Russia is definitely an expert in conducting sociological research and statistics. First of all, we are not talking about pro-Kremlin polls with frankly false results and not about statistical data made to please the authorities and which practically do not reflect the real state of affairs in the country. A large number of various sociological studies and statistics are produced by groups and individual researchers who have received an “award” from the Kremlin as “foreign agents.” It is these data that claim to be more or less objective.
At the very beginning of Putin’s rule, the so-called foreign agent Levada Centre conducted a poll to determine the level of public perception of Putin’s activities. To do this, respondents were asked two questions. One asked who had the main credit for Russia’s economic success and the growth of the well-being of its population. And the second was who bears the main responsibility for the problems in Russia and the rise in the cost of living. Back in 2001, 56% of respondents attributed all the credit to Putin, and only 22% believed that Putin was personally responsible for the country’s internal problems. This division persisted throughout the first and second terms of the Kremlin leader.
When Putin returned to the “throne” in 2021, the Russians “responded” with a fairly rapid increase in the president’s responsibility for internal affairs – up to 51%. At the same time, about 59% of respondents also noted the president’s merits.
The annexation of Crimea in 2014 brought Putin an 88% rating increase. And 81% of respondents noted his personal merits.
Putin had approximately such a high rating in 2008 after winning the conflict with small Georgia. But this dubious victory was then perceived by the Russians, first of all, as a defeat for the United States of America. Therefore, a myth arose about the greatness of the new empire and the impunity of the actions of Russia – such a “large, powerful, and terrifying” state…
On the example of the conflict with Georgia, the Kremlin realised the needs of society. Therefore, when mass discontent with domestic policy and the state of affairs within the Russian Federation ibegan to approach a critical point in 2011-2012, the Kremlin authorities willingly went into confrontation with neighbouring “fraternal” Ukraine, unleashing a war in Donbas and annexing Ukrainian Crimea. According to the vast majority of Russians, Russia has regained the status of a “Great Power.” Thus, about half of Russians considered Putin to be responsible for the problems in the country, but there were much more of those who pointed to his “achievements and accomplishments.”
Against the background of the frankly negative attitude of Russians towards the West, which was generously fueled by the pro-Kremlin media outlets, the rise in Putin’s rating was absolutely proportional. The situation changed dramatically in 2018 after the FIFA World Cup took place in Russia. The Russians, “unexpectedly for the authorities,” realised that there are normal people in the West! The same as themselves. Therefore, the negative attitude towards the Western world began to decrease. The “pole of guilt” for internal problems in the country began to shift towards the real “culprit.”
Illusion of ‘Great Power’ Dispelled
The Kremlin’s hopes for “friendship” with President Trump turned out to be in vain. Russia has not begun to “rule the world” with the United States. Fuel to the flame was added by the pension reform, the responsibility for the negative consequences for the population of which still fell on Putin. Therefore, the share of supporters of the “ruler in perpetuity” has dropped significantly and equaled the number of those who blame the Russian president for the troubles.
The Kremlin’s stakes were once again broken. The illusion of a “Great Power” was dispelled. Aggressive actions to annex Crimea and the war in Donbas brought only pain, death, and economic losses to the Russian Federation. The story that the collective West is the culprit in Russia’s internal problems has completely exhausted itself and bored ordinary people.
Society is tired of authoritarian, anti-Western rhetoric and policy. According to another July poll by the “foreign agent” Levada Centre, more than a third of Russians surveyed now consider their attitude to the West to be positive. The overwhelming majority of the population of the Russian Federation does not accept the virtually “North Korean” development path chosen by the Kremlin. Therefore, the drop in Putin’s ratings, when his rating as a leader has fallen significantly below the level of his responsibility for the country’s rapid fall into the economic and social abyss, is quite an expected result of his mindlessly incompetent rule. The Russians are tired of “myths.” Russia is waiting for real democratic changes for the better, realising that this is absolutely impossible with the current government.
The conclusions are obvious…
Yuriy Fedorenko, Head of NGO ‘Agency for Development of Democracy and Information Freedoms’
The author’s opinion does not always coincide with the editorial position