Moscow (CNSNews.com) – Public trust in President Vladimir Putin has fallen by nearly half in Russia in the past two years, reaching its lowest point since 2013, a survey by the country’s leading independent polling agency has found.
In the Levada Center poll only 35 percent of Russian respondents in January named Putin among the Russian politicians they trusted most. The figure marked a 24-point drop from November 2017, when 59 percent named Putin as a politician they trust.
Public trust for Putin is at its lowest since June 2013, when 36 percent of Russians said they trusted the Russian president.
State-funded polling agency VTsIOM reported similar results last May when it released a survey indicating that Putin’s trust rating had fallen to 31.7 percent, its lowest level in 13 years.
After the Kremlin criticized its methodology VTsIOM subsequently changed the wording of the survey and released new figures, putting Putin’s trust rating at 72.3 percent.
The Russian president’s approval rating, however, has remained steady. Other polling by Levada indicates that the Russian president’s approval rating has hovered between 64 and 68 percent over the past year.
Levada Center director Lev Gudkov attributed the gap between Putin’s approval and trust rating to the fact that while Russians support his foreign policy, they are increasingly frustrated with the economy.
He told Russian business daily Vedomosti that while respondents treated Putin’s approval rating as a metric for his foreign policy performance, they voiced their displeasure with the economy through a low trust rating.
“These are different roles of the president – in the external arena and inside the country. The performance rating in foreign policy is high, while in the domestic realm it is constantly decreasing,” Gudkov said.
Although Russia’s stock market was the best performing one in the world in 2019, the country’s economic growth has remained sluggish and living standards have continued to fall. The Russian economy’s growth slowed to 1.3 percent last year after expanding by 2.5 percent in 2018, according to official Russian government statistics.
According to official data nearly two-thirds of Russian families can only afford basic necessities such as food and clothing.
The government has found itself under growing criticism over its economic policies. Mass protests broke out in the summer of 2018 after the Kremlin introduced its controversial pension reform plan, which called for gradually raising the retirement age from 60 to 65 by 2028 for men, and from 55 to 63 by 2034 for women. The initiative was ultimately signed into law in October of that year despite strong public opposition.
Putin recently signaled a change in the Kremlin's economic direction, pledging last month to spend $65 billion through 2024 on social welfare initiatives. He shortly thereafter replaced his longtime prime minister with Mikhail Mishustin, head of the Federal Tax Service, who has surrounded himself with proponents of higher government spending.
Meanwhile, Putin has also toned down his rhetoric toward the United States. His speech before the Federal Assembly last month for the most part avoided foreign affairs and did not contain his usual criticisms of Washington.
Some experts believe that as Putin seeks to tackle economic problems at home, he will try to avoid confrontation with the U.S.
“Russia does seem to be entering a transition period, one in which it has little incentive to exacerbate an already poisonous relationship with the United States,” Jeffery Mankoff, senior fellow for the Russia and Eurasia program at the Center for Strategic and International Studies, wrote in an op-ed for The Hill.
“While Russia sorts out its own future over the coming years, the United States has a great opportunity to develop a new approach, one that is not fixated on the caricature of a malevolent Putin as the source of all our problems,” Mankoff said.