Russia, Putin Popularity in the Face of Isolation and 2024 Election

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By Highprofile

People and businesses are expected to collaborate to solve problems and meet needs. Collaboration is particularly crucial when there are evident weaknesses in achieving certain goals and objectives. This is necessary because no one possesses an exclusive wealth of knowledge and skills. However, such collaboration can be strained when one party within the network feels that another party has committed a significant wrongdoing that warrants sanctions and complete isolation. This narrative accurately represents the contemporary geopolitics, where nations are imposing various socio-economic and political sanctions in an effort to compel other nations to reconsider their actions and respect the rights of other nations.

When sanctions are imposed on a nation or a specific region by another nation or a group of nations, the primary outcome is that the friends of the sanctioning nations also tend to boycott the sanctioned nations due to their mutual bilateral and multilateral relationships with the initiators. This scenario is exemplified by the Russian Federation, which has been described as the world’s most sanctioned country in recent times. From 2014 to 2022, the country faced nearly 15,000 sanctions from Western countries. These sanctions were strategically designed to weaken Russia’s financial sector, energy industry, ferrous metallurgy, mining, electronics, engineering, and transportation.

Despite the sanctions, public interest in Russia remains high, and President Vladimir Putin’s approval ratings have remained consistently strong over the years. However, polls indicate that the sanctions have had little impact on the daily lives of most Russians. According to a survey conducted by the Chicago Council-Levada Centre in May 25-31, 2023, along with focus group discussions held in April 2023, the majority of Russians (70%) are not concerned about the sanctions imposed on Russia, while 29 percent express concern.

The Levada Centre, an independent polling agency, also reports high approval ratings for the government in recent years. This agency, which surveys thousands of Russians monthly, indicates that the president’s approval rating has ranged from 60% to over 80% since 2004. From January 2004 to October 2023, there was a 50.9% increase in citizens’ approval of President Putin, which correlates with their belief in the government’s activities during that period. In essence, each unit of approval for the president’s performance translates to over 50 units of belief in the government’s activities during this timeframe.

During the same period, it became evident that the Russian public showed a growing interest in the president through their search activities using Google Search Engine, which amounted to 6,369 searches. In our analysis, we found 12,371 searches related to Russia. When we aggregated the monthly approval percentages, it revealed an astonishing 17,718% approval rating for the president and 11,137% for the approval of the Russian Government’s activities.

Approval of the activities of Vladimir Putin as the president (prime minister) of Russia
Source: Levada, 2023

The consistent public interest in Russia indicates that the country’s overall image and importance have remained relatively stable. President Putin’s approval ratings declined from 2014 to 2018 but then showed some improvement in 2019. There was a notable drop in 2020, followed by a partial recovery in 2022. Despite these fluctuations, the consistently high approval ratings suggest that a significant portion of the Russian population supported President Putin’s leadership during most of this period.

Citizens’ approval of the activities of the Russian government generally followed a similar trend to public interest in Russia. It gradually declined from 2004 to 2014, increased from 2014 to 2018, and then declined again. The government’s approval ratings were often slightly lower than those of President Putin but followed a similar pattern. There was a significant decline in government approval in 2020, followed by a partial recovery in 2022.

Source: Google Trends, 2023; Levada, 2023

Strategic Implications

President Putin’s consistently high approval ratings over the years indicate substantial and enduring support from a significant portion of the Russian population. This stable leadership is pivotal in ensuring economic and political stability, which is vital for a country’s development. The government’s ability to maintain this support was evident through various strategic measures introduced amidst numerous sanctions in 2022. These measures included the securitization of key economic policy domains, a determined push for import substitution in crucial economic sectors, and active efforts to forge economic ties with non-Western nations, notably China, Turkey, India, and other Asian countries.

The surge in public interest in Russia and the subsequent increase in approval ratings during the mid-2010s can be attributed to Russia’s assertive foreign policy, which contributed significantly to enhancing Russia’s global presence and geopolitical influence. The fluctuations in government approval ratings, closely tied to President Putin’s leadership, underscore that public opinion regarding government activities often mirrors the president’s popularity. These government activities have a substantial impact on the country’s development, encompassing economic and political reforms.

It is undoubted that Vladimir Putin will easily secure victory in the 2024 presidential elections should he decide to run. This victory is poised to be resounding, as there are no Russian politicians who can rival his popularity, experience, and strength as the current head of state.

Considering President Vladimir Putin’s demonstrated commitment to enacting positive changes in his country and positioning it effectively in geopolitics during his current term, it is highly likely that he will secure the majority of votes in the upcoming election. Russians eagerly await December, when the date for the presidential elections will be announced, and it is expected that Vladimir Putin will declare his decision to run. Given the substantial foreign policy, informational, and economic pressures on the country, most Russians hope to hear that the current leader is willing to steer the ship once more.

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