Friday, August 2, 2019

Putin’s Remaining Authority Based on Inertia, Sociologists Say

Paul Goble

            Staunton, July 30 – Thirty-eight percent of Russians say they do not want Vladimir Putin to remain in power after his current term ends, eleven percent more than a year ago, but not a record: In October 2012 and October 2013, the shares against his continuing in office were 40 and 45 percent respectively, the Levada Center says.

            In reporting this, Vedomosti journalist Elena Mukhametshina cites Levada center director Lev Gudkov who argues that Putin retains what support he has because people cannot imagine anyone else in the office. His authority is thus “to a large degree the result of inertia rather than new achievements” (

            Gudkov says, however, that there is another development the new polls show that is worrisome for the authorities: the share of Russians who find it difficult to answer questions about support for Putin is growing smaller, an indication of polarization and of the increase in the number of Russians who are dissatisfied with Putin and the current situation. 

            “We are approach the situation of 2011-2013,” Gudkov continues, “when there was a peak of anti-Putin attitudes. But now the social base of dissatisfaction is much broader: it includes not just ‘the creative class;” poorer groups of the population have allied themselves to it because the current situation has hit them harder.”

            But up to now, he says, this larger group has not found a leader around which to consolidate its dissatisfaction with the current situation.

            What is most important, Gudkov argues, is that Putin is no longer viewed “as a leader who defines the process but as a routine figure who isn’t capable of improving the situation.” He will thus continue to enjoy support by inertia as long as the authorities use force to ensure that no opposition figure can emerge.

            Dmitry Badovsky, the head of the Institute for Social, Economic and Political Research, adds that the share who want to see Putin continue in office has fallen from 60 percent in 2016. People then didn’t see an alternative but hoped that Putin might be able to get the country out of its current difficulties or prevent its slide back to the 1990s.

            Now, because of the pension fund fiasco and continuing even deepening economic problems, Russians no longer have that confidence in him, Moscow political scientist Nikolay Petrov says. Even in the 2018 elections, Putin could offer “no real achievements besides Crimea” and Russians had little reason to hope.

            Russians understand full well, he says, that Putin’s rating “exists not in a competitive system but is the rating of someone who isn’t being compared with someone else … But he can’t avoid comparisons with himself of ten years.” They he was viewed positively for what he had done; now he is viewed less so because he hasn’t followed up on that.

            “Today,” Petrov continues, “Putin’s base of support consists of ‘rationally conservative citizens’ who think about whether they are ready to experiment with a replacement of Putin by someone unknown.” Such people will vote for Putin despite everything until an alternative is on offer, someone the Kremlin leader will do everything to prevent emerging. 

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