Russian President Vladimir Putin has an 83 percent approval rating and 81 percent of Russians approve of the war (53% strongly approve) according to Levada, the only credible Russian polling organization. Analysts point out that some element of the responses reflect that opposition to Putin and the war has been criminalized, and after more than a decade of mostly one-sided media messaging of Putin and the Russian nationalist positions on the U.S., NATO and Ukraine, it’s understandable that most Russians believe the state narrative on the war and support Putin’s leadership. However, as Russian analysts and longtime observers point out, there is an alignment with Russian experience since the collapse of the USSR and the rise of Putin that helps reinforce the narrative.
- The Yeltsin years were chaotic and accompanied by massive hardship. Democracy and reform were discredited by the end of the 1990s.
- People yearned for stability and security. Putin offered that and much of this century has seen economic improvements, from higher oil prices and market reforms of the 1990s.
- Using nationalist and religious themes, Putin has made restoration of Russian greatness, both regionally and internationally, a goal. The Crimea annexation was very popular.
- America has been a longtime adversary. Countering the West and NATO was made a security issue. Any hardships today are blamed the West.
- Ukraine is a part of Russia has been a long-term theme. Any problems in the country are due to the West and its manipulation of Ukrainian leaders. Russian-speaking Ukrainians have been threatened and harmed.
- An entire generation of Russians have known no other leader beside Putin. He is identified with the nation’s greatness and their national pride.
- For some, it’s simply fatalism. Putin isn’t going away, might as well live with it.
- There are tensions with the war and hardship, but between repression and constant propaganda, no real alternatives are available.
There is no basis to believe the public will demand a change of policy in Ukraine or change of leadership.
The Chicago Council on Global Affairs: Russian Public Accepts Putin’s Spin on Ukraine Conflict
Axios: Inside Wartime Russia, Putin Isn’t Losing