Tag Archives: Polls

His Greatest Achievement?

Putin chairing Military-Industrial Commission session in Rybinsk on April 25, 2017 (photo Kremlin.ru)

Putin chairing Military-Industrial Commission session in Rybinsk on April 25, 2017 (photo: Kremlin.ru)

In the most recent iteration of what is basically an annual poll, Levada asked respondents to select one answer to the following question:  “What would you call the main achievement of Vladimir Putin during his years in power?”

Some 17 percent of those polled picked “Increasing combat capability and reform of the armed forces.”  It was the top response in this year’s poll.

Below find the reaction to this response over time.

Putin's Greatest Achievement The Military.

Positive reaction to this choice scuffled along for years.  Just three percent of those polled picked it in the waning months of Anatoliy Serdyukov’s tenure as minister of defense.  It jumped, however, to 8 percent in August 2014, following the invasion of Crimea and eastern Ukraine.  It reached 14 percent a year after Moscow intervened in the Syrian civil war.

External events greatly influence this particular Levada poll.

For instance, in early 2008, 21 percent of respondents said Putin’s greatest achievement was “Economic development of the country.”  Two years later, following the recession of 2008-2009, only 12 percent could agree with this.  And, seven years later, that number is still 12.

Even in mid-2009, 22 percent said Putin’s greatest trick was “Increasing the standard of living of citizens, growth of wages and pensions.”  That number now stands at 8 percent.

Unfortunately, some responses seem eternal.

Typically only 1 percent or less of those polled pick “Defense of democracy and political freedoms of citizens” or “Improving relations between people of different nationalities in Russia.”

In this iteration of the poll, 8 percent indicated that they don’t see any achievements and 4 percent found it hard to say.

The 17 percent response on the military is good news for Putin.  As for many regimes, it’s an easy place to score points with the average citizen.  Other arenas are more complicated.  But the Kremlin has successfully managed a turnaround in the perception of the armed forces.

The problem is events can erode high poll numbers.  For the Russian military, they could include things like a large-scale attack on Russian forces in Syria, widespread arrears in military pay, a submarine sinking, a huge ammo depot fire, or the death of soldiers in a collapsing barracks.  

In isolation, none is enough to dent a prevailing opinion strongly underwritten by the steady drumbeat of a Defense Ministry PR campaign.  But, over time, they accumulate and can change attitudes.  Like everything else, poll numbers that go up usually come down.

FOM’s Poll

On this election day 2012, let’s look at FOM’s survey on attitudes about the army.  Its questions are different from 2011But this year’s results show less enchantment with positive changes in the army.

Just prior to the army’s February 23 holiday, FOM asked its sample whether the Russian Army’s combat capability is high or low.  Only 15 percent said high, 33 percent said low, 37 percent said average (not high or low), and 15 percent found it hard to say.

Two years ago 24 percent said high and only 27 percent said low.

Then FOM asked whether the army’s combat capability is increasing or decreasing.  Twenty-eight percent said increasing, 17 percent said decreasing, 38 percent said not changing, and 16 percent found it hard to answer.

In 2010, 36 percent said increasing.

It’d be interesting if FOM asked respondents to say what combat capability means to them.

Then FOM asked about the military’s prestige.  Given the choice of high or low, 21 percent said high, 27 percent low, 40 percent not high or low, and 12 percent found it hard to answer.

But 38 percent said the military’s prestige is growing, 11 percent declining, 38 percent not changing, and 13 percent hard to answer.

If Russia’s budget had extra resources that could go only to military needs, or only to civilian needs, just 18 percent said they would direct that money to the military, 61 percent said to civilian uses, and 21 percent said hard to answer.

It’s 60-40 for Serdyukov

Serdyukov and Ivanov (photo: Komsomolskaya pravda)

After a couple months and 50 votes, Defense Minister Anatoliy Serdyukov got past his predecessor Sergey Ivanov by a margin of 30 votes to 20 for the title of better defense minister.

It was interesting.  Serdyukov (your author’s choice) jumped out to a big lead, and Ivanov spent the rest of the time trying hard to catch up, but never quite making it.  Every time Ivanov started to, Serdyukov supporters came out and boosted his numbers.

It was surprising though.  Your author thought Serdyukov would crush Ivanov.

Of course, none of this was scientific.  And it was a fallacious comparison.  The men arrived in different circumstances and experienced different situations.

For this author’s money, though, Serdyukov has done a much better job with the hand he was dealt.  Primarily because he’s actually done some things.  And he broke the uniformed military’s grip on defense policymaking.  Granted, the results haven’t been exactly perfect.  And, over time, views of Serdyukov will be influenced by what comes after him.  But 60 percent in this little poll isn’t a bad showing for a guy who encountered and tamed a lot of resistance along the way.

Ivanov, by contrast, was timid, tentative, and generally ineffective, in this writer’s view.  To be fair, he held less favorable cards by comparison, especially early on.

It may possible, of course, that the 20 votes for Ivanov are anti-Serdyukov votes rather than pro-Ivanov.

If you voted and would like to comment about your thinking either way, others would be interested to read it.

Cross-Referenced Polls

FOM against VTsIOM on the army’s current condition:

Army’s condition            FOM    VTsIOM
“Very good, good”        8 percent 13 percent
“Average”      40 percent 44 percent
“Poor, very poor”      35 percent 29 percent

And Levada against VTsIOM on the army’s capability to defend against an external threat:

Capable of defending           Levada   VTsIOM
“Definitely yes, most likely yes”        59 percent 55 percent
“Most likely no, definitely no”        28 percent 30 percent

VTsIOM Defenders’ Day Poll

Some more polling results for the 23 February holiday.

VTsIOM polled 1,600 people in 138 inhabited areas of 46 regions, with a margin of error of 3.4 percent.

Some questions are similar to FOM’s and Levada’s.

How do you assess the Russian Army’s current condition?

VTsIOM doesn’t aggregate, so we will.  “Very good, good” is 13 percent this year.  “Average” is 44 percent.  And “Poor, very poor” is 29 percent.

Do you think the army is capable of defending Russia against a real military threat from other countries?

“Definitely yes, most likely yes” is 55 percent this year.  It’s interesting that the “definitely yes” answer is down to only 12 percent vs. 31 percent three years ago.  “Most likely no, definitely no” is 30 percent this year.

VTsIOM also asked for opinions about Defense Minister Serdyukov’s reforms.

Are you aware of large-scale army reforms affecting various categories of servicemen and aspects of service?

Thirteen percent say they know a lot about this.  Fifty-seven percent have heard about reforms, but don’t know what they’re about.  And 25 percent hadn’t heard about them at all until this poll.

What kind of effect will the reforms have on the army’s capability?

Nineteen percent think “positive, capability will increase.”  Thirteen percent said “negative, capability will decrease.”  Twenty-three percent believe “no effect, capability won’t change.”  And 46 percent found it “difficult to answer” one way or the other.