RETREATING FROM FLAG

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POPULARITY OF DMITRY MEDVEDEV AND VLADIMIR PUTIN IS BACK AT THE PRE-WAR LEVEL

Levada-Center sociologists report the tandem of Dmitry Medvedev and Vladimir Putin losing the popularity it enjoyed in September. Society is rapidly sobering up after the Russian-Georgian war.


According to the Levada-Center, ratings of President Dmitry Medvedev and Prime Minister Vladimir Putin are nearly back at the pre-war level. Medvedev had the trust and confidence of 73% Russians then, 83% in September, and 76% nowadays. Same thing with Putin who had the trust of 83% in August, 88% in September, and 83% again now. The numbers of whoever disapproves of Medvedev’s performance rose from 14% to 27%. Critics of the government meanwhile swelled their ranks from 59% to 66%. Fewer Russians have retained the confidence that everything is fine and dandy and that Russia is moving in the correct direction (54% against 61%).

Levada-Center Press Secretary Oleg Saveliev explained that this trend did not reflect society’s disappointment at all. “It’s just that public opinion returned to the usual level of support after the euphoria caused by triumph in the war and recognition of Abkhazia and South Ossetia,” he said. Putin’s rating remains above that of Medvedev because society has been hearing from him the traditional “stiffly-worded statements” just like before while the president is still trying to become a “tough guy”.

The financial crisis that began in September has had no effect on the Russians’ attitude towards Medvedev and Putin. “They are not frightened yet (the Russians – Kommersant),” Saveliev said. “First, the crisis has only affected interests of but a fairly narrow stratum of society. Men in the street will become upset somewhat later, when confronted with wage arrears and loss of jobs. Second, the media and particularly TV networks succeeded in convincing most Russians that the crisis affected the rest of the world rather than Russia.”

Political Techniques Center Assistant Director General Boris Makarenko ascribed the decline of the ratings to the end “of the effect of rallying around the flag”. “When there is an external threat to deal with, the Russians usually still their protests and criticism of the authorities,” Makarenko said. Political scientist Mikhail Vinogradov disagreed and said the financial crisis was having its effect on the ratings too.

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