Russian Public Opinion Tracking

posted in: Russian politics | 0

I’ve been slow in posting here, but I threw together some data on Vladimir Putin’s public opinion rating since the beginning of his third term as president. Similar to other poll aggregators on US politicians, I’ve combined the results from a few Russian public opinions on Putin. It’s still a bit rudimentary, but I think it’s a decent first crack at putting together data that might be useful for Russia watchers.

As a quick note, it doesn’t look like the tracker shows up in all browsers on WordPress, so if you can’t see it, please check it out here.

You can use the slider below the graph to focus on a smaller chunk of time.



There are a couple of things that immediately jump out when looking at the data (as of July 25th).

Pension reform is hitting Putin’s approval

First, Putin’s approval rating has taken a tumble in the last month. In the last few polls released, his approval has fallen to around 60% and his disapproval has risen to the mid-20s. This coincides with the announcement that the government is raising the minimum pension age to 65 for men and to 63 for women. Putin’s attempts to insulate himself from the reform do not appear to be working. Other indicators of public satisfaction with the situation in the country have also nosedived since June.

This is particularly striking because these declines came during the World Cup hosted in Russia, which has been hailed as a success for the regime. If the plan was to announce the change during the World Cup to dampen the criticism and avoid protests, it does not appear to be working. I intend to write a full piece on the politics of pension reform soon, so stay turned.

Difference between polls, at a glance

The second thing that caught my attention is the difference between the polls used. Levada and VTsIOM1 The Russian acronym for Russian Public Opinion Research Center – the two most prominent polling organizations in Russia – show similar approval ratings for Putin, but noticeably different disapproval ratings. VTsIOM data, owned by the state, shows Putin disapproval ratings that are – on average – almost 6 points lower than Levada’s numbers.2 To make the data comparable, I took the mean monthly disapproval rating from the monthly VTsIOM polls and compared it to Levada’s monthly numbers

In other words, state-owned VTsIOM doesn’t show higher approval ratings than independent Levada, but it does show lower disapproval ratings. Not a surprise, but something to ponder. I (and, I think, many other analysts) put much greater stock in the Levada numbers, although this evidence suggests that it’s the VTsIOM disapproval numbers that are suspicious rather than the numbers as a whole.

As with many of these things, this tracker is a work in process. The difference between the disapproval ratings in the Levada and VTsIOM data indicates that I should account for this when constructing the ratings. I also plan to add data from the Public Opinion Fund (FOM) as soon as I can get it into a format that can be analyzed. I also want to update the tracker on a regular basis and have a dedicated page for it on this website. Finally, I may add other indicators worth tracking; Levada, VTsIOM and FOM all publish data on a number of topics, so if there is anything you’d like to see here, let me know.

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