Staunton, March 2 – Those who criticize the Levada Center and other polling agencies for continuing to ask how many Russians support Vladimir Putin forget that almost no Russian believes that declaring support for the Kremlin leader will land him or her in trouble, Aleksey Levinson says.
Thus, polls showing that fewer Russians support him now than did in the past aren’t likely to be affected by fears that might keep them from telling the truth, the Levada Center sociologist says. In fact, those who say they support Putin are likely to exaggerate the level of backing he has (vtimes.io/2021/03/02/kto-skrivaet-plohoe-otnoshenie-k-prezidentu-a3482).
Twenty years ago, just after Putin came to office, the Levada Center asked Russians how they felt about him. Thirty-six percent said they couldn’t say anything bad about him, 31 percent said they felt sympathy and four percent said they were delighted with the president. Few had a negative opinion about him, Levinson says.
Recently, the polling agency asked the same question, and this time, 27 percent said they could not say anything bad about him, four percent less over the period, and 20 percent said they felt sympathy to him, down 11 percent or less than a third.
Putin retains his enthusiastic backers, those who feel delight about him. Fourteen percent of these come from those over 65, 13 percent from homemakers, with nine percent of the total sample now declaring they feel that way, slightly more than twice the share of two decades earlier.
There are a few who say they can’t say anything bad about Putin who other questions show do have negative views concerning him. But they form less than three percent of all Russians sampled; and on these other questions, they aren’t hiding how they feel about his policies if not his person.
What this shows, Levinson suggests, is that those who do conceal their views aren’t those most commentator critical of polling agencies assume. They are ordinary people who have mixed opinions and not the committed radicals who fear to speak their mind. More evidence for that conclusion is provided by responses to another question.
According to the sociologist, Russians were asked whether those being surveyed thought that people speak openly about their attitudes toward Putin or whether instead, they conceal what they really think of him. Forty-two percent said that the majority or practically all say what they think.
Thirty-percent said that the majority or practically all conceal what they think; 25 percent said people divide equally in how honest they are; and three percent said they found it difficult to answer the question.
“Among those who approve Putin’s activity as president – 65 percent in February – the majority say that people answer openly, while among those who do not approve of his actions, 34 percent express the view that people hide the attitudes toward the authorities and toward Putin personally.”