Putin faltered, Shoigu burst, Zyuganov was forgotten. War destroys fake reputations

It is generally accepted that the so-called ratings published in the Russian Federation now reflect only the fear of the respondents, and perhaps they are simply fabricated by propagandists on their knees. But it’s not. Of course, the commoner perceives his conversation with the pollster as an interview with his superiors. But after all, a Russian does not always speak with his boss so obsequiously. If he gets angry, he can be rude. And his childishness is certainly not a hindrance.

On the eve of the war, Putin’s ratings were not brilliant. Only two-thirds (69%) of the Levada Center’s interlocutors reported that they “approved” of its activities, while 29% said they did not. And in a poll by the Public Opinion Foundation about “trust” in Putin, the proportion was even worse (58%: 30%).

What can be taken from VTsIOM

The war changed everything, and in 2022 the ruler’s ratings, measured by all three major polling services, rose to about 80%, and, within the margin of error, they still do not change. By the beginning of 2023, Putin’s indicators were as follows: the foreign agent of the Levada Center had 81%; close to the AP, but preserving the objectivist face of FOM – 77%; and the most odious of all VTsIOM has 78%. And in fact, it is difficult to draw any conclusion from this, except that the public, at the sight of the authorities, immediately begins to march in formation.

But an intelligent boss, if he is cunning enough, can learn a lot from even the most prudent subordinate. How does the general director of VTsIOM Valery Fedorov look like such a boss.

This survey service has long asked its interlocutors a tricky question every week: “We all trust some people, we don’t trust others. And if we talk about politicians, who do you trust, and who would you not trust to solve important state issues?”

That is, people were not asked directly whether they “trusted” the head of state or, say, Alexei Navalny. But if they wanted, they could remember and add to the white or black list. The results, of course, turned out to be quite different from the indicators obtained by standard methods.

A few years ago, some vigilant dignitary saw in the open press Putin’s rating calculated in this way, which turned out to be below 30%, and sounded the alarm. VTsIOM was punched in the neck, and since then it has published these figures only once a month and in such a way that they could be noticed only if they knew in advance that they were there.

Here they are. In the last pre-war month, 28.7% of the respondents independently recalled their trust in Putin, and 8.3% of their distrust. The attack on Ukraine had a positive effect on feelings for the leader, and in March 2022 the ratio was: 43.1% to 6.4%. Is it a lot or a little? I would like to compare with how many Soviet people would independently remember their trust in Comrade Stalin in 1952. But then, for some reason, trust in the leader was not measured.

The Suffering of the Bosses

One way or another, unlike the aforementioned eighty percent “ratings”, this parameter did not stay at the same height and has been gradually going down since autumn. The latest published measurement was 35.9% (“trust”) to 6.3% (“distrust”). Putin lost exactly half of the points scored at the beginning of the invasion. The damage is noticeable, but not yet critical.

But the image of his chief commander suffered irreparably. On the eve of the war, 17.4% of the respondents independently recalled their trust in Sergei Shoigu (second-third place on the list, which he shared with Sergei Lavrov). In March 2022, there were already 21.1% of them. But then, and especially after the September mobilization, the Minister of War became the main object of public irritation. And now only 11.8% of respondents report trusting him, almost half as much as in March. And about distrust – 4.6% (before the war there were only 1.9%).

For more than twenty years, this man, incompetent and ignorant of everything except corruption, has lived as one of the most publicized figures of the Putin scene. It seemed that his strange popularity did not depend on anything real at all. But the big war ended it. Even consumers of official propaganda have realized the incompetence of the best commander of the Putin era.

Strange, but her best diplomat was far less affected. Sergey Lavrov entered the war with the same high rates of popular affection as Shoigu (17.4%), and by March his popularity had risen to 22.8%. Now it is noticeably lower (15.7%), but this is far from a collapse, and the distrust indicator (1.5%) is not large. The phenomenon of persistent popular sympathy for the Minister of Foreign Affairs, in whose eighteen-year career there was nothing but failures, will still be studied by specialists. But even a year after the start of the war, one of the main culprits of which was Lavrov, this exaggerated figure still feels good in the propaganda booth.

Communism will not pass

On the other hand, the figure of Gennady Zyuganov, the main and irreplaceable ritual oppositionist of the Putin scene, collapsed. He was not a favorite of the people even on the eve of the war. At that time, only 3.5% of the respondents reported trusting him. But this was not part of its functionality. Zyuganov was not supposed to be loved. He should have known. And knowledge did take place: 15.5% of VTsIOM interlocutors reported distrust of him. If we count together with those who trust, then Zyuganov was on the tongue of 19% of the respondents and was far ahead of any of the other full-time “oppositionists”. But less than a year after the start of the war, only 9% of them remained (3.3% of those who trust and 5.9% of those who do not trust). Loyal militancy did not bring dividends to Zyuganov. Like the rest of the Duma officials from all the “systemic parties.”

Of the important officials, the war did not shake the image of Prime Minister Mikhail Mishustin. On the eve of the invasion, 9.2% of respondents recalled his name with confidence, and now this figure has grown to 12% (with a share of those who do not trust 2.3%). The prime minister, who a year ago was half behind Shoigu and Lavrov, almost equaled Lavrov in terms of popular sympathy and surpassed Shoigu. The reason, apparently, is that he looks the least insane among the top officials. But, judging by the size of the indicators, the public does not see him as an alternative to Putin. Yes, and not looking for such an alternative.

The main oppositionist

This is evidenced by her attitude towards Alexei Navalny. The war did not change him. 2% of respondents now report trust in him, 1.2% – distrust. This is enough to say that he is remembered (none of the governors has such a level of mention), but clearly not enough to suggest that they are counting on him.

The Russians are still counting on the old regime. He does not cause any exaltation, the process of parting with his inflated figures is gaining momentum, but the ruler’s reputation is far from bursting. She just staggered.


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