(Washington Post) (Co-authored with Jane R. Zavisca) On Sept. 5, Russia’s Justice Ministry declared the country’s leading independent polling organization, the Levada Analytical Center, to be a “foreign agent.” The designation applies to nongovernmental organizations that take part in “political activities” and receive foreign funding.
The “foreign agent” label saddles its recipients with burdensome monitoring and reporting requirements. But it’s especially harmful for an institution that relies on the trust of potential survey respondents.
Suspicion of foreign influence has been on the rise in Russia, and the “foreign agent” moniker connotes “spy.” It discredits the Levada Center in the eyes of the public and will probably put the internationally respected pollster out of business.
Social science will suffer as a result. The Levada Center has generated a remarkable trove of information about Russia’s society, politics, and economy over the past quarter century. Its high-quality work inspired us to collaborate with it on numerous projects, including the study that served as the initial pretext for labeling it a foreign agent. […]
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