Russia’s only major independent pollster, the Levada Center, said on Tuesday it had stopped publishing polls about the forthcoming presidential election because it feared the authorities might shut it down for perceived meddling. The move, which the Kremlin later endorsed as a necessary step to comply with the law, will reduce open source information about public sentiment ahead of the March 18 election which polls suggest incumbent Vladimir Putin, who is backed by state TV and the ruling party, will comfortably win. Levada is regarded as one of Russia’s three main pollsters and the only one not to be close to the authorities. But it was officially designated ‘a foreign agent’ in 2016 because of its funding, a move it and others said was designed to hobble it.
Out of the other pollsters, VTsIOM is state-owned, while FOM, which broke away from VTsIOM in the 1990s, provides a lot of research for the Russian presidential administration.
Stepan Goncharov, a sociologist at Levada, told Reuters his organization had decided to suspend publishing pre-election polls because of its designation as “a foreign agent.”