Monday, March 07, 2016

Just because Russians like Putin doesn’t mean they’re happy about the economy

By Michael Birnbaum March 6 WashPost

MOSCOW – Backers of Russian President Vladimir Putin like to brag that he has a sky-high approval rating. But what does that look like in real life?

That’s what I wanted to find out when I spent a recent weekend afternoon shadowing a Russian opinion pollster. Polls show that Russians overwhelmingly support Putin, but that they’re far more negative about the politicians and bureaucrats underneath him. Five hours spent knocking on doors in a working-class apartment complex on the outskirts of Moscow bore this out. It was still fascinating to see the dissonance play out in real life.

I’m often asked whether Putin’s support is real. My strong impression is that it is, but that when people say they support Putin, they don’t mean the same thing as what an American might mean when she says she supports President Obama. More than 16 years into Putin’s rule, many Russians see him as having transcended politics, not someone who can be voted in or out of office. So when you ask someone whether they approve of Putin, that’s like asking them whether they approve of Russia. Who’s going to say no?

One 20-year-old man told the pollster, Lyubov Kostyrya, that he strongly approved of Putin. But when she asked him an open-ended question about which politicians in Russia he supported, he couldn’t name a single one. In his mind, so it seemed, Putin was somewhere above it all.

(More here.)

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