Approval ratings have long shown Russian President Vladimir Putin to be a very popular leader among Russians. But a new poll suggests that maybe he's not seen as quite as trustworthy as he was just a year ago. According to the poll, published Monday by the independent group Levada, Putin is currently seen as trustworthy by 73 percent of the country, a drop from 83 percent the year before.
Levada has been conducting the poll most years since 2000. As the chart below shows, this year there has been a notable drop in trust for Putin, although overall levels of trust remain quite high.
Despite his less-than-stellar international reputation over the past few years, Putin has been able to keep his high approval ratings with Russians — and in fact added to them. In the summer, a year after the widely condemned annexation of Crimea, Putin's approval ratings hit 89 percent, the highest they've ever been, although they've since dipped back down.
Polls like these are closely watched by the Kremlin. The Washington Post's Michael Birmbaum recently followed around pollsters from the state-owned Russian Public Opinion Research Center who told him that their business was booming as Russia's economic position became more volatile.
Generally, Putin has been able to maintain his high personal approval ratings even as the Russian public seemed to be grumbling more and more about the direction Russia was moving politically and economically. It's unclear why Putin's trust may be going down now.
Levada also asked respondents about a recent BBC documentary that featured a representative of the U.S. treasury alleging that Putin was corrupt and had been enriching his family and friends at the expense of Russia. However, while that documentary sparked a minor diplomatic kerfuffle (with Russia demanding proof that Putin was corrupt), Levada found that 58 percent of Russians hadn't heard of it and more than half thought that it was slander either against Russia as a nation or Putin personally.
And although Levada's numbers show that trust in Putin is going down, it may not dim his political future. The same poll found that 65 percent of respondents wanted Putin to be reelected as president — up from 57 percent last year. (Washington Post)