The FINANCIAL — Russians’ support of President Vladimir Putin looks unshakable ahead of his bid for re-election in March 2018, with his approval ratings at a buoyant 80% in 2017. But underneath, Russians are less sure about whether their country’s leadership is taking them in the right direction.
While not the lowest on record, the 52% of Russians who believe their country’s leadership is taking them in the right direction is the lowest in years, and it suggests that Russians continue to hold their country’s leader to a different standard than they do their country’s leadership in general.
Putin ended speculation Wednesday about whether he would run for president again. If he wins again, he will be in office until 2024, enshrining his status as the longest-serving leader of Russia since Joseph Stalin. Putin has been in office, as either president or prime minister, since 2000, according to Gallup.
Based on his recent approval ratings, Putin’s record is likely secure. Russians’ support for their president remains undiminished from the high ratings they have given him since Crimea became part of Russia in 2014. His personal brand since then has been immune to any challenges on the domestic and international fronts, including plunging oil prices, years of recession and Western sanctions over Moscow’s actions in Ukraine.
The country’s leadership in general has not been as invulnerable — and may, in fact, be absorbing most of the blame for the country’s recent economic troubles. Although it rallied to a record-high 73% in 2014, the percentage of Russians who believe their leadership is taking them in the right direction has continued to fall. The percentage who say leadership is heading in the wrong direction doubled (from 11% to 22%) in that same period.
Russians’ approval ratings of the job performance of the country’s leadership more generally, while still at a majority level, have also faltered. After soaring as high as 65% in 2015, Russians’ approval has edged down to 60% — still far lower than Putin’s approval rating.
Riding a groundswell of national pride after Crimea, the situation in Ukraine and the Sochi Olympics, Putin’s approval ratings and Russians’ faith in their country’s leadership soared in 2014. Positivity colored nearly all aspects of Russians’ lives that year — even as oil prices and the ruble collapsed.
The rally appears to have been short-lived in many regards. Russians’ ratings of their lives have inched downward each subsequent year and they are increasingly finding it difficult to get by on their current incomes.
Russians’ faith in their country’s leadership in general has also waned. But the rising uncertainty among Russians about their country’s leadership will likely have little effect, if any, on who they choose to lead it.