Staunton, March 7 – A new VTsIOM poll finds that the percent of voters in Moscow and St. Petersburg who say they will vote for Vladimir Putin fell from 69.7 percent on January 10 to 57.1 percent on February 18, and another study projected that participation in these and other major cities will be far lower than the Kremlin wants.
These developments, commentators say, may mean that the Russian government will unleash all its administrative powers in order to booth both support for Putin in the cities and the level of participation; but experts say the pattern the new surveys found was entirely predictable (vedomosti.ru/politics/articles/2018/03/07/752953-reiting-putina).
VTsIOM, a polling agency reputed to have close ties with the Kremlin, reports that support for Putin also fell in cities between 100,000 and 500,000 and in cities with fewer than 100,000. Cities between these two categories showed a decline earlier but an uptick over the last month.
In general, Valery Fedorov, VTsIOM’s general director says, “the larger the city, the lower the level of participation and of support for the candidate from powers.” That is because “in major cities, fear and administrative pressure work more weakly” and because residents have access to more sources of information and “therefore are more critical of the authorities.”
Another reason is that as the campaign has proceeded, “people remember that there are other candidates” besides Putin. That being so, “naturally, the authorities lose a little and the opposition figures gain.” He says that even in the big cities, participation will be in the 55 to 60 percent range, and support for Putin between 50 and 65 percent.”
According to Fedorov, “if the elections are carried out honestly, then Putin’s result in the million-resident cities will be lower and the opponents somewhat higher;” but if the regime uses all its “administrative resources” – “and I don’t exclude this,” the VTsIOM sociologist says, then the participation and support for Putin will be higher.
Andrey Koladin, a political analyst, says that urban residents are less likely to defer to those in power than are other Russians. “In major cities, the voter is more politicized, he has fewer problems with income, and he is less dependent on the authorities.” But like Fedorov, he says the authorities may pull out all the stops at the last minute to change the pattern.
And Dmitry Badovsky of the Moscow Institute of Socio-Economic and Political Research, says there are other reasons for the big cities to be different: “young people are concentrated there and stereotypes about voting as a ritual work less effectively than they do elsewhere.” Voters take their role more seriously.
Meanwhile, the Petersburg Politics Foundation has issued its estimates for the level of participation in 31 federal subjects. Its report says that these vary from 33 percent to 100 percent, with Moscow and the big cities being the lowest and the non-Russian republics among the highest (fpp.spb.ru/fpp-rating-2018-02kasparov.ru/material.php?id=5A9FA9E2222F5).
The foundation projects that 33 percent of the voters of Moscow will take part in the election, 37 percent in St. Petersburg, 39 percent in Tomsk oblast, 38 percent in Novosibirsk oblast, and 37 percent in Astrakhan oblast. At the other end, 100 percent of voters in Tyumen oblast and Tuva are predicted to take part, with Daghestan at 99 percent and Chechnya at 96.