Faced with Russian propaganda, “most of the French got the right information,” says researcher Hugo Mercier.

False videos illustrating a fictitious conflict, Ukraine, which will bomb “its own” for eight years, Russia, which will eventually become a victim … The war in Ukraine is the source of many false information spread, in particular, on social networks. To avoid disinformation, Russian state-run media have been banned from broadcasting in Europe due to their instrumentalization by the Kremlin. Late last week, Ifop released a survey titled “Disinformation, Conspiracy and Populism in a Time of Health Crisis and War in Ukraine.”

Five Russian theses were tested with the French. Result: 52% of respondents believe that at least one of them is true. The most vulnerable to false information studied in this survey are the voters of Jean-Luc Mélenchon and Eric Zemmour. For 20 minutesHugo Mercier, a researcher in the department of cognitive studies at the Jean Nicod Institute, a research center at CNRS, responds to these findings and analyzes various theses.

This public opinion poll, which shows that more than half of the French people polled believe in at least one Russian thesis, should it be alarming?

If the question of belief in certain theses under study had arisen before the war that began in Ukraine, the respondents would probably have answered the same way. It was not the invasion that changed the minds of the French, but the intuitions of some people. Intuitively, if you ignore real information, the claims made in this survey are plausible, even if they are false. And that is why the Kremlin uses these statements.

But still it should be emphasized that most of the French took the correct information. For example, for the first theory, according to which “the US and EU countries encouraged Ukraine to ask for its integration into NATO so that it would benefit from their protection from Russia,” two-thirds of the respondents understood that this was false information. It also means that the media has done a good job since the start of the Russian invasion. Whatever some say, they are objective and bring truth to this conflict.

How can we explain the adherence to the various theories examined in the review?

Two statements about Ukraine’s integration into NATO were supported by 30% and 22%. Those unfamiliar with history can largely believe that NATO may have wanted to include Ukraine. These people might think that NATO is looking to expand eastward, as it has already done. [Comme le disait l’Otan dès 2014 et comme elle l’a répété depuis le conflit, elle « n’entraîne pas des pays » à la rejoindre et affirme « respecte » le droit de chaque pays de choisir ses propres arrangements de sécurité]. Added to the first statement is the fact that the United States is involved. In France, we tend not to be very positive about the United States, so it’s easy to accept the slightest excuse.

The statement that “Russian military intervention in Ukraine is supported by Russian-speaking Ukrainians who wanted to be freed from the persecution they are subjected to by the Ukrainian authorities” is considered true by 28% of respondents, and the statement that “in certain regions of Ukraine, Russian-speaking residents have been were the object of discrimination and attacks by the Ukrainian authorities”, by 23%. Both of them are related to the persecution and discrimination of Russian-speaking Ukrainians by their own government. These minorities do exist in the Territory and may not have always been treated ideally. This is something that, unfortunately, very often happens to all minorities in all countries. Thus, there is enough doubt for some of the respondents to consider this to be true.

A small number of French adhere to the latest statement studied by Ifop: “Ukraine is currently ruled by a junta riddled with neo-Nazi movements”…

This is the only thesis that was really invented in Russia from scratch, and we find an approval level of 10%, which is low. The people who were able to answer “yes” to this statement are undoubtedly the kind of people who would say “yes” to all “conspiracy” theories. Sometimes, even for events that never happened, if the statement is part of their thinking, they will stick with it.

There is also a correlation between those who accept these theories and those associated with Covid-19. This shows that this is more of a mentality: these people only accept what strengthens their vision of the world. Anything that sticks to that vision will be more readily accepted by them. The content and form are always somewhat the same: “The great powers are hiding something from us, the people must be able to speak. »

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