Economy, political support for Putin and the 2018 presidential election

QU Wenyi1

(1.QU Wenyi, Professor at the Research Center for the Economics and Politics of Transitional Countries and the School of International Studies, Liaoning University)

【Abstract】Survey results show that Vladimir Putin has broad political support and there is no suspense that he will win Russia’s presidential election in March 2018. Despite the political support he has, the weak Russian economy still has some impact on his election. Lower income and reduced welfare will seriously affect people’s political assessment of Putin. However, the negative effect only exists in the horizontal comparison between different groups. Within groups of varying income levels and professions, the support for Putin still prevails. More importantly, against the background of the confrontation between Russia and the West, the consideration for Russia’s international status has had a larger, positive effect that overweighs the negative effect of economic factors. In addition, trust in Putin, especially confidence that Putin will lead the country to achieve sound development in the future, has largely reduced the negative impact of welfare deterioration. On the other hand, inadequate economic governance will, in the long term, drag on political support Putin has. If the economy continues to deteriorate in the future, or the outside hostility eases, appeal for economic development may become a key factor in the formation of people’s political attitude. Economic factors, therefore, will have a significant bearing on Putin’s policy direction in his next presidential term even if they won't be a drag on Putin’s victory in the presidential election in 2018. Considering the next term may also be Putin’s last term, his performance, in terms of economic governance, will determine whether he can retire unscathed. Therefore, Putin should make efforts to win support from businesspeople and entrepreneurs through improving the business environment, which is the key to achieving innovation-based development and getting more political support to achieve a real Russian miracle. There is no doubt that he will do his best in that respect in his new term.

【Keywords】 political support; economic factors; Russia’s presidential election in 2018;

【DOI】

【Funds】 Project of the National and Regional Research Center of Chinese Ministry of Education in 2017 Project of the Research Center for the Economics and Politics of Transitional Countries of Liaoning University, Key Research Institute of Humanities and Social Sciences of Ministry of Education (ZX2011YB000)

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    [1]. [1] See ВЦИОМ: “Доверие политикам,” https://wciom.ru/news/ratings/doverie_politikam/[2018-01-22]. [^Back]

    [2]. [2] See ЛЕВАДА: “ОдобрениедеятельностиВладимираПутина,” https://www.levada.ru/indikatory/odobrenie-organov-vlasti/[2018-01-22]. [^Back]

    [3]. [3] Since the sanctions, Russia’s per capita GDP rankings in the IMF have fallen by 20 from the 51st in 2012 (189 countries in total) to the 71st (187 countries in total). The residents’ actual disposable currency incomes declined for three consecutive years by 0.7% in 2014, 3.2% in 2015, and 5.9% in 2016, respectively, with a total decline of 10% over the three years. Data source: Russia’s National Bureau of Statistics. [^Back]

    [4]. [4] Guriev, S. and D. Treisman, “How Modern Dictators Survive: An Informational Theory of the New Authoritarianism,” NBER Working Paper Series, No. 21136, Cambridge: National Bureau of Economic Research, 2015; Erikson, Robert S., Michael B. MacKuen, and James A. Stimson, The Macro Polity, New York: Cambridge University Press, 2002. [^Back]

    [5]. [5] Treisman, D., “Presidential Popularity in a Hybrid Regime: Russia Under Yeltsin and Putin,” American Journal of Political Science, 55(3): 590–609, 2011. [^Back]

    [6]. [1] See https://www.levada.ru/indikatory/odobrenie-organov-vlasti/[2018-01-22]. [^Back]

    [7]. [2] See http://wciom.ru/news/ratings/odobrenie_deyatelnosti_gosudarstvennyx_institutov/[2018-01-22] and http://wciom.ru/news/ratings/doverie_politikam/[2018-01-22]. [^Back]

    [8]. [3] White, Stephen & Ian McAllister, “Putin and His Supporters,” Europe-Asia Studies, Vol. 55, No. 3: 383–399, 2003. [^Back]

    [9]. [4] Rose, Richard, “The Impact of President Putin on Popular Support for Russia’s Regime,” Post- Soviet Affairs, 23 (2): 97–117, 2007; Sakwa, Richard, “Putin’s Leadership: Character and Consequences,” Europe-Asia Studies, 60 (6): 879–897, 2008. [^Back]

    [10]. [1] Rose, Richard, William Mishler, and Neil Munro, “Resigned Acceptance of an Incomplete Democracy: Russia’s Political Equilibrium,” Post-Soviet Affairs, 20: 195–218, 2004. [^Back]

    [11]. [2] Guriev, S. and D. Treisman, “How Modern Dictators Survive: An Informational Theory of the New Authoritarianism,” NBER Working Paper Series, No. 21136, Cambridge: National Bureau of Economic Research, 2015; Lafay, Jean-Dominique, “Political Dyarchy and Popularity Functions: Lessons from the 1986 French Experience,” In Economics and Politics: The Calculus of Support, eds., Helmut Norpoth, Michael Lewis-Beck, and Jean-Dominique Lafay, Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press, 123–39, 1991; Clarke, Harold and Marianne C. Stewart, “Economic Evaluations, Prime Ministerial Approval and Governing Party Support: Rival Models Reconsidered,” British Journal of Political Science, 25: 145–70, 1995; Erikson, Robert S., Michael B. MacKuen, and James A. Stimson, The Macro Polity, New York: Cambridge University Press, 2002. [^Back]

    [12]. [3] Smyth, Regina, “The Putin Factor: Personalism, Protest, and Regime Stability in Russia,” Politics &Policy, Volume 42, No. 4: 567–592, 2014. [^Back]

    [13]. [1] For example, data from the Public Opinion Foundation (фом) show a high correlation between trust and political assessment of Putin. See ФОМ: “Политическиеиндикаторы.Рейтингиполитиков,” Доминанты, неделяNo37, 21.09.2017, С.6, http://bd.fom.ru/pdf/d37pi2017.pdf/[2018-01-22]. [^Back]

    [14]. [2] White, Stephen & Ian McAllister, “Putin and His Supporters,” Europe-Asia Studies, Vol. 55, No. 3: 383–399, 2003, p. 391. [^Back]

    [15]. [3] Willerton, John P., “Russian Public Assessments of the Putin Policy Program: Achievements and Challenges,” Russian Politics, 1, 131–158, 2016. [^Back]

    [16]. [1] There exists significant differences in the assessment of people’s confidence in Putin, which may be caused by the questions raised (questions from the WCIOM and the Public Opinion Foundation were stated as “In terms of major policy-making, which statesmen do you trust, and which do you not?” and “Do you trust Putin or not?”), as well as the types of questions (the WCIOM’s questions are open to responses while the Public Opinion Foundation’s are closed questions). Even so, we can see that Putin has won the trust of most people. [^Back]

    [17]. [2] See https://wciom.ru/news/ratings/doverie_politikam/[2018-01-22], and https://wciom.ru/news/ratings/odobrenie_deyatelnosti_gosudarstvennyx_institutov/[2018-01-22]. [^Back]

    [18]. [3] https://www.levada.ru/2017/09/20/16660/print/[2018-01-22]. [^Back]

    [19]. [1] Data source: “Политическиеиндикаторы.Рейтингиполитиков,” Доминанты, неделяNo37, 21.09.2017, http://bd.fom.ru/pdf/d37pi2017.pdf/[2018-01-22]. [^Back]

    [20]. [2] Treisman, D., “Presidential Popularity in a Hybrid Regime: Russia Under Yeltsin and Putin,” American Journal of Political Science, 55(3): 590–609, 2011. [^Back]

    [21]. [1] Data from the Public Opinion Foundation are the results of the survey on September 16 to 17, 2017. It interviewed 207 settlements covering 73 Russian federal subjects and 3000 samples. Approval rating refers to a positive assessment of Putin, involving four indexes: voting for Putin or not, trusting Putin or not, the trust in Putin increased or decreased, and positive or negative assessment of Putin’s performance as a president. If three or four of the answers to all the four questions are positive, then it is considered to be a “positive” assessment. The survey shows that 66% of respondents were positive about Putin. Data from the WCIOM are the results of the survey of May 29, 2017. The survey interviewed 153 settlements, covering 46 federal subjects, with a sample size of 1600 people, and the statistical error below 3.4%. Political support refers to the support for Putin’s candidacy in the 2018 presidential election, which means that disapproving of Putin’s candidacy in the 2018 election is “negative,” and vice versa. The survey shows that 47% of respondents explicitly supported Putin’s running for the next president. [^Back]

    [22]. [1] Within the middle class, with the rise of income level, the support for Putin increases correspondingly, and the result is invariable under three classification criteria (five-level, ten-level and household income per capita). More than half of the respondents from the upper-middle-income group explicitly supported Putin’s candidacy, the ratio of which, is 8% higher than that of the lower-middle-income group on average. [^Back]

    [23]. [2] According to age groups, the population over 60 years old are the most supportive, among whom those supporting Putin’s candidacy accounted for 65%, 18% higher than the overall approval rating. The survey by the Public Opinion Foundation also confirmed that the 60-year-old population with a positive attitude towards Putin took up 75% of the total number, much higher than the overall level (66%). [^Back]

    [24]. [1] For the study of retirees’ as well as the elderly’s attitudes toward and ideas of reform, see Guriev, S. and Zhuravskaya, E., “(Un) Happiness in Transition,” Journal of Economic Perspectives, 2:143–168, 2009; Denisova, I., Eller, M., Frye, T. and Zhuravskaya, E., “Who Wants to Revise Privatization and Why?” The Complementarity of Market Skills and Institutions, American Political Science Review, 103: 284–304, 2009; Denisova, Eller, Zhuravskaya, “What Do Russians Think about Transition?” Economics of Transition, Volume 18 (2), 249–280, 2010. [^Back]

    [25]. [2] Data from the Public Opinion Foundation also show that in non-income groups, the ratio of positive political assessment of Putin is also as high as 60%, though it is 6% lower than the overall approval rating (see Table 2). [^Back]

    [26]. [1] For the analyses of the characteristics of the Russian middle class, see Институтсовременногоразвития, “дискуссияосреднемклассе,” материалыконференции «среднийкласс:пр Облемыформированияиперспективыроста», Москва, 24 апреля 2008 года., C.32. [^Back]

    [27]. [1] Businessmen’s approval rating of Putin’s economic governance (including his ability to achieve development and get rid of crisis) is the lowest. See the survey of May 29, 2017 by the WCIOM. [^Back]

    [28]. [1] Criticism of Russian politics in Putin’s time, see Shevtsova, Lilia Fedorovna, “Russia’s Hybrid Regime,” Journal of Democracy, 12, 4: 65–70, 2001; Zakaria, Fareed, “Illiberal Democracy Five Years Later: Democracy’s Fate in the 21st Century, ” Harvard International Review, 24, 2: 44–48, 2002; Colton, Timothy J., and Michael McFaul, Popular Choice and Managed Democracy: The Russian Elections of 1999 and 2000, Washington, DC: Brookings Institution Press, 2003;Ostrow, Joel M., Georgiy A. Saratov, and Irina M. Khakamada, The Consolidation of Dictatorship in Russia: An Inside View of the Demise of Democracy, Westport, CT: Praeger Security International, 2007;Åslund, Anders, Russia’s Capitalist Revolution: Why Market Reform Succeeded and Democracy Failed, Washington, DC: Peterson Institute, 2007. [^Back]

    [29]. [2] See https://www.levada.ru/indikatory/polozhenie-del-v-strane/[2018-01-22]. [^Back]

    [30]. [1] See White, Stephen & Ian McAllister, “Vladimir and his supporters,” Europe-Asia studies, Vol. No. 3: 383–399, 2003, p. 391. [^Back]

    [31]. [2] ВолковД., “Настроения Российских ЭлитпослеКрыма,” 10 ноября 2015, http://carnegie.ru/2015/11/10/ru-61925/ildv[2018-01-22]. [^Back]

    [32]. [3] Левада-Центр, “Имморализм посттоталитарно гообществав России,” 26.07.2016, https://www.levada.ru/2016/07/26/immoralizm-posttotalitarnogo-obshhestva-v-rossii/, [2018-01-22]; Hansen, F. S., “Framing Yourself into a Corner: Russia, Crimea, and the Minimal Action Space,” European Security, 24 (1): 141–158, 2015. [^Back]

    [33]. [4] The Clinton administration, the Bush administration and the Obama administration all faced Russia’s anti-Americanism. The former US Ambassador to Russia and Deputy Secretary of State William Burns claimed that the anti-Americanism was part of the Russians’ deep historical sensitivity and suspicion of strangers. See [America] Stent, A. E. The Limits of Partnership: U.S.-Russian Relations in the Twenty-First Century. Ouyang, J. et al (trans.) Beijing: Petroleum Industry Press, 296 (2016). [^Back]

    [34]. [5] Левада-Центр, “Россия2014: Загадки Общественного Мнения,” 05.02.2015, http://www.levada.ru/2015/02/05/rossiya-2014-zagadki-obshhestvennogo-mneniya/[2018-01-22]. [^Back]

    [35]. [1] Russia’s National Bureau of Statistics, quoted from Синельникова-мурылевас.г. (гл. Ред.), Радыгинаа.д.,российскаяэкономикав2016году: тенденциииперспективы, (вып. 38), Ин-тэкон. Политикиим. Е.т.гайдара, Москва:изд-воин-тагайдара, 2017.С.287. [^Back]

    [36]. [2] Левада-Центр, “Россия2014: Загадки Общественного Мнения,” 05.02.2015, http://www.levada.ru/2015/02/05/rossiya-2014-zagadki-obshhestvennogo-mneniya/[2018-01-22]. [^Back]

    [37]. [3] For example, the data from the four surveys conducted by WCIOM in October 2017 (as to October 22) show that the average approval index of President Putin’s activities was 73%, while that of the government was only 30%. See https://wciom.ru/news/ratings/odobrenie_deyatelnosti_gosudarstvennyx_institutov/[2018-01-22]. [^Back]

    [38]. [1] Taking the survey from the WCIOM on May 29, 2017 as an example, as for whether to believe “Putin has a future plan for Russia’s development,” there were little differences in people’s perception no matter whether they were netizens or not. Among netizens, 74% of them held a positive attitude, while among those who scarcely used the Internet, 73% held a positive attitude. [^Back]

    [39]. [2] Russia has a deep-rooted populist tradition, and Putin has learned a lot from the historical tradition, achieving great success in mobilization. See Guan, G. & Lin, W. The Journal of International Studies (国际政治研究), (4): 25–51 (2017). [^Back]

    [40]. [1] For the relationship between Putin’s charisma and the political support, see Rose, Richard, “The Impact of President Putin on Popular Support for Russia’s Regime,” Post-Soviet Affairs, 23 (2): 97–117, 2007; Sakwa, Richard, “Putin’s Leadership: Character and Consequences,” Europe-Asia Studies, 60 (6): 879–897, 2008. [^Back]

    [41]. [1] Chaisty, P. and S. Whitefield, “The Effects of the Global Financial Crisis on Russian Political Attitudes,” Post-Soviet Affairs, 28 (2): 187–208, 2012. [^Back]

    [42]. [2] [Russia] Gaidar, Y. Collapse of an Empire. Wang, Z. (trans.) Beijing: Social Science Academic Press (2008). [^Back]

    [43]. [3] Qu, W. Studies on Russia’s Transition (俄罗斯转型研究). Beijing: Economic Science Press (2013). [^Back]

    [44]. [4] Hedlund, a Swedish scholar and expert of Russian studies, said as early as in 2015 that it was high time for the western countries to reconsider the Ukraine issue and seriously assess the long-term consequences of forcing Russia into a corner. See [Sweden] Hedlund, S. Russian Studies (俄罗斯研究), (1): 83 (2015). [^Back]

This Article

ISSN:1007-0974

CN: 11-3799/F

Vol , No. 02, Pages 93-111+6-7

March 2018

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Article Outline

Abstract

  • 1 Economic factors and political support for Putin: literature review
  • 2 Putin’s high approval rating in the context of a macroeconomic downturn
  • 3 Influence of individual economic status in the formation of political support
  • 4 “Alliances under the banner”: balance between domestic and diplomatic affairs
  • 5 Personal charisma and trust in Putin
  • 6 Conclusions: the 2018 election and the direction of Putin’s new policies
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