More people in Russia have positive feelings about the Soviet Union than their current President Vladimir Putin, according to a recent survey from the non-governmental polling organization Levada Center.
The Moscow Times reported Monday that public opinion has warmed considerably towards the Soviet Union in recent years and the popularity of incumbent strongman Vladimir Putin is experiencing a slump amid rising poverty and unpopular pension reforms.
According to data published by Levada on Monday, 29 percent of Russian people surveyed described the late 1970s-early 1980s Soviet rule as “close to the people” when offered various choices. A further 25 of respondents also labeled it “strong and enduring,” while 22 percent called it “just” and 20 percent “legitimate.”
Many Russian’s views on the current political system appeared to be less favorable. When asked about Vladimir Putin’s regime, 41 described it as “criminal and corrupt,” while 31 percent called it “distant from the people and alien.”
Speaking to the Russian financial daily Vedomosti, Lev Gudkov explained how the survey of over 1,600 people gave respondents multiple choices so participants would be less likely to provide the answer they think is expected.
“This method weakens the possibilities of the conformist self-control of the respondent, allowing them to call those characteristics that they usually try to control for reasons of need to follow generally accepted social norms, from hypocrisy to opposition stigma,” he said. “And the stability of such opinions suggests that it is a question of the ‘structure of ideas that lies deep in the mass consciousness.'”
Putin’s slump in popularity comes after at least 1,000 protesters detained in Moscow during demonstrations demanding free and fair elections. Although Vladimir Putin has won last year’s presidential election with a sizeable majority, many candidates were imprisoned and thus prohibited from standing, most notably the opposition leader Alexei Navalny.
At the height of his popularity – in 2014, when he successfully carried out the illegal annexation of Crimea, Ukraine – Putin was recording approval ratings as high as 80 percent, making him one of the most popular leaders in the world. By last summer, his rating had fallen to 49 percent, while public trust in his leadership had fallen to just 31.7 percent.
A major factor in Putin’s decline in popularity is his handling of the economy, with some experts predicting a recession by the end of 2019. There has also been widespread discontent at last year’s pension reforms, which raised the retirement age in Russia from 55 to 60 for women and from 60 to 65 for men.