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Trust in Vladimir Putin declines steeply among Russians, poll shows (Guardian)

13 October 2018


Guardian title: Trust in Vladimir Putin declines steeply among Russians, poll shows

Guardian subtitle: Backing for ruling party also falls as analysts say pension changes the likely cause

“Trust in Vladimir Putin and Russia’s ruling party have declined steeply over the past year with analysts pointing to the government’s controversial pension changes as the main reason.

In a poll by the independent Levada Centre, 39% of Russians listed Putin as a politician they trust. That is a 20% decrease from November 2017, when Putin was named by 59% of Russians, according to the same polling agency.

The Levada polls are the latest to show a strong backlash as the Kremlin pushes unpopular social reforms to relieve pressure on the budget. This month, 45% of Russians told FOM (Public Opinion Foundation), a polling agency close to the Kremlin, they would vote for Putin if elections were held this Sunday. That rating was down from 67% at the beginning of the year.

It is among the lowest support Putin has held in the last decade, according to FOM data, tied only with his support in late 2013 just before the annexation of Crimea and a wave of patriotic fervour.

The ruling United Russia party, seen as more vulnerable than Putin, has also been hit hard. FOM showed the party had 31% support, also a drop of close to 20% since the beginning of the year, with its docile rivals rising in the polls.

“People think that the state is trying to solve its problems at the expense of the population,” Lev Gudkov, the head of Levada, told Vedomosti, a Russian business newspaper. “It’s encroaching on something the people consider their own – their pensions savings.”

That growing anger has been reflected in elections in Russian regions, which have been just as much of a headache for the Kremlin recently as foreign allegations of spying and election meddling.

Despite controlling the levers of the country’s electoral system, the Kremlin still follows public opinion obsessively, holding weekly strategy meetings with some of the country’s top pollsters.

Voters in the far east and Siberia rejected governors from United Russia, the party closely allied with Putin. In their place, they supported candidates from communist and nationalist parties, forcing the Kremlin to reshuffle governors to problem regions and deploy political advisers to manage the backlash. Putin has also fired a number of regional governors.

The Levada polling helps show why. After Putin, the most trusted men in the country were Sergei Shoigu, the defence minister who has denied aspirations to office, and Vladimir Zhirinovsky, the clownish leader of Russia’s nationalist Liberal Democratic party. Each was listed as a trusted politician by 15% of the population. Among those polled, 18% said they could not think of any politicians they trusted, and another 18% said they had difficulty answering.

Russia’s top officials largely lost ground in the poll. Shoigu’s trust rating has fallen 8% in the last year, while that of the foreign minister, Sergei Lavrov, dropped by 9%.

Russia’s pensionchanges, which were signed into law by Putin last week, will delay retirement age for all Russians by five years. Men must work until 65, and women must work until 60.

Putin built political support in the 2000s mainly through a reputation for economic growth and stability after a post-Soviet transition that was financially ruinous for many. As Russia’s economy has stalled in the past half-decade, support for Putin has become more closely associated with Russia’s geopolitical stance as a bulwark to western influence. Support for Putin waned after mass protests in Moscow in 2011, but jumped when Russia annexed Crimea in 2014, portrayed domestically as a return to Russia’s great power status.”



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