Russian Public Opinion Research Center (VTsIOM) (Russian: Всероссийский центр изучения общественного мнения – ВЦИОМ, tr. Vsyerossiǐskiǐ tsentr izučenija obščestvennogo mnenija – VTsIOM) is a state-owned institution established in 1987, known as the "All-Union Center for the Study of Public Opinion" until 1992.
VTsIOM is the oldest polling institution in post-Soviet Russia and one of Russia's leading sociological and market research companies. It was established in 1987 under the decree issued by VCSPS (All-Union Central Council of Trade Unions) and USSR State Committee of Labor as the All-Union Public Opinion Research Center (and in 1992 renamed the Russian Public Opinion Research Center). In 2003 VCIOM became an 'open joint-stock company with full state ownership'. VTsIOM conducts “full cycle” marketing, social and political research, from instrument design and data collection to analysis and presentation of findings to its clients.
VTsIOM branch offices operate in all seven of Russia's federal districts. Besides its own branches, Center has partnership agreements with a significant number of local regional research firms. VTsIOM has its own interviewers’ network, which consists of about 5,000 people.
VTsIOM holds the status of scientific institution. Besides that, there is a scientific Expert Council functioning in the Center, which consists of renowned Russian sociologists, political scientists, marketologists, philosophers, and historians. VTsIOM holds competitions of scientific works among young researchers.
Since 2003 it has published its own journal, called Monitoring of Public Opinion: Economic and Social Changes, which is issued six times a year. Since 2009 it has been available via open Internet access (both its Archive and recent issues). The Editorial Boarl includes leading Russian sociologists (Russian Academy of Science staff, Moscow State University, Russian State Social University, Higher School of Economics, Institute for Market Research GFK-Rus staff and others). There is VTsIOM Department Chair in the Higher School of Economics that has been operating since 2008, and VTsIOM Research Center in the Russian State Social University operating since 2008.
The Center regularly designs and publishes monographs and edited volumes of sociological research devoted to the state of the public opinion in Russia. The recent monographs are: “From Eltsin to Putin: three epochs in the historical consciousness of Russians" (2007), “Political Russia: pre-elections guide – 2007”, “Political Dictionary of The Present” (2006), “Russia on the Crossroads of the 2d Term” (2005). [For more details see: “VCIOM Library: some of the recent books”  Public opinion research dating prior to 1992 are stored in an archive. The results of the public opinion polls “Express” since 1992 have been stored in “Archivist Database”.
VTsIOM is the member of international professional networks including InterSearch and the Eurasian Monitor. It is guided by the European Society for Opinion and Market Research ESOMAR standards and norms. There are more than 70 specialists employed in the company headquarters in Moscow (with expertise in sociology, marketing, political science, finance, psychology, and statistics), as well as dozens in its offices around the country. The head of the Center is Valery Fedorov. VTsIOM staff regularly present at Russian and international scientific and practitioners’ conferences and roundtables.
The Decree to launch VTsIOM (All-Union in those times) was adopted at the July meeting of the Central Committee of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union in 1987. The founders were VCSPS (All-Union Central Council of Trade Unions) and USSR State Committee of Labour. The first director was Tatyana Zaslavskaya (academician). Zaslavskaya tells that the Institute of Demoscopy (Federal Republic of Germany) headed by Elisabeth Noelle-Neumann was taken as a model when establishing the Center.
Grushin made many efforts in 1987-1988 to set up a network of sociological centers in the Republics of the USSR and regions of Russia. That made possible to conduct the first mass surveys on a representative samples among adults in November 1988; a year later these surveys became systematical.
In 1988 Yury Levada together with his students (Lev Gudkov, Boris Dubin, Alexey Levinson and others) went to work in VTsIOM (first as the head of the Theoretical Research Department and later – since 1992 as the head of the company). In an interview Yuri Levada talks about the first years of VTsIOM, refers to Tatyana Zaslavskaya (Татьяна Заславская) and Boris Grushin (Борис Грушин) as the founders of VTsIOM in 1987 and states that he was invited by them to join VTsIOM.
VTsIOM became widely respected for its objectivity and professionalism among academics and journalists in both the Soviet Union and the West. In the 1990s, the agency's polls gained a reputation for being very reliable. During this period VTsIOM had conducted over 1,000 polls.
Being the first sociological institution in the USSR (and Russia), VTsIOM served as the cradle for numerous marketing and sociological centers of the country.
In August 1989 Boris Grushin left VTsIOM to establish his own organization studying the public opinion “Vox Populi - Glas Naroda” (People’s Voice).
In 1992 the Public Opinion Foundation (FOM) that was originally established as a Division of the Center for raising charity funds, separated from VTsIOM. In 1999 VCIOM achieved scientific institute status.
Although VTsIOM received no budget money and funded itself with private and public sector polling contracts (grants) from the breakdown of Soviet Union in 1992 to 2003, Levada had not addressed the fact that the polling agency remained a state-owned company as a FGUP (Russian abbreviation for: Federal State Unit). In 2003 the Ministry of Property of the Russian Federation decided to transform FGUP VTsIOM to JSC “Russian Public Opinion Research Center”, 100% share of which was to be held by the state. There still would have been no budget allocated for it from the state and the company was to continue its work based on financing from both private and public institutions. However this change was taken by Yuri Levada as an attempt to affect the outcomes of VTsIOM studies. As a result, the previous VTsIOM employees left the company and followed Yuri Levada to the new established non-governmental Levada Centre.
A young political scientist - Valery Fedorov who, as some sources note, was close to the Administration of the President of the Russian Federation headed the office.
VTsIOM carried on research programs introduced by its previous staff and continued to publish the Monitoring of Public Opinion journal; in 2003 former editorial board members began publishing a new journal called the Public Opinion Herald.
There is conflicting data about response from other Russian sociologists to the breakup of VTsIOM. Some sources reported that every sociologist left with Levada while others claims they were silent, except for Grushin. The dispute over the legality of using the VTsIOM brand in sociological community ended up in 2004 The Federal Antimonopoly Service decided to give VTsIOM the full right of use of the brand “VTsIOM” and prohibited Levada-Center to use it.
When asked about VTsIOM management change during his visit to Columbia University in the United States in September 2003, Russian president Vladimir Putin was supportive of the change in management.
The research priorities today are political ratings, social mood indices, governmental programs, and reforms. VTsIOM still conducts research for the most significant Russian private and public institutions. New - applied and pragmatic focus of research programs is expressed in a change in its slogan - “Information for success!” instead of the former “From opinion – towards understanding”.
The Center is sometimes criticized by its subjects of study. Gennady Zyuganov (leader of Communist Party of Russian Federation) criticized VTsIOM's objectivity when evaluating media request results of VTsIOM study on Lenin's Mausoleum stating “I think this is an unprofessional study”. According to VTsIOM, Russians supported burying Lenin’s remains in a cemetery rather than keeping them in the mausoleum.
VTsIOM has also been accused of having a special relationship with The Kremlin. “The New Times” magazine published a series of reports entitled “Corruption in Russia” which described manipulations that VTsIOM uses in favor of the Presidential Administration. VTsIOM launched a lawsuit against The New Times and won after a ten-month-long trial the Court acknowledged the published material doesn’t correspond to the reality. The Court made the magazine publish the refutation and the reporter who wrote the articles pay a fine.
VTsIOM conducts research on both regional and federal levels, as well as in the post-Soviet space (together with colleagues from the former USSR—members of “Eurasian Monitor” Agency) and other countries.
Topics of interest include:
A wide range of research techniques, such as personal interviews, focus groups, mystery shopping, hall tests, exit polls, expert surveys, and telephone interviews, is used. Research methods include both descriptive and inferential statistical analysis, as well as sample building programs. Surveys based on a representative sampling are conducted every week on 1,600 people from 140 places throughout the 42 regions of Russia.
VTsIOM regularly coordinates and implements international research projects for foreign and Russian customers such as UNDP, U.S. State Department, NATO Bureau in Moscow and others. Since 2004 the Center has actively participated in designing the system of regular sociological research in the post-Soviet area (in the framework of “Eurasian Monitor”, VTsIOM is one of the founders of Eurasian Monitor as well as other sociological services in the former USSR republics.