By Paul Goble
For the first time since the pension reform debacle, Russians have sent Vladimir Putin’s approval rating up slightly by three percent to 70, according to a new Levada Center poll. But the share expressing sympathy for him has fallen to 24 percent – about one in four – compared to 32 percent – one in three — two years ago.
Lev Gudkov, the head of the Center, tells Vedomosti that now “the main attitude toward Putin is not unqualified sympathy but neutral indifference. In general,” the sociologist continues, “authoritarian regimes [like Putin’s] are backed by such alienated attitudes” (vedomosti.ru/politics/articles/2019/11/17/816454-rossiyane-otnositsya).
Those most inclined to express sympathy for Putin are his core supporters, Gudkov continues, “women, people from the provinces and those in the older generations.” Over the last two years, the share expressing sympathy has fallen because of unhappiness about Putin’s policies in general and his pension reform in particular.
Anger about the pension age changes lasted all year and has only begun to decline, something that is “connected above all with economic problems” that remain including “a reduction in incomes, the lack of prospects and a feeling of stagnation in the country, the sociologist explains.
The general trend is this: “those who sympathize [with Putin] are becoming indifferent, but at the same time, negative feelings toward him are not growing, a pattern that reflects the lack of alternatives and the weakness of the opposition,” Gudkov says. But he stresses that “approval of the president’s activities does not mean sympathy for him.”
Putin’s biggest supporters feel sympathy for him,” the pollster concludes; “but the majority in contrast experiences weaker feelings: the president for them is too far away and therefore they relate to him in more distant ways.”