RUSSIA

Russians Are Worried About Their Country, But Still Love Putin

Even as the economy struggles and Russians' quality of life suffers, Vladimir Putin's approval ratings are still at absurdly high levels

Jan 28, 2016 at 1:54 PM ET

Russians still overwhelmingly approve of President Vladimir Putin even as they become increasingly concerned over the economy, a new poll has revealed. Putin’s approval rating for January 2016 remains almost unbelievably high at 82 percent despite rising inflation and a real fear among Russians of losing their jobs.

The poll, conducted by independent Russian polling center Levada, reflects steady support for the Russian leader. The same time last year Putin’s popularity rated at 85 percent. For the most recent survey, 1,600 people across 48 regions of the country were interviewed between January 22-25. The margin of error was 3.4 percent.

The plunging price of oil and Western sanctions on Russia following the Kremlin’s annexation of Crimea in 2014 sent the ruble spiraling, causing some Russians to lose social benefits, the BBC reported. The ruble’s value has essentially been cut in half since March 2014.

But while Russians love Putin, they don’t love the direction in which their country appears to be headed. Thirty-four percent of respondents said they thought the country was moving in the wrong direction and 21 percent said it was hard to tell. Only 45 percent said they thought it was moving in the right direction, a drop from the 56 percent who said so in December 2015.

Putin is able to skirt most of the blame because Russians point their fingers at Western sanctions for the struggling economy, according to at least one report. The Moscow Times Plus said most middle class Russians stay out of politics because many hold the mentality that the government knows best. There is also the fear that any protest would put them in danger, the newspaper reported.