Latest Poll Undermines Claims of Rising Dissatisfaction in Russia

Something has changed, we are told again and again. After two decades of misrule, Russians are getting increasingly fed up with Vladimir Putin and his ‘regime’. The recent protests caused by the arrest of Alexei Navalny are just the tip of the iceberg, underneath which is a huge wave of dissatisfaction just waiting to burst loose.

But is it? On the one hand, journalists provide anecdotal evidence to support the claim. On the other hand, there are the cold hard facts of survey statistics. What do they tell us?

To answer that question, we turn to the Russian sociological organization known as the Levada Centre. There are a couple of reasons for this. First, Levada has been doing surveys for a long time, so one can compare data over a prolonged period. And second, Levada is well known for its liberal, anti-government orientation, and so cannot in any way be accused of biasing its surveys to favour the Russian state.

Today, Levada published its latest set of indicators. So, let’s take a look at these, starting with the one that everybody is always interested in – Vladimir Putin’s approval rating.

Approval of Vladimir Putin

This records that when asked the question ‘do you approve of Vladimir Putin’s activities as President?’, 64% of respondents said yes. That’s down from 69% in September of last year, but up from the 60% recorded in July at the peak of the first wave of coronavirus. The survey was conducted in January, which means before the recent protests, but well after Navalny’s poisoning and revelations of possible state involvement. If Russians were going to hold Putin to account for what happened to Navalny, or for the large number of covid-related deaths in Russia, one would expect that to show already. It doesn’t.

If there is any reason for Putin to be concerned it is that his approval rating is lower among younger people than older ones. Whereas 73% of people aged 55 or over approve of him, only 51% of those aged 18 to 24 do so. But then again, 51% is still a majority. It would clearly be wrong to say that Russian youth have firmly turned their backs on their president. Overall, therefore, while one can say that Putin has lost ground since the big bump in support he got after the annexation of Crimea, he’s still in a reasonably strong position.

The next set of data relates to the approval of the Russian prime minister over time. This has gone up and down, the biggest positive rating being when Putin held the post between 2008 and 2012. But if you look at the recent end of the chart, you see that the current PM, Mikhail Mishustin, seems to be doing quite well, with a rating of 58% and rising. Interestingly, that brings him close to Putin in terms of approval. Unlike for the president, however, this data is not from January, but from November of last year. It will be interesting to see if Mishustin keeps moving upwards.

Approval of the Prime Minister

Approval of politicians is one thing. One’s general attitude to life is another. Perhaps Russia support their rulers while quietly growing more and more unhappy with the general state of things. This third chart, which is again based on surveys in January, suggests otherwise, at least in general terms.

Evaluation of the current situation in the country

The black line in the chart shows the percentage of people who think that the country is moving in the right direction, and the blue line the percentage who think the opposite. The most recent data indicates is that despite the troublesome economic situation, Russians generally have a positive outlook, with 49% currently thinking that things are improving, and 40% thinking that they are getting worse.

Obviously, things can change. A ‘black swan’ might come along and disrupt everything. But Russia has experienced a few such swans in recent years (repeated economic crises, Western sanctions, and covid) and yet Russians on the whole retain a positive outlook regarding their country’s prospects and their rulers.

In fact, looking at the charts, rather than concluding that everything has changed, one gets the impression that the present looks very much like the past. As they say, plus ça change, plus c’est la même chose.

36 thoughts on “Latest Poll Undermines Claims of Rising Dissatisfaction in Russia”

  1. Dear Dr. Robinson, thank you for this analysis.
    A quick question: are you aware of any reliable poll data on Putin and Navalny approval ratings 1) by region and 2) by respondent’s education?
    There’s this idea that Navalny is much more popular among educated city dwellers, but I haven’t been able to find any data supporting it.


      1. > for the number 2 standing

        Erm, no. You read it completely wrong. It’s a single poll with a methodology that partially reflects hype instead of support, and even there the sequence was Putin -> Mishustin -> Zhirinovsky -> Navalny -> Zyuganov.

        Liked by 1 person

      2. Are opinion polls reliable ?

        Citing opinion polls is lazy journalism And I don’t mean that as a criticism of you.

        Polls in my view are used to shape a narrative and create opinion not measure it.

        They can just be an indication of who is in the news.

        Does anyone really think Navani is more popular than the Communist party leader? that’s a joke

        Who is sampled ?

        How many are sampled?

        How are the questions framed?

        Who asks the questions ?

        How are the questions asked?

        What give them importance – The only all that really matters is Election Day.

        All polls have a margin of error

        To quote wiki

        “….. The margin of error is a statistic expressing the amount of random sampling error in the results of a survey. The larger the margin of error, the less confidence one should have that a poll result would reflect the result of a survey of the entire population.

        “……An acceptable margin of error used by most survey researchers typically falls between 4% and 8% at the 95% confidence level.”

        What is the margin or error for these surveys ?

        Why give them importance – The only poll that really matters is Election Day.

        Liked by 1 person

      3. Erm no, I read it right:

        “Putin’s approval rating drops slightly to 64%, while Navalny overtakes Communist Party leader in new Russian opinion poll”


      4. Yes, M & Z remain ahead of N according to that piece. Somewhat though not completely wrong on what I initially said on the matter regarding the number 2 standing.


    1. Regarding Navalny and the JRL-Paul Robinson promoted Meduza:

      Way to go Kevin Rothrock.

      You bet the Strategic Culture Foundation, my Eurasia Review column (among others) are politically censored.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. He has dicks on his mind but this is a part of a pattern. I have seen other tweets that name the judge and make threats to her and other obscene comments. I have not used Twitter for a while after I got my functions blocked but two weeks ago my profile was still active.


  2. Speaking of polls…
    Well this probably is not as scientific as the Levada poll, but here 13,480 people have voted in this online newspaper poll.
    The question is: “Do you support the idea of Donbass entering as a subject of the Russian Federation?’
    58.77% say “yes, need to let them in immediately”
    30.26% say, “yes, they should come in, but as part of a more protracted process”
    8.54% say “no” (those would be the readers who support the Ukrainian point of view, I reckon)
    2.43% say “I have no opinion”

    Guess which radio button yours truly clicked on?
    Just doing my bit, to support online democracy…

    Liked by 2 people

    1. I clicked the second button~

      Though it’s of course not a representative poll, so you can’t judge anything by it. Also, the “no” option doesn’t differentiate between actual pro-Ukrainian position and pro-status-quo/pro-independence without formal integration.


      1. That’s true. It’s not really scientific and it doesn’t make that distinction between pro-Ukrainian vs status-quo/Minsk.
        I clicked the first button, not because I’m aggressive, but I really think NOW is the time to get this done.
        By the way, you can’t vote more than once in these VZGLIAD polls. On a different poll, I once tried to vote twice to see what would happen, and it came back at me with something like “Sorry, we already got a vote from this IP address!”


  3. Totally OT

    I was reading a blog History for Atheists and the author has a post entitled The Great Myths 10: Soviet Atheism.

    I have a great deal of respect for his writing on ancient and medieval history which are his areas of expertise. I believe the author reads Latin and Koine Greek fluently, I am less confident of his command of Russian.

    I was wondering if anyone here could comment on is sources and interpretation in this blog.



    1. What the author gets wrong: “Marxist-Leninism’s atheism”

      Neither Marx nor Lenin (originally) advocated a “destructive” atheism. Read Marx carefully and he has pity and understands that religion in a capitalist society especially the one he observed in 19th century England fulfills a need to deliver solace to the oppressed.

      Both took it as granted that by eliminating capitalism and the liberation of the means of production from the control of the capitalist owner, religion would wither away.

      ” Lenin agreed with Engels when he wrote in The Attitude of the Workers’ Party to Religion: “Engels frequently condemned the efforts of people who desired to be “more left” or “more revolutionary” than the Social-Democrats to introduce into the programme of the workers’ party an explicit proclamation of atheism, in the sense of declaring war on religion. Commenting in 1874 on the famous manifesto of the Blanquist fugitive Communards who were living in exile in London, Engels called their vociferous proclamation of war on religion a piece of stupidity, and stated that such a declaration of war was the best way to revive interest in religion and to prevent it from really dying out.”

      Lenins change later was likely due to the initial antagonism of the ROC against the Bolsheviks as it being a supporter of the Tsarist empire and trying to defend its privileges.

      Liked by 1 person

    2. Imo, that very long essay takes the wrong tone right from the beginning, from its first line: ‘murderous regime’, ‘mass murder and oppression’.

      If the subject was Religion in the Soviet Union, then it seems to me it would make sense to analyze it in a less tendentious manner.

      But then, of course, that wasn’t the subject. The subject was the source of morality. Dostoyevschina, “if there is no god then everything is permitted”.

      Well, here it is, from wikipedia: “Marxism–Leninism holds that morality, like other forms of ideology, is of a class character and is manifested in people’s behavior in different ways in different historical conditions in accordance with the interests of what classes or social strata a person occupies.” End of story.
      To a Leninist all that talk about ‘mass murders’ would sound like completely meaningless nonsense. Who was being killed? By whom? To what end? In which socioeconomic/political context?


      1. Excellent comment, Mao Cheng.
        As for Dostoevsky, here is my expert clinical analysis: I believe that Dost was a mentally ill guy who felt deep dark urges to commit unspeakable crimes, such as molest a child or kill a lot of people in hideous ways. Dost was aware of his dark impulses and believed that the only way to keep these urges at bay was belief in God and the guidance of the Orthodox Church. He then projected his own situation onto all other people, this is why he came to the conclusion that God was needed to keep Man from committing crimes. [Doing a great job, so far, God! Keep up the good work…]

        Anyhow, the actual reality is that Dost helped himself to purge his own demons by WRITING about them. Art therapy, in other words.

        In conclusion: even though Dostoevsky was a great writer, it has to be said that his moral and religious philosophy was a load of hogwash. Because normal, mentally healthy people don’t feel those kind of violent urges at all, whether they are believers or atheists. That’s a separate matter altogether. I know tons of atheists, and I am an atheist myself, and not one of us ever went on a serial-killing spree, or felt the urge to sexually molest a child, or any of that sort of nonsense.


      2. “I know tons of atheists, and I am an atheist myself, and not one of us ever went on a serial-killing spree, or felt the urge to sexually molest a child, or any of that sort of nonsense.”

        Sure. Still, if your Dostoevsky theory is correct (and even if it isn’t), an imaginary all-powerful being watching your every move (and thought) is a useful concept. Both the original jealous/vengeful version (amazing, millennia-long, disciplinary effect), and certainly its caring/empathetic upgrade. It helps. Y’know, religion as a crutch, as opiate of the masses.


      3. Mao, this is, I used to say, when younger, a very, very curious animal.

        The question is, what is his subject? There seem to be several beneath the ostentatious header: What myth exactly is he smashing here? Other then that, there seem to be recurring staged fights, here between a “Neo Atheist” and a representative of the Christian “)Specialisation in historicist analysis of medieval literature.”

        This drew my attention from the very, very start:

        But the real change came in 1941 with the German invasion of the Soviet Union. Faced with defeat and crumbling Russian morale in the wake of swift German victories, Stalin realised he needed to draw on all the resources he had. He decided to reverse most of the previous anti-religious policies and harness the devotion of the people to the Orthodox faith to draw on its long tradition of patriotic defence of “Holy Mother Russia”. This had the added benefit of countering the Germans’ use of religion to undermine the Soviets in the territories they occupied and also mollified the Allies in the west, who were alarmed at reports of the anti-religious terror. Understandably relieved at the reversal, Sergii, the Orthodox Metropolitan of Moscow, put his support behind the war effort and in 1943, in return for some concessions by Stalin, Bishop Sergii gathered a council of nineteen bishops – sixteen of whom had just been released from gulags for the occasion – and was elected the Patriarch of Moscow. From this point the churches became a part of the apparatus of the Soviet state, even if it was often an uneasy relationship.


        much staged glamour, lots of vapor beneath …

        How sweet:


      4. Ok something went wrong here, correction:
        Other then that, there seem to be recurring staged fights, here between a “Neo Atheist” and a representative of the Christian [order. My ass:] “)/strike>)Specialisation in historicist analysis of medieval literature.”

        My favorite passages:

        But I am generally not presenting original research of my own here or putting my own re-interpretive spin on any historical topic. Instead, I’m drawing on over 35 years of reading on a range of topics relevant to the history of western religion and seek to curate summaries of current expert scholarly positions on those subjects.

        I didn’t notice historical awareness in this, neither in another myth-smashing article. Quite the opposite …


  4. 🙂

    Over 100 mln “totally-not-by-the-bots” watches on the YTube symbolize Russian’s love… right?

    Context. As you know, our dear host and blogowner here expressed his perennial “doubts”, that the country where he was an officer and gentleman (still are, I’m sure, Professor!), is in any way involved in the support of the, ah, “German Patient” ™ and his team. That’s why today a car from the UK’s embassy attempted to force its way to Babushkin’s court in Moscow, where there were hearings on the libel case against “New Sakharov” ((c) some brown-nosing git). Sons Person’s Of Yet Undetermined/Any/None gender of the Albion were told to bugger off. Which they (here – plural “they”) did promptly and without much fuss, by relocating their vehicle with diplomatic plates to the nearest hab-building.

    Shockingly, locals were not happy to share space with Her Majesty’s loyal servants. One of the natives had the temerity to say to them: ““Come on, get out of here. I live in this house. Drive this scum out of here. We are for the president “

    So they buggered off. Again. Scandalous, horrible incident, I say! Yet another reason for the British Crown and its Government to sanction uppity Russkis!

    P.S. Try as I might, I can’t recall a veritable procession of the ambassadors and diplomatic workers from the countries of “Team Good and Librul” attending hearing of Assange’s trials. Neither can I remember any such august figures in attendance (“just watching from a sidewalk”) of pro-Assange protests.

    Can you, Professor?

    Liked by 1 person

  5. The question still needs to be answered regarding Russia: Who is the bigger idiot? Does Trump deserve the laurels or is it Biden. I suspect the latter:

    “I made it clear to President Putin, in a manner very different from my predecessor, that the days of the United States rolling over in the face of Russia’s aggressive actions — interfering with our elections, cyberattacks, poisoning its citizens — are over. We will not hesitate to raise the cost on Russia and defend our vital interests and our people. And we will be more effective in dealing with Russia when we work in coalition and coordination with other like-minded partners…..

    The politically motivated jailing of Alexei Navalny and the Russian efforts to suppress freedom of expression and peaceful assembly are a matter of deep concern to us and the international community.
    Mr. Navalny, like all Russian citizens, is entitled to his rights under the Russian constitution. He’s been targeted — targeted for exposing corruption. He should be released immediately and without condition.”

    This is especially funny regarding the still pending extradition request against Ms. Meng Wanzhou for fraud and conspiracy to commit fraud in order to circumvent U.S. sanctions against Iran – charges against a citizen of a foreign country the US has no jurisdiction over, especially as the charges are not supported by any UN resolution and by the EU commission declared null and void.

    I wonder did the sore loser of 2016 wrote the text based on zero evidence or did Biden manage to come up with debunked BS on his own?


    1. That’s really rich considering Biden’s history of corruption, his crack-smoking son Hunter, the Burisma bribes, the Biden Crime Family international money laundering via the Ukraine, the list goes on and on.

      I wish the Russian government would just publish all the kompromat they have on this douchebag and order him to STFU.

      Well, I am allowed my fantasies, no?

      Liked by 2 people

      1. I really do not understand why Russia is so timid in its response to the various accusations, sanctions and still seems to be counting secretly that the EU, NATO and the US will change their tune. Despite Lavrov’s comment that the time for playing nice with the sandbox bullies is over?

        Do they not realize that this pussyfooting makes them look even more “guilty” in the eyes of five eyes?


  6. @ peter moritz
    February 6, 2021 at 10:08 am

    I really do not understand why Russia is so timid in its response

    It may be more of a “Just ingnore the meaningless yammering”. Why flatter them by responding?

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I can understand the sentiment, I speak from a personal level that sometimes you have to kick in some teeth (metaphorically speaking) to keep your sanity…

      Liked by 1 person

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