Tuesday, December 25, 2018

Russians Want Very Different Qualities in a Leader than They Did a Year Ago, New Study Says

Paul Goble

            Staunton, December 25 – A year ago, most Russians were prepared to accept that their national leader should have virtually unlimited power, Mikhail Dmitriyev says; but now they have an entirely different view, one that he and his team suggest represents a revolution in national consciousness.

            Yesterday, the sociologist and his colleagues presented the results of the second sociology study they have made this year – the first was in May – and they say that the results of both “surprised” them. In the May survey, Russians had become disappointed in the strong leader who could bring order (rosbalt.ru/russia/2018/12/24/1755065.html).

            They “had begun to show an interest in an alternative type of leadership. Respondents said that “the leader they were prepared to follow must show respect to people, honesty, the ability to admit mistakes and act in the interests of the people, must know how people are living in detail and be democratic and peace-loving,” Dmitriyev says.

            The second survey found these values to be even more widely shared; but it found something else, the team of sociologists say, Russians don’t see any leaders on the horizon who might be able to bring these qualities to the highest offices of the Russian Federation.  Instead, while they want a new kind of leader, they view Putin as without obvious competitors.

            And Lev Gudkov of the Levada Center who also took part in the presentation of Dmitriyev’s report note that this shift in opinion has led to declining trust in the population in the government and in the government in the population but has not made the government ready to change or the population ready to demand change.

            According to Dmitriyev, “the most unexpected finding” in the October survey was the demand for “a peace-loving foreign policy.”  In May, most Russians supported Putin’s approach; but in October, “the number of people” suggesting they want a change in foreign policy “sharply increased” in focus groups in all social and age groups.

            This has not led to public protests, but “nevertheless, today, no one can with certainty say how Russian society would react to a major war between Russia and Ukraine,” the sociologists concluded. But there won’t be the support for such actions that there might have been four years ago.

            In 2014, Lev Gudkov said, about 75 percent of Russians said they favored direct Russian intervention against Ukraine. By January 2017, the share saying that had fallen to 20 percent.  It seems likely that it is even lower now.    

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