• For Putin, Even A Tiny Fall In Popularity Could Be Huge

    New Russian polls shows a small but possibly serious decline in President Vladimir Putin’s approval rating, amid a sinking currency and a secret war.

    As the finance newspaper Vedomosti reported Friday, Russia’s Public Opinion Foundation stated that 72 percent of Russians would re-elect Putin in a hypothetical impending election, down from 76 percent in April. The same poll saw a decline in Russians’ overall confidence in Putin, from 42 percent in May to 37 percent in August.

    Another firm, the Levada Center, cited a drop in presidential approval from 89 percent in May to 83 percent in August. (RELATED: What Russians Say About Life After Putin)

    These numbers remain incredibly high by most international standards. But as the Levada Center’s deputy director Aleksei Grazhdankin told Vedomosti, Russians are much likelier to blame the ongoing, crippling price increases on Putin and the officials of his United Russia party.

    Putin’s political strategy in recent years has taken advantage of the various crises to position himself as the defender of an increasingly embattled Russia. The government continues to covertly back separatist rebels in Ukraine, which has provoked sanctions on Russia from the E.U., U.S. and other Western powers. (RELATED: Russia Accidentally Reveals Its Massive Ukraine Body Count)

    In response, Putin has embargoed imports from a long list of Western countries, which has driven up the price of basic goods and forced over half of all Russians to cut back on food spending.

    While Putin’s latest decline in the polls is not significant enough to shake him from power, forecasters are already looking ahead to the September 2016 elections which could adjust United Russia’s standing in the Russian parliament, called the State Duma. Putin’s party currently holds 53 percent of Duma seats, but declining trust in the leadership could lead voters to change the balance of political power — assuming that the elections are sufficiently free and fair.

    Follow Ivan Plis on Twitter

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