Publication: Monitor Volume: 6 Issue: 231

Recent polling data suggest that while President Vladimir Putin retains the support of an overwhelming majority of Russians, fewer of them are convinced that his initiatives will bring about improvements in the country. A poll taken among 1,600 Russians over November 24-27 by the All Russian Center for the Study of Public Opinion (VTsIOM) found that 70 percent of respondents approved of Putin’s performance and 22 percent disapproved. The president’s approval rating was up from October, when 64 percent of respondents said that they approved of his performance and 26 percent said they disapproved. The improvement may be due to a possible fading of memories of the summer’s disasters–the sinking of the submarine Kursk, the fire in the Ostankino television tower and the bombing at Moscow’s Pushkin Square. Since assuming the presidency at the beginning of this year, Putin’s highest rating came in May, with 72 percent approving and 17 percent disapproving.

In November, in answer to the question of whether the current Russian government would be able to change the situation in the country for the better in the near future, the responses were 25 percent saying yes, 35 percent waffling with a “maybe yes, maybe no” and 36 percent saying no. In October, it was 30-28-34.

Another sign that faith in Putin’s endeavors–if not in the president himself–may be fading came when respondents were asked which party they would vote for if State Duma elections were held now. Most of Russia’s main parties, including the Communist Party of the Russian Federation (KPRF), the Union of Right-Wing Forces (SPS) and Yabloko showed little change in support since last May. However, Unity–the pro-Putin party lead by Emergency Situations Minister Sergei Shoigu–showed a sharp drop in support: 26 percent of those polled last May indicated that they supported Unity, only 19 percent did so in VTsIOM’s November poll. Both Unity and Shoigu have been the subject of controversies in the press recently. Shoigu is rumored to be in political trouble, while the tycoon and erstwhile Kremlin insider Boris Berezovsky has claimed that Swiss firms which allegedly embezzled money from the state airline Aeroflot helped to finance Unity’s election campaign last year. VTsIOM also found in November that 4 percent of those polled believed Putin had dealt “very successfully” with the problem of imposing order on the country (4 percent answered the same way when the question was asked in July), while 34 percent said “rather successfully” (41 percent in July), 47 percent said “without much success” (43 percent in July), and 9 percent said “totally without success” (5 percent in July). At the same time, only 24 percent of those polled in November said that Putin’s creation earlier this year of seven federal districts headed by presidential representatives would help bring about order in the country. Thirty-five percent said the initiative would have “no serious consequences.” Last June, 44 percent of those polled said they thought the new districts and presidential representatives would help bring about order in the country, and only 17 percent predicted the initiative would have “no serious consequences.”

VTsIOM’s November poll had a 4 percent margin of error.