News in Russia: Young Adults Love State-Run TV Propaganda Channels, Poll Shows

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Russian President Vladimir Putin is seen on a TV screen as other sets are reflected in it in a shop in Moscow on February 1, 2007. Denis Sinyakov/AFP/Getty

When Russian youth turn on the TV, they're tuning into the government.

Survey results published Friday by Dozhd, an independent media outlet based in Moscow, showed that 72 percent of Russians said the government-linked Channel One was their primary source of news. And more than half of Russians between 18 and 24 years old said they watched the channel regularly, according to The Moscow Times, with others favoring Rossia-1 and raising questions about the younger generation's consumption of propaganda.

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The results came from data collected by the Levada Center, a nongovernmental polling agency that queried more than 1,600 people on their viewing habits this past spring.

It isn't the first time research has indicated Russians are getting updates straight from the Kremlin. Since 2014, when Russia annexed Crimea from Ukraine, the country has cracked down on its independent press and launched a so-called information war with dissenters, according to the American organization Freedom House, which advocates for political freedom. Just over 50 percent of Russians say they don't trust the media, up from 40 percent in 2015.

"Russia remains a country with a large array of media outlets but limited access to critical or independent coverage and diverse political viewpoints," Freedom House writes on its website. "Television, which is still the leading source of news and information, often functions as a propaganda tool for the government."

Case in point: Recent stories have focused on fidget spinners, which broadcasters said could "zombify" kids and encourage resistance; and on U.S. President Donald Trump, whom anchor Dmitry Kiselyov said was "more impulsive and unpredictable" than North Korean leader Kim Jong Un. Russian President Vladimir Putin reportedly personally appoints editors and directors. Even French President Emmanuel Macron has criticized Russian media, saying in May that outlets like Sputnik were "agents of influence" that tried to sink his campaign.

It isn't just an international issue. In the U.S., FBI Counterintelligence Division Assistant Director Bill Priestap recently told lawmakers he believed the Kremlin published fake news in order to interfere with the 2016 election, then "used online amplifiers to spread the information to as many people as possible," according to the Associated Press.