those who only finished elementary or middle school, to 15 percent among those who completed high school, to 15.5 percent among college graduates.

Among occupational groups, the protest vote was most popular among students, with 22.5 percent -- well above the national average and well below the average among retirees, with 9 percent.

Nationwide, the official "against all" vote on the party lists was 4.7 percent.


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State Duma elections 2003

The Moscow Times, December 18, 2003

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