Teaching Comparative Government and Politics

Friday, February 12, 2016

Authoritarian popularity

Is popularity the same in all systems?

Vladimir unbound
Vladimir Putin’s choreographed return to the presidency and vote tampering in parliamentary elections brought thousands to the streets; his approval ratings fell to 63%. But after the annexation of Crimea in 2014, those ratings soared to nearly 90% and have not come back to earth since… Even a recession, falling real wages and rampant inflation have barely dented Mr Putin’s numbers…

In fact, the issue is more complicated. In today’s Russia, where the Kremlin controls most media and politics offers no alternative, polls are more ambiguous than in countries where they measure the support of competing politicians…

In the long shadow of the Soviet collapse, the desire of Russians for self-respect is just as powerful as their desire to live well, says Lev Gudkov, the independent Levada Centre’s director. Mr Putin’s overseas adventurism has satisfied this desire. The president has come to embody Russia (as his deputy chief of staff put it, “No Putin—no Russia”); disapproving of him verges on repudiating the country…

Russians are more likely to blame the prime minister or local officials than Mr Putin, in keeping with the age-old Russian political myth of the good tsar betrayed by evil boyars. Yet as parliamentary elections loom this autumn, Mr Putin has been quietly distancing himself from his party, United Russia, which enjoys considerably less support than he does…

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