Staunton, January 20 – Many have been shocked that only a third of Russians now trust Vladimir Putin, a record low. But “if you analyze the results of this research,” Igor Eidman says, “it becomes clear that the real rating of the president is lower still” because many Russians are still afraid to tell pollsters what they really think.
This becomes clear, the Russian sociologist says, when one considers that the same poll which found that 33.4 percent of Russians “trust” Putin reported that 62.1 percent of them approved of his activities. Thus, “about 30 percent don’t trust Putin but approve him” (facebook.com/permalink.php?story_fbid=2213484578714509&id=100001589654713).
“How can anyone approve someone he doesn’t trust?” Eidman asks rhetorically. “This is not some strange Russian phenomenon or schizophrenia as it might appear to be on first glance.” Instead, it reflects the fact that “many Russians simply are afraid to speak the truth when answering the questions of sociologists.”
In this particular poll, he continues, “the question about approval was closed – one had to choose from proposed answers – but the one about trust to politicians was open – one had to offer an answer oneself.” When answers are offered, Russians choose the one they think their interlocutor wants to hear; when they aren’t, they are more likely to offer their own views.
As a result, Eidman says, the sociologists obtained the results they did, with trust “essentially lower than approval.” Of course, he continues, “ratings of politicians are always lower when open questions are used than when closed are.” In the Russian case, this has nothing to do with memory loss: it has to do with fear of speaking the truth about the top man.
“The level of fear varies among various categories of respondents,” he says. But a reasonable allocation of those who say they approve but don’t trust means that “the real trust rating of Putin may be about 20 to 25 percent,” certainly not higher. And this level of trust means two important things.
On the one hand, Eidman says, it means that “the protest potential of society is quite high; and on the other, it indicates that “Putin would lose any free elections” should they ever be held in Russia.