Addicted to Putin

Watching Russia’s worrying trajectory under President Vladimir Putin, many foreign observers ask how a leader who is so apparently driving his country toward the abyss can remain so popular. The answer is simple: Putin’s supporters – that is, a hefty majority of Russians – do not see the danger ahead.

MOSCOW – Watching Russia’s worrying trajectory under President Vladimir Putin, many foreign observers ask how a leader who is so apparently driving his country toward the abyss can remain so popular. The answer is simple: Putin’s supporters – that is, a hefty majority of Russians – do not see the danger ahead.

According to the independent Levada Center, Putin’s approval rating increased from 65% in January to 80% in March, immediately after Russia’s annexation of Crimea. The rate reached its peak in early August, at 87%, when many believed that Russia and Ukraine were on the brink of all-out war. Though it fell after that, to 84% in early September, the drop is within the margin of error. In other words, there is no basis to claim that Putin’s approval rating is declining.

Putin’s startlingly high popularity certainly cannot be attributed to a positive view of state structures in general. Like most people, Russians are generally dismissive of bureaucracy. They give low grades to specific agencies, consider most officials to be corrupt, and rate the government’s performance on most issues as mediocre, at best.

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