Tuesday, March 18, 2014


Written by Korbel student Alex

If you use social media apps, like Twitter or Instagram, you’ve likely seen the popular “hash tag” used in the title of this blog. If not, then you’ve still likely heard about some of the problems running up to and during the Sochi Olympics in Russia: anti-gay laws, rounding up stray dogs, dirty water, incomplete hotels and unseasonably warm weather. The high visibility of these issues cannot bode well for Russian President Vladimir Putin as he was hoping the Olympics would give him a much-needed boost in favorability ratings.

Gallup tracked Americans’ opinions on Mr. Putin, and it’s not shocking to find that in a recent survey conducted February 6-9, his unfavorable ratings reached an all-time high amongst Americans (63%). While this could be problematic for his credibility amongst foreign policymakers in the West, it doesn’t seem that American opinion has deterred him from making bold moves on his own (i.e., his intervention with Syria).

Before #SochiProblems garnered worldwide attention, however, another Gallup poll conducted July 8-August 3, 2013 of 2,000 Russian adults showed that Putin’s approval rating sat at a relatively low 54% (after a high of 83% in 2008). The survey shows that Putin’s popularity at home has been consistently waning amidst his controversial transitions between president and prime minister.

As the Winter Olympics have brought the world media’s attention into Putin’s backyard, he will have to please not only the Russian public, but also the world. Hosting the Olympics provides an opportunity for leaders to prove they are gracious hosts, supporters of cultural diversity and worthy of future political and business partnerships. However, if the emergence of #SochiProblems takes hold, accompanied by his rising unfavorable ratings at home and in the United States, it appears that Mr. Putin has a tough road ahead.

See Twitter: SochiProblems
See Bloomberg: Russians Uniting Around Sochi Offer Putin Return on Games
See New York Times: A Triumph for Putin, if Not for the Rest of a Sagging Russia

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