Even though Russian President Vladimir Putin might be a controversial name in other countries as of now, it seems like it’s not the case in his own country (for now and not for the history books).
In a recent poll conducted by Levada Centre, an independent research group in Moscow, the week-long survey that took place this March involved 1,600 Russian adults.
And if you have no idea what I’m talking about, I’ve got you covered. Levada is a non-governmental polling agency, and it has been referenced widely by Western experts in the past as they provide trustworthy information about Russia, so no, it’s not a state media.
In contrast to Levada, state-sponsored polling agencies such as VCIOM (Russian Public Opinion Research Centre) are able to reach out to a wider group of the public due to their increased resources, but are less enjoy “trustworthy” in the eyes of Western scholars.
However, in 2016, the Russian government declared Levada a “foreign agent”. It is suggested that the government tried to crack down on non-governmental organisations to prevent them from receiving funding from foreign sources.
Simply put…you can trust their results.
A poll from Levada that took place over the course of the past week suggested that 83% approve of Putin since the beginning of the invasion, a noticeable increase from 69% in January.
In addition to that, a survey, also from Levada, also showed that 70% approve of the government’s activities and 69% believe that the country is moving in the right direction.
With regards to the results, there are experts who believe that Putin’s popularity has come partly from an increasing resentment that Russians have towards western forces, especially in recent years.
According to Levada’s poll, only 17% of respondents have a “positive attitude” towards the United States.
You might want to watch this video to the end to know why this could’ve happened:
The Russian Invasion and Its Impact on Putin’s Popularity
Over the past two months, Putin has called the invasion of Ukraine a “special military operation”, and state media continues to insist that Russian forces are only attacking military infrastructure in Ukraine.
So far, the invasion has resulted in over four million refugees fleeing from Ukraine to neighbouring countries such as Poland, as well as an ever-increasing civilian death toll for citizens of the country.
However, although the damage done through this war has been completely evident, even to those halfway across the globe, Putin’s popularity in Russia has been increasing steadily, and here’s why.
In an interview with The Sunday Times, Professor Arik Burakovsky, assistant director of the Russia and Eurasia programme at The Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy at Tufts University in the US mentioned, “The narrative that Russia is the besieged fortress constantly fending off attacks by the West has been gaining traction since 2014.
“Russians are frustrated with Western sanctions and what they perceive to be a cancel culture.”
(Yah, cancel culture isn’t just limited to our local YouTubers, guys. Shocker, I know.)
However, Professor Bukakovsky also noted that Putin’s popularity may decrease after sanctions placed on Russia by a large number countries come into play and increase the economic cost of living for those in Russia.
Mr Denis Volkov, Levada’s director, told The New York Times, “The confrontation with the West has consolidated people.”
“Spreading Information” About Russia is Now Criminalised
Currently, there is a “sweeping crackdown on dissent” by the Kremlin.
Just in March this year, Putin signed new legislation, making it a criminal offence to spread “false information” about Russia’s actions overseas. If convicted, individuals may face up to 15 years in jail.
As a result, independent media outlets and websites have either been made to close down or are blocked from the internet in Russia, preventing Russians from receiving information that is not state-regulated.
In addition to that, popular social media sites used around the world such as Facebook and Twitter have also taken a stand against Russia by making their applications unavailable in the country since the start of the invasion, which has caused an echo chamber of some sort where Russians are now completely cut off from the outside world.
Hence, there is completely no “free flow” of foreign information and news entering Russia now. This has led to many citizens having no choice but to completely depend on state propaganda in order to keep themselves updated with the current situation.
However, although the latest poll may seem like a “useful indicator” of public sentiment in Russia, Dr Ben Noble, associate professor of Russian politics at University College London warned that “polling during a period of conflict in an authoritarian state, where citizens may be fearful to respond honestly and when domestic propaganda is on overdrive, is notoriously tricky.”
Additionally, he also spoke from a different perspective. Dr Noble also touched on how it is “understandable” should there be a “rally around the flag effect” amongst Russians.
He explained that even though some Russians may have their own personal opinions regarding the war, they may feel the need to rally around their president during a time like this.
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