martes, 12 de mayo de 2015

How does the Putin regime remain popular?

Public opinion in ‘Putin’s Russia': 

A Q&A with Kirill Rogov

by Leon Aron

AEI director of Russian studies, Leon Aron, has edited a new volume— to be released at a conference on May 14— on the dynamics of Russian domestic politics titled “Putin’s Russia: How it rose, how it is maintained, and how it might end.” This work looks beyond international sanctions and the war in Ukraine to examine underlying crises in Russia’s political and economic systems that will determine the stability of the Putin regime in the years ahead. Below, Dr. Aron asks one of the nine leading Russian experts who contributed to the volume, Kirill Rogov, a senior fellow at the Gaidar Institute for Economic Policy, about his chapter on Russian public opinion and Vladimir Putin’s base of support. For additional information about the volume and release event, check out the event page here.

In your essay you talk about a kind of additional boost to President Putin’s ratings which is not directly linked to approval of his policy but instead comes from a sense of solidarity with the president. How much of Putin’s support can be attributed to this effect, and is this unique to the Putin regime?

What I describe in my chapter (I call it the “Delta” effect) is the difference between the share of respondents in opinion polls who approve of the president and the share of respondents saying that things in the country are headed in the right direction. This means that there are people who believe that the country is on the wrong track but still support the leader. One can find this effect in US opinion polling data as well. Conventionally it could be interpreted as partisanship – the support which is not directly dependent on current results of leader’s performance.

The fascinating thing about the Delta effect in Russia (and what makes it different from the US and other democracies) is its huge size and stability. It is about 35% on average through the whole period of Putin’s leadership. In American history we can see a similar difference in the level of the leader’s approval and the level of satisfaction during periods which are usually identified as being influenced by ‘the rally around the flag’ effect. Such was the case, for example, in 2001 in the United States. While under a democracy such episodes are rare and brief, in some authoritarian countries the political process resembles a non-stop rally-round-the-flag.

This is the model of non-democratic popular leadership. Nondemocratic leaders make a special effort to manipulate their country’s institutional arrangements to support high levels of popularity and achieve a super-majority. This is important to them because, as a citizen, it is much more difficult to say that you are against the leader if you know that everybody around you is supporting him. So achieving a super-majority precludes the consolidation of opposition and prevents the elite groups investing in the opposition.


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