Staunton, January 13 – A gap has emerged between the assessments Russians give to Vladimir Putin’s policies and their rating of him as president, Mikhail Delyagin says, with large majorities opposing his initiatives even if they continue to say they back the Kremlin leader overall.
Moscow commentator Mikhail Delyagin hosts a weekly radio show on Komsomolskaya pravda, a station directed in his words toward “the quiescent and loyalist segment” of Russian society. Over the past year, he has asked viewers each week for their reactions to the latest Kremlin policies (svpressa.ru/society/article/286835/).
He has now presented the results, and they are striking. They show that viewers who sent in their reactions to these policies were overwhelmingly diametrically opposed to what Vladimir Putin and the Russian government were doing, even on issues like constitutional reform that the Kremlin leader has put his political muscle behind.
What makes these findings important – and Delyagin presents 39 of them – is that those who object to Putin’s policies are people who among those who continue to say that they support the president as such.
On the one hand, such self-selected polls are far from being representative. Those who have a negative view are far more likely to take the time to send in comments than those with a positive view, thus skewing the results in the way the commentator reports.
But on the other, they do tap into an important reality: Putin remains far more popular personally than his policies are. As long as there is no real alternative to him, he can count on this passive support. But if an alternative does arise, those who don’t like Putin’s policies may quickly decide that they don’t like Putin either.
That explains why the Kremlin leader has worked so hard to cleanse the political field of anyone who could reasonably present himself as an alternative to himself and why the upcoming return of Aleksey Navalny from Germany is sparking so much concern and so many hopes that this alone could change that situation.