Sociologists report ratings of the Cabinet and its chairman going down.

Rating of the prime minister that initially soared to 81% with Vladimir Putin serving in this capacity (it had never been above 57% before) is down to 77% this month. It all but matches President Dmitry Medvedev’s rating that has remained at the level of 75-76%. Rating of the government itself is down from 60% to 56%.

Public Opinion Foundation sociologists discovered in January that a relative majority of the respondents still regarded condition of the national economy as fairly satisfactory. On the other hand, the number of optimists went down from 62% in early November to 46% in January. Pessimists meanwhile swelled their ranks from 27% to 37%.

Disapproval ratings rose accordingly: that of the government from 22% to 25%, that of the premier from 9% to 12%.

When the respondents were asked to select six politicians they trusted, trust in Putin was discovered to be down from 63% to 59% (it had had a lower reading only once, last summer). Trust in Medvedev remained at 45%. Ratings of other institutions of state power went down too (Duma, Federation Council, army, law enforcement agencies).

All-Russian Public Opinion Research Center Director General Valery Fyodorov pointed out that ratings were always lower during crises. He added that the 4% fall in the rating was insufficient data and recommended waiting a couple of weeks longer. Moreover, other opinion polls seemed to indicate that 48% expected anti-crisis measures undertaken by the government to take effect yet and only 22% did not expect anything good from them.

“The government keeps an eye on sociological findings and takes them into account,” Putin’s Press Secretary Dmitry Peskov said. “As for their interpretation, you’d better ask sociologists themselves.”

Levada-Center sociologists also commented on a gradual decrease of approval of the government and its performance (66% in September and 58% in January). Earlier this month, only 26% were confident of the government’s ability to remedy the situation in the immediate future. These optimists had numbered 31% last November and 44% last July.

According to Levada-Center Assistant Director General Aleksei Grazhdankin, the population never knows exactly what the Cabinet is doing. This latter had the trust of the population last year, but the situation is different now. The population is alarmed, it does not really expect any help from the powers-that-be. On the other hand, the powers-that-be greatly strengthened and secured their positions over the last five years, they made sure of their irreplaceability. “Just like in the Soviet era, the Russian population does not believe that it is in the position to change anything,” Grazhdankin said.

As a matter of fact, it is not the first time Putin’s rating goes down. Political scientist Mikhail Vinogradov recalled that a similar trend had been observed during the so called social benefits to money conversion in 2005. Recovery of the rating had taken months then.

“These new moods may even have a certain effect on the regional elections come March but like in 2005, the CPRF is not exactly in a hurry to head the protests and therefore make use of the opportunity,” Vinogradov said. “As for impromptu protests, they are particularly active in the Russian Far East.”