Friday, April 17, 2020

Russians have Long Factored in Putin’s Flight from Responsibility in Their Assessments of Him, Lev Gudkov Says

Paul Goble

            Staunton, April 15 – Some commentators have suggested that Vladimir Putin’s declining poll numbers reflect his transparent effort to shift responsibility from himself to governors, business and the people; but pollster Lev Gudkov argues that Russians long ago factored in that Putin approach in their assessments of the Kremlin leader.

            Thus, the head of the Levada Center says, the decline in his ratings reflect far broader and deeper phenomena, including the sense that he serves the interests of the oligarchs and siloviki rather than theirs and that his foreign and domestic policies increasingly are failures (

            For Russians, he tells VOA Russian Service correspondent Viktor Vladimirov, “it has been perfectly obvious for a long time that Putin retreats from responsibility everywhere he can, shifting it onto other levels of power” and that he, “in general occupies himself with populist rhetoric and looks quite hopeless.”

            “The foundation of the present-day political construction” in Russia, the sociologist continues, consist of “people who are indifferent and alienated from politics.” Those who do support Putin rather than being passively indifferent are provincial voters, “with not very much education and older and the bureaucracy of various kinds.”

            Those who most negatively rate Putin are above all young people, and their negative attitudes are growing “with each passing survey.” But even among them, there is still a large share of people who remain at least in principle “neutral with respect to the president,” Gudkov says.

            That shouldn’t surprise anyone, he continues, all authoritarian regimes rely on such neutrality. In them, “people consider that they can’t influence the powers.” And that means that they are mostly alienated even if they do not openly express that view because they believe that what happens “on the political scene” is not their affair.

            Such people, Gudkov concludes, “do not see the cause and effect connection between the decisions the authorities take and their own daily life.”

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