For the first time in five years and since his reelection back in 2018, Vladimir Putin’s approval rating has dropped below 65 percent. His approval rating has been continuously recorded by the Levada Analytical Center since Putin first took office, and looking at the patterns in the ratings data, we see that these low ratings should make us nervous.
The last time Putin had an approval rating similar to the one we are witnessing now was back near the end of 2013 heading into 2014. His approval rating was only at 61 percent in November, with a disapproval rating at its all-time highest of 37 percent. When contrasting this with the numbers we are seeing this year, which are 64 percent approval and a 34 percent disapproval rating, it is impossible to ignore the fact that the political climate in Russia is mirroring that of the past.
How it got to this point and why that matters
The reason for this initial fall in popularity was a controversial move in June of 2018 to raise the country’s pension age from 55 to 60 for women and 60 to 65 for men. Although this might not seem like a large issue, for many Russians this crossed a line. The average life expectancy for a Russian man currently stands at 66 years of age, which would mean that the average Russian will be working within a year of his death with this change in policy. This, along with country-wide protests against government corruption, demonstrations against overflowing landfills, and the general decline in living standards have made Russians question Putin’s ability to solve major domestic issues.
The last time Putin was in this type of atmosphere was over five years ago. Losing approval fast, he needed to do something to regain the confidence of the general population, but at the same time, exhibit his power to a country that needs a strong leader. As such, the Kremlin decided to annex the Crimean Peninsula from Ukraine. Although it can be argued that the actual intentions Putin had to occupy Crimea are up for interpretation and are not necessarily a direct result of his dropping in popularity, the timing is just too perfect to ignore. In a few short months Putin’s approval went from 65 percent to a staggering 88 percent, and just like that the country believed in their leader again.
With the way this situation is looking, Putin will need to step it up to gain his country’s confidence in him back. He has become a symbol for the whole government of Russia, which is to say that if he has the public approval, so does the government. What we need to be wary of now is Putin deciding that another incident like what happened in Crimea is necessary to stay in power. We do not want history to repeat itself this time.
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