Thursday, June 21, 2018

Putin’s Popularity to Decline in Near Term, Lev Gudkov Says

Paul Goble

            Staunton, June 21 – Lev Gudkov, the head of the Levada Center, says that Vladimir Putin’s popularity will decline in the near future because the mobilization effect of his campaign is wearing off and because of the unpopularity of some of the government’s most recent initiatives such as raising the retirement age.

            But at the same time, he tells Deutsche Welle, there is no unified opposition to Putin in Russia. His opponents are “demoralized and divided in part as a result of repressions against civil society and in part as a result of the loss of faith in the possibility of changing anything given the authoritarian regime (

            Indicative of the rapid fall off in the effect of the election campaign, Gudkov says, is that while in August 2017, 66 percent of Russians wanted Putin to continue in office beyond 2024, today that number “has fallen to 51 percent.”

            According to the sociologist, support for Putin’s remaining in office forever comes mostly from the less educated, the less well-off, and those living in the provinces, all people who are “nostalgic for the Soviet system.” Opposition comes from those more educated, more well to do, and more urban and socially active.

            Most likely, Gudkov continues, those who oppose Putin remaining in office for life “did not take part in the voting in March 2018, having concluded that the pro-Putin hysteria meant that their voices would change nothing.” Moreover, they understood that what occurred in Russia on March 18 wasn’t an election but “an acclamation, an organized consensus.”

            “Such a situation cannot last for long,” he says, “and therefore Putin’s popularity in the near term will begin to fall. That will be more likely because of the negative social background now – the continuing fall in the standard of living and the unpopularity among people of the pension reform which is supported by “fewer than 10 percent of Russians.”

            What is especially striking in recent polls, the Levada Center head adds, is that more Russians want to see an improvement in relations with the West than are concerned about improving the standard of living. Fifty-one percent list improving ties with the West as most important; 45 percent say living standards are.

            This makes perfect sense, he says. “People from their own experience know that he authorities will deceive them and that all Putin’s promises will remain unfulfilled. But confrontation with the rest of the civilized world really frightens them.”

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