MOSCOW — According to a recent poll, the number of Russian citizens who would be prepared to vote for President Vladimir Putin if he were up for reelection now has been increasing every month since Russia annexed Crimea.
In April, his approval rating was 62%, in May it increased to 73%. At the beginning of 2012, only 40% of Russians said they would vote for Putin, while 39% said they wouldn’t. Today, only 13% of Russians say they would not vote for Putin.
Putin’s popularity is absolutely connected to the events in Ukraine, explains Valerii Fedorov, general director of the All-Russian Public Opinion Research Center, which conducted the polls.
Federov notes that the annexation of Crimea is now seen as central to Putin’s entire political career that his current approval ratings can’t really be compared to the “pre-Crimea” polls.
“Putin is going down in history,” he said. “Because of it, all the exhaustion that people had been feeling about his time in power has disappeared.”
Risks of war and peace
Most Russians say they now believe Putin still has a good future in politics still ahead of him. The Russian political scene “now really only has one pole — Putin, and there is nothing that even resembles an “anti-Putin,” explained Evgeni Minchenko, head of the International Institute of Political Analysis.
Still, Minchenko does note that the Russian president’s domestic authority “now depends on international politics, including the events in Ukraine, to an unprecedented level.” Indeed, if Putin doesn’t more directly intervene in the armed conflict in Eastern Ukraine, it “could lower his popularity down to the ‘pre-Crimea’ levels,” he said.
Minchenko cautions, however, that an armed intervention would only help keep Putin’s popularity levels high if “the war is quite small and there is a clear victory.”
According to Boris Makarenko, head of the Center of Political Technology, the President could hold on to his new popularity levels “for months or for years.” Right now, Makarenko says, Russians acknowledge Putin’s symbolic leadership and his right to be the “chief.”
But society also evaluates concrete political actions. “Sooner or later, people’s evaluation of Putin on both levels will dead-end," Makarenko says. "But no one knows when that will happen."