Tag Archives: Surveys

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.

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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.

Not Proud

Another telling, albeit unscientific, Internet poll from Krasnaya zvezda . . . the Defense Ministry daily asks, “Are you proud of the Russian Army?”

Not Proud

The results current as of today:

  • Proud, or most likely proud — 24%.
  • Yes and no — 9%.
  • Most likely no, or not proud — 64%.

Based on more than 1,300 responses.

It’d be really interesting to see the results of an open question on what exactly leaves respondents feeling proud or not proud of the armed forces.
 
We can only guess who answers KZ’s electronic surveys.  They could be serving military men, ex-servicemen, or dependents who want to gripe, and clicking the appropriate radio button allows them to record their unhappiness.  But it’s particularly interesting that KZ and the Defense Ministry are either unconscious of these somewhat embarrassing results, or are willing to leave them out there as is.  It’d be pretty easy for them to stuff this virtual ballot box.