Do state symbols impact nationalist attitudes in Russia?

Last registered on December 13, 2022


Trial Information

General Information

Do state symbols impact nationalist attitudes in Russia?
Initial registration date
December 06, 2022

Initial registration date is when the trial was registered.

It corresponds to when the registration was submitted to the Registry to be reviewed for publication.

First published
December 13, 2022, 11:09 PM EST

First published corresponds to when the trial was first made public on the Registry after being reviewed.



Primary Investigator

George Washington University

Other Primary Investigator(s)

Additional Trial Information

In development
Start date
End date
Secondary IDs
Prior work
This trial does not extend or rely on any prior RCTs.
This study investigates through a priming experiment whether political symbols - in this case, country flags - influence nationalist attitudes. Apart from a control group, which is not shown any symbols, four randomly selected subsets of individuals in the study are primed by being shown a variety of flags: first, the Russian flag; second, the flag of the Soviet Union; third, the flag of the European Union; and fourth, the United States flag. The study will then assess whether these primes drive different levels of nationalist attitudes among respondents through a grid question. The study will also explore whether effects vary by nationalist attitudes measured prior to the experiment in the same survey, as well as by key demographics such as age, ethnicity, gender, income, and party support.
External Link(s)

Registration Citation

Lenton, Adam. 2022. "Do state symbols impact nationalist attitudes in Russia?." AEA RCT Registry. December 13.
Experimental Details


All respondents in a sample of adults in the Russian Federation designed to be nationally representative are asked two questions designed to assess nationalist attitudes. The first question asks individuals which one of 3 statements regarding national identity they most agree with. Then, the sample is randomly divided into five parts, each one receiving a different treatment: 1) control (no treatment); 2) Shown an image of the Russian flag; 3) Shown an image of the Soviet flag; 4) Shown an image of the European Union flag; 5) Shown an image of the United States flag.

The experimental treatment is designed to assess the following hypotheses:
H1 ("flagging" effect): responses will be significantly different between the control group and the group exposed to the Russian flag.

Explanation: literature on “banal” nationalism would expect that exposure to symbols such as flags serves to remind individuals of their membership in the political nation and thus can mobilize nationalist sentiment. The presence of significant differences between these groups should add confidence that such “flagging” is indeed occurring.

H2 (Soviet nostalgia): exposure to the Soviet flag should make respondents more likely to consider “Soviet people” (2c) and non-religious people (2e) as members of the political community.

Explanation: studies have pointed to the attitudinal legacies of the Soviet Union as well as Soviet nostalgia for explaining both societal preferences and understandings of the broader political community.

H3 (Rally effects – national consolidation): exposure to international adversaries’ flags (EU and US flags) should make respondents less likely to express exclusionary attitudes towards domestic ethnic minorities and more likely to display exclusionary attitudes towards perceived sympathizers of international adversaries.

Explanation: studies in social psychology have found that social bias can be reduced through common membership in a supraordinate group. Meanwhile, literatures on rally effects and diversionary war suggest that evoking external enemies can help bolster domestic legitimacy and to exclude perceived “fifth columns”.

H4 (Heterogeneous effects – prior nationalism): individuals’ reactions to the various primes should differ depending upon their prior indication of nationalist attitudes from the first question.

Explanation: some studies have shown that exposure to national symbols more effectively helps to dampen the attitudes of committed nationalists towards perceived out-groups within the country.
Intervention Start Date
Intervention End Date

Primary Outcomes

Primary Outcomes (end points)
One outcome variable is the first question designed to assess individuals' nationalist attitudes. The response options are designed to distinguish between three different types of nationalist attitudes among Russian respondents by asking respondents to select the statement they most agree with.

A second outcome variable asks people to state the extent to which they agree to which they agree or disagree (on a four-point scale) that certain groups of individuals can be considered to be "true Russians".
Primary Outcomes (explanation)
The outcome of primary interest is the differences in the frequency of responses given to the items in the second question by respondents in the different treatment subsamples. These differences will enable the researcher to assess

Secondary Outcomes

Secondary Outcomes (end points)
Secondary Outcomes (explanation)

Experimental Design

Experimental Design
The experiment is embedded in the monthly omnibus survey of the highly reputable independent Russian firm Levada Market Research (LMR), using their standard methodology.

The experiment is embedded in the monthly omnibus survey of the highly reputable independent Russian firm Levada Market Research (LMR), using their regular multi-stage area probability sample designed to be representative of the adult Russian Federation population. Interviews are conducted face-to-face, with tablets (the CAPI method) used for about four-fifths of the sample. For the remaining roughly one-fifth of the sample, visual aids are presented on and answers are recorded on paper (the PAPI method). Based on data from the Russian state statistical agency in 2015, LMR’s sample is distributed among the country’s eight federal districts and the capital city Moscow, with each district divided into five strata proportionally to adult population size. All cities with a population of over one million are included as self-representative units; in the remaining (non self-representing) strata, probability proportional to size (PPS) is used to elect 1-10 urban settlements (or rural districts in rural areas). The number of interviews in a given stratum is divided equally among selected settlements. In total, 137 primary sampling units (PSUs) are drawn, including 99 urban settlements and 38 rural districts in 48 subjects of the federation (official federation-forming regions). In each selected settlement, two electoral districts (or two villages in a rural district, 18 districts in Moscow, and 8 districts in St. Petersburg) are selected at random from a complete list of electoral districts (or villages where appropriate), resulting in about 280 secondary sampling units (SSUs). Selection of households is accomplished by the random route method using route lists, and one eligible adult per household is selected according to gender, age, and education level. People institutionalized in prisons or hospitals, people conscripted into the military, the homeless, and people living in very remote, difficult-to-access, or extremely small settlements are excluded from the sample.
Experimental Design Details
Randomization Method
Roughly equal proportions of CAPI and PAPI respondents will receive each treatment. For the CAPI respondents in the sample, randomization is achieved using the randomization feature of the software Simpleforms, designed specifically for survey research. For the PAPI respondents in the sample, the research uses the randomization feature of the software Microsoft Excel to randomly assign one of the five versions of the randomized-preamble question described above to the number of each questionnaire to be administered as part of LMR’s omnibus survey. The survey agency then creates single-page “inserts,” with each insert containing only the correct version of the question to be administered for its assigned questionnaire and the number of that assigned questionnaire. The inserts are then inserted into the questionnaire assigned to that insert. The questionnaire itself (independently of the insert) contains not the actual question, but instructions for the enumerator to use the insert and instructions for recording the respondent’s response (count).
Randomization Unit
Was the treatment clustered?

Experiment Characteristics

Sample size: planned number of clusters
137 PSUs
Sample size: planned number of observations
1600 people
Sample size (or number of clusters) by treatment arms
Approximately 320 control, 320 each for the four treatments
Minimum detectable effect size for main outcomes (accounting for sample design and clustering)

Institutional Review Boards (IRBs)

IRB Name
George Washington University
IRB Approval Date
IRB Approval Number


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