Vladimir Putin’s domestic approval ratings are dipping according to two recent Russian polls, after they had shot up in the wake of the annexation of Crimea. Numbers on what Russians think of their Tsar—ahem, President—still show him remaining quite popular in absolute terms, but the step down in the numbers appears to be real. Reuters reports:
Russians’ concern about rising prices has eroded President Vladimir Putin’s approval ratings but these remain extremely high, the daily Vedomosti reported on Friday.
It cited a poll by the Public Opinion Foundation as showing that 72 percent of Russians would have voted for Putin in August, down from 76 percent in May.
Another poll, by the Levada Center, showed that in August 83 percent of Russians approved of the President’s actions, down from an all-time high of 89 percent in May.
Russians increasingly have good reason to be upset, or at least less happy, with their leadership. Plummeting oil prices and Western sanctions have given the Russian economy a good shove towards recession, contracting output by 4.6 percent in the second quarter of 2015, and sending the ruble down to its lowest levels ever against the euro and dollar this week. Inflation in consumer goods prices—the vector by which average Russians will most acutely experience pain—remains stubbornly high, remaining at around 15.6 percent in July.
The question, as always with Russia, is just how much pain will the people bear? Russian history might suggest that the answer could be “a lot”; and Putin’s enduring popularity is no doubt due to the suffocatingly jingoistic propaganda that suffuses the country’s mass media 24-7. Nevertheless, when things go as bad as they seem to be going, unpredictable things can happen. The Kremlin, which is by all accounts obsessed with public opinion ratings, can’t be happy about this turn of events.