A new Public Opinion Foundation poll should lead to concern rather than reassurance in the Kremlin, Vladislav Inosemtsev says. That is because while it shows high levels of support for Putin and low levels of willingness to protest, it suggests that Russians are increasingly anxious and back the regime because they don’t see any alternative yet.
On the one hand, the Russian economist and commentator says, the poll shows that since the start of the special military operation in Ukraine, Russians’ willingness to participate in protests has fallen while support for Vladimir Putin has gone back up to where it was only a few months earlier (rosbalt.ru/posts/2022/07/03/1964856.html).
But on the other, a more careful examination of the data shows that “citizens are not so much satisfied with what is taking place as they are worried about any changes and therefore do not want to do anything that might promote such changes,” Inozemtsev says. And they show that attitudes toward the regime are becoming disconnected with attitudes about their lives.
In many respects, he continues, “the situation with respect to the attitudes of people on the whole has returned to where it was last summer. However, there is one circumstance which clearly distinguishes the current situation from last year’s” and that is this: there is an increasing disconnect between feelings about the situation and declared support for the authorities.
A year ago, the share of those anxious about life in general largely corresponded to those dissatisfied with government policies. But now, the share of those unhappy with conditions – 43 percent – is almost four times the share of those who express unhappiness with government policies – 12 percent.
What this means, Inozetmsev says, is that Russians back the regime now not because they are pleased with it but because they don’t see any alternative. That pattern can last only so long. And those in the Kremlin should be thinking about what they can do to gain more gratitude by offering policies that the population will feel it is benefiting from.
In the absence of such a change, negative attitudes about the situation will likely spread in time to negative attitudes about the regime.