Vladimir Putin’s Declining Popularity

By Slava Tsukerman

In the center of Moscow not far from Kremlin there is a popular historic site, the Hermitage Park. There are several fancy restaurants and theaters in the park.

When I visited Moscow several years ago, I had a lunch in one of these restaurants. Here is my photo in the restaurant under the portrait of Vladimir Putin.

Today’s my attention was drawn to a  news item on the Russian Internet. There was a big New Year Eve party in the open space at the Hermitage Park. The master of ceremonies asked the audience: “What would be your best wish for the coming year?”

One of audience  members answered: “I wish Putin  would croak!”

“We are just celebrating the New Year here. No politics.” – said the MC.

And the entire crowd without exception yelled back: “No! That’s our desire! We wish Putin dead!”

Of course residents of the centre of Moscow don’t represent the entire Russia.

Here is the index of endorsement of Putin by Russians, according to the research of two prominent Russian social research organizations:

One of the biggest and most reliable Russian social research organizations, Levada Center, came to the fallowing conclusions:

Despite the fact that President Putin’s confidence rating is still high, and the President, still remains the country’s most popular politician, Putin is losing popularity rapidly and irreversibly.

According to the Center’s director Lev Gudkov, it is impossible to learn the real mood of a society by asking “frontal” questions like “do you trust the politicians?” or “Will you vote for the politician?”  Every “loyal” man always keeps in mind the “correct answer” for such questions.

It is possible to get the genuine picture of public sentiment only by posing questions not related to politics. One such question is “What do you think about the leadership qualities of Vladimir Putin?” Levada Center has asked Russians these questions regularly since the year 2000. It turned out that in the April 2012, the score almost of all the strengths of Putin has returned to the low level of 2000, after experiencing a peak in 2008.

Thus, according to Gudkov, means that in the minds of Russians, Putin’s image is fast losing its allure.

Here are examples:

In Putin’s third term 39% of Russians found him “effective”. In the first term (from 2000 onwards) he was considered effective by 49% citizen and by the end of the second term by 62% of citizens.   Twenty-three percent of Russians have ceased to believe that Vladimir Putin is an effective president!

At the peak of Putin’s popularity, 52% of Russians thought he was well educated. Now only 28% of the population share this believe. It turns out that as many as 24% of Russians suddenly realized that their President has a deficient education.

The same applies to his intellect. Today only 18% of Russians still believe in the intelligence of their leader. But in 2008, there were 43%.

But the most curious thing is that, in the eyes of Russians, Putin is losing his main merits. Thus, in 2008, 34% of Russians considered Putin “strong, firm and courageous”. Only 18% of the respondents find these qualities in Putin now. In four years, as many as 16% of Russians discovered weaknesses.

According to the Director of the Levada Center Lev Gudkov, the image of the powerful ruler is slowly being eroding and the process is irreversible.  Having followed the careers of politicians for many years, Gudkov says he  has never encountered a case when anyone who lost his popularity would be able to regain it.

The most recent research of the Centre shows that today only 23% of Russians find Vladimir Putin an acceptable President.

Updated: January 10, 2013 — 8:46 am
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