MOSCOW – The Russian government, with its solid hold on power, has invariably gotten away with poor performance, inefficiency, corruption, and widespread violation of political rights and civil liberties. Polls consistently demonstrate that the Russian people are not deluded: they routinely respond in surveys that government officials are corrupt and self-serving. More than 80% of Russians, according to a poll conducted last summer, believe that “many civil servants practically defy the law.”
And yet Prime Minister Vladimir Putin, who still remains Russia’s most powerful person despite his not holding the presidency, has enjoyed high and steady approval ratings for years. A mild drop in early 2011 probably reflected frustration over social injustice and a growing sense of insecurity and uncertainty about the future. Even so, roughly 70% of respondents in a February poll said that they approved of Putin’s performance. President Dmitri Medvedev’s approval ratings are only slightly lower.