American presidential approval polls are usually a boring binary: “approve” or “disapprove.” Thankfully, earlier today, Russia’s independent polling agency the Levada Center has released their Putin ratings report and it is much more nuanced—almost mystifying.
Since Putin’s rise to Prime Ministership in 1999, the Levada Center has conducted this same poll 17 times. People are asked about their “attitude/feelings” (отношение) towards Vladimir and given options—from worst to best, it seems—as follows (translations mine).
So, what are their feelings about Putin?
- It’s difficult to answer (1%)
- Disgust (1%)
- Antipathy (2%)
- Can’t say anything good about him (6%)
- Cautious, expectant (4%)
- Neutral, indifferent (17%)
- Can’t say anything bad about him (31%)
- Fondness (29%)
- Awe (8%)
Overall, according to 1,600 people polled from various regions of Russia, Putin “fondness” is currently at 29 percent, down from 37 percent in March 2015. You can see all of the attitude/feelings fluctuating through time in Levada Center’s wonderfully neurotic graphic onto which I ‘shopped some translations:
Latvia-based news site Meduza has some good insight on the data, though I feel like their translation of “симпатия” as “sympathy” is off since “sympathy” is more commonly known as a “feeling of pity and sorrow,” instead of just being the opposite of the poll option “antipathy.” So I’m going with “fondness” to avoid the implication that anyone feels pity or sorrow for Vlad.
According to Levada Center’s director Lev Gudkov, sanctions are partially responsible for the 8 percent dip in “fondness,” but also, the whole Crimea business doesn’t quite produce the same “emotional lift” it did before. Meduza reports that the government has their own theory:
According to Dmitry Orlov, a political scientist and leading member of the ruling political party “United Russia,” Putin’s sympathy rating is merely “stabilizing” after a period of “patriotic mobilization.”
According to Levada Center, when choosing Putin’s one “greatest achievement” from a list of possible options, 14 percent picked “strengthening the armed forces” and 11 percent picked “improving Russia’s international position.” Only 2 percent had special kudos for Putin’s efforts on fighting crime, terrorism or the influence of oligarchs on politics; and only 1 percent for his job with the economy, morale, social tolerance, or democratic and political freedom. Conversely, “fighting corruption” was Putin’s greatest failure according to 29 percent of those polled.
As quoted by Newsweek: “The fall will be slow,” Levada Center’s director mused. “The elections in 2018 will not be affected very severely but this will change later on.” With the emphasis on later, presumably.