Crimea Factor Finite in Putin's Rating
Published: August 14, 2014 (Issue # 1824)
As President Vladimir Putin touched down in the Crimean city of Sevastopol on Wednesday, a poll revealed that his support among voters has almost doubled since January, largely due to the Kremlin's policies in Crimea and Ukraine, analysts said.
The turmoil in Ukraine and the annexation of Crimea in March have galvanized public opinion behind the president, but this level of support cannot be maintained indefinitely, and eventually Putin's approval ratings will return to the pre-Ukraine trend of a sluggish decline, according to sociologists and pundits.
While back in January, only 29 percent of Russians said they would vote for Putin if a presidential election were held that weekend, in July that figure had risen to 52 percent, according to a survey released by the independent and respected Levada pollster Wednesday.
Among the respondents who said they would vote and knew whom they would choose, 82 percent said they would vote for Putin. This represents the figure that Putin would likely get if elections were held this weekend.
Putin garnered 63.6 percent of the vote in the last Russian presidential election in 2012. Shortly before the Ukraine crisis unfolded in central Kiev late last year, his approval rating had hit its lowest since he first became president in 2000: In November, 61 percent of respondents told the Levada Center they approved of Putin's activities, while in July that figure was 85 percent.
All Levada Center surveys cited in this story were conducted among 1,600 respondents with a margin of error not exceeding 3.4 percent.
Extraordinary Is the New Normal
The ongoing bloody conflict in Ukraine and the annexation of Crimea have fundamentally changed the way the Russian public perceives the Kremlin's policies, according to Levada Center head Lev Gudkov.
"What has happened is that the state-run media, government institutions and even parts of civil society have adapted to this new situation, this "us-versus-them" anti-Western ideology, and have accepted it as the new norm," he said.
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