Trust in Russian President Vladimir Putin fell to a 13 year low in the first poll of 2019 by the state owned pollster, the Russian Public Opinion Research Centre (VTsIOM), slipping from 36.5% on December 29 to 33.4% on January 13. This was Putin’s lowest popularity level since January 2006.
Even during the mass protests of December 2011 following a rigged Duma election that put over 100,000 people on the streets of Moscow, Putin’s trust rating only fell to 37.4%.
This is not the same as the president’s approval rating, which remains high, but also fell slightly as the New Year started. Putin’s approval rating fell to 62.1% on January 13 against 64.6% on December 29. The previous low in Putin’s rating was in August 2013, of 59%.
The VTsIOM results largely agree with the results of independent pollster the Levada Center, which put Putin’s approval rating at 66% in December and his disapproval rating at 33%. Levada also found that Putin’s popularity fell over 2018 having started the year at a sky-high 80%.
As bne IntelliNews recently reported, half of the Russians want their government to resign following a tempestuous year that saw the state hike direct taxes on the population for the first time on Putin’s watch as well as hike retirement ages – both moves that undermine the unspoken social contract the president has with the people. A Levada poll found that the population is evenly divided on thinking the country is going in the right/wrong direction.
A pessimistic mood has settled over regular Russians, who have suffered from four years of austerity as the Kremlin sanction-proofs the economy and sacrifices prosperity for security using extremely fiscally conservative tools that have left the economy performing way below its potential.
The government has been even harder hit according to the VTsIOM poll. The ruling United Russia’s electoral rating dropped to a new low of 33.8% in January versus 35.6% on December 29. The previous minimum for the party of 34.4% was also recorded during the December 2011 protests, after elections were fixed to ensure a United Russia victory.
The current fall in trust is a dramatic 20-point decline from last March when Putin was re-elected president. At the height of the presidential campaign, 57.2% of respondents said they trusted Putin, but after the elections were over that fell quickly. By the beginning of July 2018 trust had fallen to 45.4% before it stabilised at 35–37% last autumn.