Putin and His Supporters Stephen White; Ian McAllister Europe-Asia Studies, Vol. 55, No. 3. (May, 2003), pp.

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Russia. Botswana and South Africa.1080/0966813032000069304 . Its gross domestic product contracted steadily up to the late 1990s. In the event. ISSN 1465-3427 online/03/030383-17 O 2003 University of Glasgow DOI: 10. the whole emergency had been contrived by the Kremlin in a cynical bid to boost the chances of its favoured candidate. meanwhile. but it had fallen behind the Netherlands and South Korea. gained rapidly in popularity as a new Chechen war began.' The population. the only chance of salvaging their position and perhaps their personal liberty was to provoke public disorder (an attempt to remove Lenin from the mausoleum. over the same period. at that time a little-known security chief. NO. and up to a third of its own citizens dropped below the poverty line. replaced Sergei Stepashin). 383-399 Carfax Publishing Putin and His Supporters STEPHEN WHITE & IAN McALLISTER FORMOST OF ITS EXISTENCE. it was thought. might do the trick4) or at least to find some way of postponing the election that was due by the summer of 2000. that Russia's political class had the will or the means to reverse this apparently inexorable decline. and his standing had meanwhile plumbed new depths: by the late summer of 1999 he rated just 1. and the state itself was falling apart as republics and regions took 'as much sovereignty as they could swallow' and the central authorities found it increasingly difficult to impose their decisions. but by the end of the year he was the choice of 50%. not into the second. and in economic performance per head of population it was behind countries like Malaysia.2 There had been little evidence. and in almost every ISSN 0966-8136 print. or even to collect taxes. already named as El'tsin's chosen successor. Vladimir Putin warned there was a real danger of Russia slipping. 55. and a still larger number were prepared to give him their more general approval.~ an anxious Kremlin.8 on a ten-point approval scale. it seemed as if the West's derogatory label-an 'Upper Volta with rockets'-was finally coming true. on World Bank figures. 3. Putin. and more than two-thirds were prepared to support public For demonstrations calling for his re~ignation. was steadily declining. was still the world's twelfth largest economy at the end of the 1990s.EUROPE-ASIA STUDIES. but into the third rank of world powers. brought forward to March 2000 after El'tsin's unexpected resignation.' Putin went on to win a convincing first-round victory in the election. Vol. El'tsin's own health was uncertain. 2003. Placing these developments within a larger perspective in his first address as acting president. its international alliances collapsed. To newspaper commentators. for a suspicious minority. post-communist Russia has been a state in decline. Putin's own standing certainly improved dramatically: just 2% saw him as their presidential choice in August 1999. There had been five prime ministers between March 1998 (when Viktor Chernomyrdin had been dropped) and August 1999 (when Vladimir Putin.

Putin supporters. with most support of all from those with earnings that were closest to the average. Much of this recovery. and of state ownership. for instance. their place of residence and the country as a whole. and their country's economic situation (again. The 'anti-terrorist action' in Chechnya was pressed forward. all the republics and regions were obliged to bring their legislation into line with the federal constitution. and of virtually every other issue that had contributed to the support of either and id ate. they were most dissatisfied with the situation in Chechnya. Post-election surveys indicated that Putin's supporters were slightly more likely to be female than to be male. fielded in April 2001. but they were evenly distributed by age. continued to indicate that Putin's support had been drawn from all sections of the electorate . and the new administration began to assert Russian national interests more vigorously in its dealings with the international community.^ A year later. were overwhelmingly in favour of public order rather than democracy in the country's current circumstances-but so were the electorate as a whole. Above all. But the evidence of our nationwide survey. there was a great deal of common ground between Putin's supporters and those of his Communist challenger: both groups were supportive of the war in Chechnya. with a slightly disproportionate representation of the older age-groups (but less so than was the case with Zyuganov's supporters). But economic growth recovered strongly. And overall. however. They thought the best chance of uniting the society was around the values of stability and law and order: so did other electors. depended on the president himself-his formal powers had become no greater. Indeed. and presidential representatives were appointed to head seven new federal districts.384 STEPHEN WHITE & IAN McALLISTER respect his new administration appeared to have arrested or even reversed Russia's long and apparently inexorable decline. Putin supporters found their main source of satisfaction in family life (as did the electorate as a whole). were remarkably evenly distributed across the different levels of educational achievement. in very similar proportions. and they were evenly distributed in terms of their own assessment of the economic position of their family. entering the later stages of his 4-year term. other Russians took the same view). Putin supporters were also distributed across all levels of income. they were almost exactly as satisfied or dissatisfied with their own life as the electorate as a whole. at the same time. and they included many who had been members of the CPSU as well as many who had not. they were also representative in their attitudes and values. with a support base that was remarkably close to a cross-section of the entire society.7 Not simply were Putin supporters representative of the wider society in their objective characteristics. it reasserted the power of the central government within Russia itself. The population continued to fall-an alarming trend to which the new president himself drew repeated attention. many more 'remembered' voting for Putin than had been recorded at the time. Putin's supporters. How secure. was Vladimir Putin? What were the bases of his popular support? And had he developed a formula of rule that would be sufficient to sustain the 'consolidation' that he regarded as the main achievement of the first year of his new admini~tration?~ The Putin phenomenon Putin was certainly 'the people's choice'.

sees what he wants to see and what he hopes for'.16 0.15) (0.~ it. strong-willed and . A widely distributed.06 (0. beyond this marginal effect for religion.05. Supporters drew attention to his toughness.08 . a man who kept himself to himself. Only one factor was a statistically significant predictor of whether or not respondents had voted for Putin-not being an atheist-and even then it was a decidedly weak influence.01) (0.PUTIN AND HIS SUPPORTERS TABLE 1 PREDICTINGOTING PUTININ THE MARCH V FOR 2000 F'RESIDENT~AL ELECTION (logistic regression estimates) Estimate (SE) Gender (male) Age (years) Urban resident Education (primary only) Post-secondary Tertiary Religion No religion Regular church attender Family income (thousand rubles per month) Employed in labour force Good household economic situation Constant Pseudo R-squared . Source: Authors' survey conducted by Russian Research.02 * Statistically significant at p < 0. meant in turn that there was no obvious 'Putin constituency' on which the new president could depend as he moved to adopt policies that might not be popular with all of those who had originally supported him.000 (further details are provided in the Appendix). with the remaining 98% unexplained. The socioeconomic variables that we employ to predict a Putin vote in March 2000 indeed show that his support was drawn almost at random from a wide diversity of sources. all-embracing image. communist or democrat.04 0.13) (0.'' In focus groups Putin was described as intelligent.32* 0. which is primary education only. and more than half of those who were asked found it impossible to place him on the left.0. right or ~ e n t r eAs pollster Yurii Levada put .15) (0.17 . fieldwork April 2001.0.08) . Note: Logistic regression estimates showing parameter estimates and standard errors predicting the probability of voting for Putin. The absence of an underlying pattern of socioeconomic support for Putin in the election.21) (0.03) (0. (Table 1). he was a kind of 'mirror in which everyone.39 0.583.16) (0. Putin had avoided a commitment to a particular political party. Post-secondary and tertiary education are measured against the excluded category.04 1.18 . n = 1. almost cross-sectional pattern of support had its counterpart in the new president's nebulous. competent. n = 2. The ten measures used in the equation in Table 1-ranging from demographic factors such as age and gender to human capital measures such as education and income-predict just 2% of the total variation in Putin's electoral support. and who was honest and respected abroad.0.03 0. two-tailed. physically and psychologically healthy.0.15) (0. describing him as a 'real muzhik.0.01 0.15) (0.

' Putin's reputation took a number of knocks during his first year of office.wciom. various issues. do you approve or disapprove of the performance of Vladimir Putin?'. a development that appeared to threaten freedom of speech but in which 'the majority of the population did not see Putin as being actively involved'. Putin insisted that 'nothing had depended on me' but acknowledged he was 'still very upset' by the incident. 'we are used to amoeba-like men. particularly during the Kursk tragedy in August 2000. (Vote) 'If a new presidential election were held next Sunday. MEASURING PUTIN'S UPPORT. S 2000-03 . who was popular whatever he did. but he is something different'). women noted the new president's 'manly smile' (as one participant put it.386 STEPHEN WHITE & IAN McALLISTER decisive'. for some analysts. had little effect on the new president's public standing. and there were other references to his cruelty. for which candidate would you be most likely to vote?'. Reflecting on the first year of his presidency with Russian journalists. nor did the take-over of the commercial television station NTV in the spring of 2001.'' The Kursk. in 2001 he was 'man of the year' for the third time in a row. which was as high as he had secured at the time of his election (see Figure 1). when he reacted belatedly and (some thought) inadequately.14 The opinion polls put his approval rating at a stable 70%. 'an unidentified object' or even 'a Malevich black square'.13 Putin.' Sources: adapted from Ekonomicheskie i sotsial'nye peremeny: monitoring obshchestvennogo mneniya. Some described him as a 'dark horse'. FIGURE 1. (Confidence) 'Name the 5 or 6 politicians who inspire the most confidence in you. cunning and unpredictability. had become a 'teflon president'.ru. as he had risen to power through a series of appointments and without engaging in public controversy. and www. Both supporters and opponents agreed at the same time that the new president was difficult to assess. however. and his Vote I Confidence Note: The question wordings were as follows: (Approval) 'On the whole.

and how he had bought his mother the biggest cake in the shop with his first paycheck.15Boris El'tsin a few months before the end of his first term in 1996 had appeared unelectable. a year after his accession. but who turned out to have a 'sharp and lively mind.18 According to the survey evidence.19 Putin's image was also enhanced by the information that was made available about his private life and childhood. it strengthened the impression of a slight but resolute young man who had never hesitated to defend his position by whatever means were necessary. One of the relatively novel ways in which he boosted his popular appeal was by holding 'virtual press conferences'. public sector pay and communal charges. Entering the later stages of his first term there seemed no prospect of a serious challenge to Vladimir Putin in 2004. His German teacher. he answered questions on-line for three different Internet services. At the first.24 A more elaborate study appeared under the name of a Russian journalist. although it provided few clues about his political tactics (it was hardly a revelation that 'a person falls if he loses his balance and is unable to regain Other accounts began to fill out the future president's early years. but there were other. but it was a 'watery christening'. Putin himself told Blotsky he had been .16 There was an even greater public response when the second took place over the main state channels at the end of 2001. with some emphasis on the qualities that identified him as a combative. and about the time he had fallen into the river during a fishing trip-fortunately he could already swim. and he was the co-author of a study of the history and theory of judo. including pension reform. An aunt in Ryazan'. more than half of the population had seen at least some part of the broadcast. told Komsomol'skaya pravda about the time little Vova had climbed out onto the ledge of their fifth-floor apartment. a 'dialogue with the country' that was apparently without international precedent. more than two million questions and comments were submitted. streetwise.23 Putin's image was further embellished in a series of biographical studies that began to appear a year or two into his presidency.PUTIN AND HIS SUPPORTERS apparently resolute action during the hostage-taking crisis of October 2002 won almost universal approval. using the photographs.17 Most of the calls dealt with social issues. although they also told the same paper how the future president had made all the arrangements after the unexpected death of a schoolfriend. The first of a projected three volumes. in her 'recollections of a future president'. for instance. The president worked out for half an hour every day. personal archives and interview testimony of a supposedly reluctant president and his wife. an excellent memory and exceptional curiosity'. somewhat unruly figure. Managing the presidential image Putin's remarkable public support owed something to the skills of image management.22 Putin's school contemporaries were more inclined to recall his tendency to become involved in fights. or at a later date if his term were extended beyond its constitutional limit. and more than half (54%) were satisfied with the way in which the president had responded. remembered Putin as a student of modest attainment who was one of the last to be admitted into the Pioneers. more controversial questions about the criminalisation of law enforcement and the widespread nature of drug abuse. Oleg Blotsky.20 which was certainly a contrast with his immediate predecessor.

with 'a friendly smile. foundry workers in the Urals were already turning out busts of the new president. a portable toilet 'so that he can wipe out whoever he wants whenever he wants'. 'where Putin took off his jacket and tried water from a spring'. and after March 2000 an 'enormous number of senior officials' ordered a copy for their own offices (as a sculptor told Argumenty i fakty. was based on the equally unlikely account of a CIA spy who had been sent to seduce the Russian president but who turned out to be an FSB double agent and in the end married his bodyguard. weavers were making rugs with the president's face in a golden oval. Prezident. had started his work in 1999. 'doesn't drink' and 'will not shame me'). ~ ' factory in Chelyabinsk had meanwhile begun to produce a watch with a presidential image on its dial. which was 'just like living in the jungle'. showed the president with the whole country spread out behind him in a pastiche of 'socialist realism. but that he had learned one important lesson. It was no wonder that she told Blotsky he had 'put [her] to the test throughout [their] life t~gether'. art director of an erotic magazine. underlined the president's tough. One showed Putin seated enigmatically below Malevich's 'Black Square'. where the presidential motorcade had once made an unscheduled stop. by Nikas Safronov. even male-chauvinist character: 'A woman must do everything in the home'. decisive combat'. an opera. a 'Putin bar' had opened elsewhere in the town. things were currently rather difficult for artists and they 'had to make use of every opportunity'). elsewhere. told the thinly fictionalised story of a 'real muzhik' who had been the only one to return alive from a dangerous mission in Chechnya. which was that in order to win he 'had to go to the end in any fight and strike out as if in the last. among other things. he told his wife.~' distressing case from Yaroslavl'.'^ A novel. Not far away.31 Matters went even further in the village of Izborsk. published later in 2002.33 Court painters had meanwhile been at work. In Magnitogorsk the overalls Putin had worn during a visit were on display in the city A m ~ s e u m .36 The president appeared to enjoy particularly high levels of support among women. a thoughtful expression [and] a fountain pen in his hand'. otherwise you will spoil her'. ski slopes and churches were being renamed in his honour. Visitors were offered a walking tour that included the places 'where Putin bought a cucumber'. was in the style of the earliest studies of Lenin. 'Monika in the Kremlin'.32In Irkutsk the chair on which Putin had sat during his April 2002 visit was sold at public auction. in St Petersburg a tree the future president had planted while a city official was decorated with a commemorative plaque.'~ There were even signs of an emerging personality cult. and a local confectioner was selling a cake with the same design. Pravda reported a despite early reports that he suffered from a 'lack of ~exuality'. by Aleksandr Okunev. outside St Peterburg.34 another. Yet another portrait. and 'where Putin touched a tree and made a wish'. Byzantine ostentation and Old Russian heroic' (Figure 2). A year after his election.STEPHEN WHITE & IAN McALLISTER educated on the street. and 'You should not praise a woman.35 Safronov.30 Putin's 50th birthday in September 2002 brought further tributes: Argumenty i fakty readers wanted to present their president with a samurai sword. or even 'my love and perhaps a child as well'. where there was a 'new category of patients- .29An all-female band had meanwhile 'taken the airwaves by storm' with its single 'Someone like Putin' (someone who. selling 'Vertical power' kebabs and 'When Vova was little' milk shake^.25 A second volume. convinced Putin would be a future president.

PUTIN AND HIS SUPPORTERS 389 FIGURE 2. NIKAS S. in her late thirties. she soon accumulated a thick file. which she kept in a locked bedside cabinet. had started to collect newspaper articles about the president. VL\I)IMIKPf. She asked her husband to turn down the television when Putin was speaking on the radio. and made no move to feed him two weeks later when he came home starving from work.\FRONOV. Lyudmila. sitting 'bedazzled' in front of the television as Putin gave an interview (they had such a .'f/r~ (2000) women who are madly in love with President Vladimir Putin'.

when his support had represented no more than a third of the entire electorate.~' And did ordinary Russians agree with the president. depending on whether he 'continued to promote democratic and market reforms'. and never get dead drunk' (there was hope. and 12% had never supported him in the first place. regularly asks a generalised question about government performance: what mark out of ten would respondents give to the president. but fewer were prepared to do so than had voted for Putin in March 2000. were assessments of Putin as a person. These. women saw Putin as a 'superhusband. meanwhile. ahead of the parliament but not much more than his prime minister (4. and almost half had no confidence in any of the country's politicians or refused to say. The national public opinion research centre. they were not necessarily judgements about his conduct of the nation's affairs. and his attempts to . where she hung a portrait of the president above the bed.38 Assessing presidential ratings Putin's approval ratings were certainly high-so high they could even be described as ' ~ u r k m e n i a n ' . But once again. There was also some agreement that he had been successful in restoring public order-including the reassertion of federal authority over the regions. he explained. 'completely shared his views and positions'. who would 'never betray them.But they were also deceptive. The largest proportion (27%) offered more conditional support.9. Approval ratings. were ~~ the highest of all the forms of assessment of the president's performance. was 'not unique'. or a political leader. Lyudmila herself dissolved in tears. and the only way forward appeared to be a private psychiatrist. but 46% had been di~appointed. moreover. About 10% disliked Putin but 'hoped he would be good for Russia'.41In another question. for instance. was in first place with 41%. this was a fall from the 49% he had been accorded at the moment he became acting president. VTsIOM asked ordinary Russians whether the hopes they had entertained with the accession of a new president had been fulfilled. Finally she moved into the children's room. Another 18% supported him 'in the absence of an acceptable alternative'. whether or not they gave him their general approval? Just 17%. they thought. Lyudmila's case. the ideal partner'. but her husband threw everything on the floor. and even then they had fallen from their peak of 80% in January 2000 (see Fig. the measures he had taken against the oligarchs.390 STEPHEN WHITE & IAN McALLISTER quarrel they stopped speaking to each other for three days). Opinion was almost evenly divided: 48% were broadly satisfied. halfway through the third year of his presidential term. for a start. The national public opinion institute asks ordinary Russians to identify '5-6 political figures in whom they have most confidence'.40There was rather more stability in the proportion that were prepared to vote for the new president if there were an election 'next Sunday'. He had been most successful. in reasserting Russia's authority in foreign affairs. according to the surveys. the prime minister and the parliament? In the third year of his presidential term Putin rated no more than a cautious 5. Putin.4). that Lyudmila would 'soon recover'). 1). Public attitudes in this respect were much more qualified.43 Some of the reasons for this public reserve were apparent when ordinary Russians were asked to evaluate Putin's performance in a number of different policy arenas (see Table 2).

600. reflecting the actions that had been taken against the independent media and the promotion of Putin's associates from his long service in the KGB to leading positions within the administration. focus groups were no longer willing to 'wait and see'. if necessary 'wiping them out in the john'. If the president went on to take unpopular decisions. increasingly there were complaints that Putin had 'already been a year in power'. Focus groups similarly suggested a gradual erosion of the unconditional support Putin had enjoyed at the time of his election. ~ ~ The weekly paper Argumenty i fakty set out a balance sheet at the end of Putin's first year. By the anniversary of his election.000 had died and the local population was firmly hostile. these were in turn the voters who were most likely to react n e g a t i ~ e l y . There was little belief that Putin had been able to raise the rate of economic growth and restore the living standards of ordinary Russians. The war in Chechnya seemed no nearer to a successful conclusion.PUTIN AND HIS SUPPORTERS TABLE 2 vely successful Quite successful Not very successful Completely unsuccessful 39 1 Russia's international position F'uhlic order Democracy and political freedoms The economy Defeat of Chechen militants A political settlement in Chechnya 9 8 6 5 3 4 48 42 35 32 22 22 26 41 38 51 45 45 8 6 8 9 22 21 Note: The question wording was: 'How successfully. there had been some hope that the new president would carry out his election promises and show his leadership potential. the struggle with the oligarchs had been spasmodic. has Vladimir Putin coped with the following problems over the past two years?' Source: VTsIOM express poll. reduce the level of serious crime. questions began to emerge. But after the 'black August' in which the Kursk had sunk and the Ostankino television tower had suffered a damaging fire. and they saw little prospect that he would do so in the near future ('We had expected more of him'). or in advancing a political solution. 87. It had of course been a large part of the explanation of his extraordinary rise in public approval that he had appeared to offer a rapid solution to the problem of Chechen terrorism. Much of Chechnya was under federal control-but nearly 3. fieldwork 22-26 March 2002. Those who had voted for Putin a year earlier were the most critical: the president had not satisfied their hopes. p. used with permission. n = 1. and there was even less belief that he had been successful in defeating the Chechen insurgency. the hostage-taking crisis of October 2002 suggested that a solution was as far away as ever and that the heavy loss of life would continue. 2001. more often at the subconscious than the conscious level. it could equally have served as a judgement on the first half of his presidential term. Initially. The authority of the Kremlin had . corresponding results for March 2001 are available in Monitoring obshchestvennogo mneniya: ekonomicheskie i sotsial'nye peremeny. But there was some concern about political liberties. and changes in the structures of government had failed to produce the results that had been promised. 2. in your opinion.

But there is otherwise very little evidence to support the hypothesis that Putin has been drawing his support disproportionately from the disadvantaged. net of other circumstances. Just one of the six measures had a statistically significant impact: those who thought Putin was doing a good job were less likely to believe that citizens had the right to own large businesses. but they did not. and military reform remained largely on paper or (worse) had been accomplished by the dissolution of those units that were still capable of active service. We also examined the effect of economic attitudes upon Putin's support. gender. leaving about half of the voting population uncommitted and The unstable in their 10yalties. and in any case it suggested that the president enjoyed more . and indeed the statistical evidence is most remarkable for the lack of strong effects of this or any other kind. such as the poor and elderly. about a quarter of the electorate were consistent Putin supporters and another quarter consistent opponents. Putin supporters are somewhat more numerous among those with a religious affiliation (although the frequency of church attendance makes no obvious difference). or from better established urban residents. and any successes owed more to the world price of oil than Kremlin policy. Tax reform was going nowhere. On the survey evidence. and their treatment would hardly encourage future investors. but it was too soon to say that the new federal districts with their presidential representatives had proved their effectiveness. Russia's foreign policy had become more predictable. but a more general reform of the court system had scarcely begun. To what extent had a constituency of this kind come into existence. so that it [could not] be relied upon dire~tly'. If Putin's support had indeed been drawn from particular constituencies.392 STEPHEN WHITE & IAN McALLISTER been reasserted. a mixed verdict. focusing on basic beliefs about the programme of structural reform to which his administration is formally committed. There had been little progress with economic reform. Judges had enjoyed a salary rise. and indeed of other inquiries:' is that support for the Putin presidency continues to draw almost randomly on all sections of the electorate (see Table 3). but Putin's numerous visits abroad had produced little obvious return. As before. education and income all had strong statistical effects.~~ evenly distributed. in the words of a former El'tsin adviser. as Putin entered the second half of his presidential term? The evidence of our survey. A 'Putin party'? Beyond the ebb and flow of public sentiment lay a much larger question: the extent to which Putin had been able to construct a coalition of political support that could sustain a first and then a second term of presidential office.45It was. at best.~' The medium and longer term would be likely to depend upon the extent to which this fluid mass of supporters could be constituted as a 'Putin party'. it was an 'unstable entity without an ideology. and they are somewhat less numerous among those who are not in current employment. we would have expected to find that age. fielded in April 2001. Some oligarchs had been marginalised more than others. But the effect was a weak one. one that could sustain a programme of government that might involve unpopular choices in which the president could no longer be all things to all men. cross-sectional nature of Putin's support also meant that.

When we examine the pattern of beliefs about the importance . for instance. The president may have been attempting to represent himself as an advocate of the market economy.814. have expected Putin supporters to distinguish themselves from our other respondents in their views about the role of the president vis-8-vis parliament. ambiguous policies of the past towards a 'dictatorship of law'. for instance. more likely to favour the private ownership of land. has based his public appeal on strong and decisive leadership. measured on a scale from 0 (does his job very badly) to 1 (does his job very well). after all. N = 1. The president appears to have had little more success in marshalling a coherent body of supporters on the basis of their commitment to a stronger. Putin.01. support among those who opposed his stated policies than among those who supported them. Source: As Table 1. in line with the emphasis that was now being placed on individual insurance rather than state provision. Post-secondary and tertiary education are measured against the excluded category. and they were no more likely to believe that people should provide for their own needs. and in their views about political leadership in general. which was a policy the Kremlin had been trying to push through the Duma. Note: OLS regression estimates showing unstandardised (b) and standardised (beta) coefficients predicting support for Putin. and has promised to move away from the vague. both two-tailed. but there is little evidence in our survey that he has been able to establish a constituency within the electorate that shares these priorities and associates them with their support for the incumbent. * p < 0. more centralised state. We might. There were no statistically significant effects of any other kind: Putin supporters were not.05. which is primary education only.PUTIN AND HIS SUPPORTERS TABLE 3 ~ O C ~ O E C O N O M IAND C A~ITUDINAL SUPPORT PUTIN FOR (OLS regression estimates) B Gender (male) Age (years) Urban resident Education (primary only) Post-secondary Tertiary Religion No religion Regular church attender Family income (thousand rubles per month) Employed in labour force Good household economic situation Economic attitudes Money incentive important People not government responsible for themselves Competition brings out worst in people State should provide basic goods Citizens' right to own land Citizens' right to run large businesses Constant R-squared Beta ** Statistically significant at p < 0.

a multiparty system and the parties that most directly support a free market economy. and had then been appointed to continue the political project that had been initiated by Boris El'tsin. it was simply that Putin supporters took this view somewhat more strongly. the evidence of our survey is that those who voted for Putin and who were satisfied with his presidential performance were little different from other respondents (see Table 4). of having a strong leader. if the electorate was beginning to coalesce around a putative 'Putin party'. and Putin supporters were certainly more likely to favour a further strengthening of the executive branch. The political space that Putin occupies should accordingly be clearly demarcated by his supporters' commitment to Western-style democracy. in the first . Others think the opposite. however. Nor was there much evidence that Putin supporters shared a distinctive set of political values. which might also have been expected. Putin had served in the reformist administration of Anatolii Sobchak in Leningrad.STEPHEN WHITE & IAN McALLISTER TABLE 4 BELIEFS BOUT A LEADERSHIP THE POLITICAL AND SYSTEM (%) Presidential vote Putin Importance of strong leader Strongly agree Agree Hard to say Disagree Strongly disagree Total (%) President or parliament more power President much more power President more power Equal powers Parliament more power Parliament much more power Total (%) (N) Putin doing job Well Badly Other 36 31 16 12 5 100 42 26 27 4 1 100 (1. But this was the view of all our respondents. In the December 1999 election he had publicly given his support to Unity and. There was a greater degree of differentiation in how our respondents viewed the balance between president and parliament. These expectations are tested in Table 5 by showing the proportion of respondents in each category who chose the specified political option. For example. to the Union of Right Forces.199) Note: The questions were: 'To what extent do you agree or disagree that a strong leader can give our country more than any law?' and 'Some people consider that the president in Russia should have more power than the parliament. when they were asked to recall their vote in the 2000 presidential election. In addition. Despite his background in the Communist Party and KGB. Which of the following points of view is closer to your own point of view?' Source: As Table 1. we might have expected these goals to differentiate Putin supporters more clearly at the second time-point in the survey-when respondents were asked to give their views about how well Putin was doing hls job--than at the first time-point. less directly.

but no more than 7 points separated them when it came to evaluating his presidential performance a year later. 62% of voters who chose another candidate in the presidential election favoured the Soviet system. * p < 0. not a more sharply differentiated 'Putin party'. and this was particularly true of responses that related to the presidential vote. together with a calculation of their statistical significance. For example. Note: Figures show the percentage of respondents choosing each of the three options among each of the four groups of voters. In other words. In virtually every case there was more difference between Putin voters and other voters at the time of the presidential election in March 2000 than between Putin supporters and other respondents a year later. a mean of 27 percentage points differentiated Putin's supporters from those of other candidates at the time of his election. respondents were more divided in their political orientation and party choice than in their views about the political system as a whole. Respondents reporting that Putin did his job 'badly' or 'very badly' are combined to form the 'badly' column. fewer parties Political orientation Other (Din Well Putin doing job Badly (Diff) 395 Lf et Centre Right Best party Communist Party supporting market No Party (N) ** Differences statistically significant at p < 0. The difference column shows the percentage points difference between these two figures. In general. but who .01. compared with 41% of those who voted for Putin. the other a broader judgement of presidential performance-but the differences are nonetheless substantial.05. For example. the mean difference in responses between Putin and other voters in 2000 was 17%. those who thought he was doing his job 'well' and 'very well' are combined for the 'well' column. The most striking single change was among Communist voters.PUTIN AND HIS SUPPORTERS TABLE 5 POLITICAL ATTITUDES BETWEEN PUTINSUPPORTERS OPPONENTS AND (%) Presidential vote Putin Best political system Soviet System today Western democracy Best party system One Party Current multiparty Multiparty. row. but in the evaluation of how well Putin was doing his job a year later the difference was 8%. who had been very heavily committed to other candidates-including their own-at the time of Putin's election. This may be partly a reflection of the different nature of the questions--one asking for a decisive judgement in the form of a vote. Putin supporters had become less distinctive over the period since his election. Source: As Table 1 .

for which the president was primarily responsible. and popularity could be a mixed blessing. however. and maintained an in-house sociological service to provide him with up-to-date reports. and heavily in debt to its foreign competitors.396 STEPHEN WHITE & IAN McALLISTER represented a much smaller proportion of those who had been disappointed by his presidential performance (voters without a party affiliation at all were relatively more numerous). least of all a 'Putin party'. If anything identified Putin supporters it was a degree of satisfaction with the status quo. ahead of 'Western democracy' and the system they actually had. there was some evidence that Putin had become-in Yurii Levada's term-'a hostage to his popularity rating'. however.51 dependent on the price of its raw materials on world markets. The economic recovery. But the effects of devaluation soon began to disappear. or on which powerful interests could be confronted. and a year later there was even less of a dedicated following. Here as elsewhere. and his supporters a year later. Putin voters. there was much greater consistency. rather than the multiparty system that actually existed.49 But 'to govern is to choose'. in fact. Russia was still a 'pipeline economy'. at lower levels. and they had the same kind of political beliefs (except for the support they offered Putin himself). Indeed. be impossible to avoid. On the largest questions of all. for a start. depended heavily on the world price of oil-which was outside the control of the Russian government-and the effects of the devaluation of August 1998. they were representative of its economic opinions. for his part. with a repayment schedule that would . The more he developed a committed constituency.50 so concerned to maintain his public standing that he avoided any decision that might alienate even a small section of those who might otherwise have supported him. or only one. and there were variations in the world price of oil that. which had made foreign imports more expensive. placed all the government's budgetary assumptions in some jeopardy. Putin supporters were close to a cross-section of the entire society. one of the reasons he made so little effort to protect the independent media was that they might have allowed a potential competitor to establish himself in a way that could represent a challenge at the 2004 election. They shared its social characteristics. The perils of presidential popularity Entering the second half of his presidential term. Vladimir Putin had managed to retain a level of popular approval that many world leaders might have envied. when his first term came to an end. there was no distinctive body of Putin supporters at the time of his original election. The president. According to his immediate associates he took a close interest in his rating. Difficult decisions might. Putin supporters-in either the presidential election or their subsequent evaluation of his work as president-were in fact an all but perfect cross-section of the electorate as a whole. were at one with other respondents in identifying the Soviet system as their first choice. had studiously avoided any commitment to a political party. On our evidence. the more Putin could create the political space within which he could take difficult as well as popular decisions. And they again were at one in favouring fewer parties. even those that defined themselves by their support for his position. but this was hardly the kind of basis on which a programme of reform could be conducted.

PUTIN AND HIS SUPPORTERS reach a peak in the early years of the new decade. Meanwhile there was little evidence of policies that were likely to achieve a sustained improvement in the spheres of life of most interest to ordinary Russians: half of them thought the country's economic position was 'bad' or 'very bad' in the autumn of 2002. Putin had come to power without a manifesto. Novaya gazeta. would be able to afford private medicine. and Dale R. 20. 30 January 2000. 2002). ' . 2003). Herspring (ed. 6 . Rossiiskaya gazeta. His high standing in the opinion polls has allowed him to overawe rivals. and his first public action was to exempt them from prosecution. There was little evidence that the 'anti-terrorist operation' in Chechnya was achieving the kind of results that would allow the Kremlin to declare it a success. and in particular to charge realistic prices for domestic services. including the governors. which in turn depends upon the world price of oil. 2002). Roi Medvedev. 1999). while human and material losses continued at a damaging level. Vladimir Putindeistvuyushchiiprezident (Moscow. leaving the president very exposed if the public mood changes. as the fire in the Ostankino television tower in the summer of 2000 and a dam burst in Yakutia in the spring of 2001-the worst for a hundred years-made clear. Izvestiya. Putin's Russia (Washington. 1. including Aleksandr Rar. MD. Any serious attempt to reform public housing. 1999. There is little sign of a 'Putin party'. His rise to power was made possible by the Chechen war. Rowman & Littlefield. p. but it depends heavily on the upturn in the economy. ~ ~ University of Glasgow Australian National University Kommersant. 3. would affect every family in the land. pp. which controlled more than half of Russia's regional governments. Elections without Order: Russia's Challenge to Vladimir Putin (Cambridge. more generally. Few. He was chosen by the El'tsin family as their successor. Putin's Russia: Past Impe$ect.Development indicators are taken from World Development Report 1998/99: Knowledge for Development (New York. and virtually without campaigning. and yet it affected only a small amount of land in urban areas.Lilya Shevtsova. The attempt to privatise land-which was already incorporated in the Russian constitution-provoked public demonstrations led by the Communist Party. Several recent studies provide helpful context. or even a leadership team. p. 22 March 2001. 3. 190-191. Future Uncertain (Lanham. Ekonomicheskie i sotsial'nye peremeny: monitoring obshchestvennogo mneniya (henceforth Monitoring). in the short or medium term. p. 1. p. but it is a war he appears unable to win on terms he would find acceptable. 2002).). DC. 1999. World Bank. 21 January 1999. 61.and in English Richard Rose &Neil Munro. p. that a 'regime of personal trust' would not be sufficient to achieve the kind of qualitative changes that would mark a decisive departure from the El'tsin i n h e r i t a n ~ e . Cambridge University Press. 31 December 1999. 4. an aging infrastructure would not hold out indefinitely. Equally. and only a quarter thought things were likely to improve in the near future. kvestiya. Vremya. and that the second half of his presidential term would be 'more difficult than the first'. 2003). There were further choices ahead in public policy. and has paralysed his judgement. And few would be able to afford private pensions. But there was increasing evidence he had 'got stuck half way'. Vladimir Putin: 'Nemets' v Kremle (Moscow.52Vladimir Putin had enjoyed an unprecedented honeymoon-with the Russian electorate. at a time when up to 30% of the population is living below subsistence. 64. Carnegie Endowment. pp. Olma-Press.

p. pp. Izvestiya. Osmos-Press. pp. 39 Nezavisimaya gazeta. l 2 Trud. 7 July 2000. Trud. p. p. Vospominaniya o budushchem prezidente (Moscow. Rossiiskii kto est' kto. 7 (fighting) and 26 June 2001. I. p. Mezhdunamdnye otnosheniya. 15 Izvestiya. but four or more volumes altogether (Knizhnoe obozrenie.49. 2001. 22 Komsomol'skaya pravda. 2002). p. 25 December 2001. 62. The second volume appeared at a low. p.wciom. 2000). Blotsky hmself announced that there might eventually be not three. Vladimir Putin. 28 December 2001. Oleg Blotsky. p. 2.wci0m. pp. Bashkirova & N. 46. p.216. p. 7 March 2000. 26 July 2002. vol. 45 Argumenty i fakty. 2002). p. praktika (Archangel. 24 May 2001. 3. 10. Spets-vjpusk. 14 July 2000. 1 1. 12 March 2001. p. 12 March 2001. Izdatel'skii dom. accessed at www. 10 January 2002. 2000.htm. 30 R F E m Newsline. 12 March 2001. 48 According to ROMIR. 24 Vera Gurevich. 3. which was a 'unique phenomenon in the contemporary Russian political process' (E. 61. 3. 32 The Guardian.ru/socpolit/election/03 2000/ping. l6 Nezavisimaya gazeta. 5. 14. 2002. p. 6. 18 September 2002. fixed price thanks to the financial support of a Russian businessman. 3. October-December 2000. 2002. 2002). 25 December 2001. 4. Kniga vtoraya (Moscow. p. Zakharov. Doroga k vlasti.40. Monitoring. p. 3. 2. 4 6 ~ r g u m e n tiy fakty. pp.398 STEPHEN WHITE & IAN McALLISTER 'Monitoring. p. 6. Argumenty z fakty. 2000. 3. 47 Georgii Satarov in Rossiiskaya gazeta. p.html. Izvestiya. p. 40. 5). 2. p. 28 Argumenty i fakry. 12 and 9 respectively. 23 Komsomol'skaya pravda. 59. Post-Soviet Affairs. 'How Strong is Vladimir Putin's Support?'. " Rossiiskaya gazeta. 2001. 27 Obshchaya gazeta. p. 'Prezident: fenomen obshchestvennoi podderzhki'. p. p. 20 September 2001. 7. 5. accessed at www. 19 Press-vypusk no. May 2002. p. 2. .romir. accessed at w c i 0 m . 43 Ibid. 16 May 2001. 28 September 2002. 304. 17 March 2000. 1. 3. accessed at www. p. 6. 64. Laidinen. Monitoring. 36Argumentyi fakty. 38 'In bed with President Putin'. The Guardian. 40 Monitoring. 4. 29 June 2002. 14. 2. 1. 26 August 2002. and The Guardian. 16 (the bar was later closed down: Izvestiya. 43. 4. 14. 2002. 3 (Irkutsk). 2002). pp. 29 See respectively Aleksandr Ol'bik. 41 Monitoring.english. 26 Oleg Blotsky. p. p. 49. 1 (Moscow. 16. The Guardian. " ' :: . 9 February 2000. 1). p. 28 December 2001. 33 Izvestiya. for instance. p. p. 30 September 2002. 2001. p. Vladimir Putin: istoriya zhizni. 2.4. 5. ee sem'ya i drugie tovarishchi (Moscow. teoriya. 21 Vladimir Putin.r~). 62. 4. 2001. 9. 73-74 and 2000. 29 June 2002. 22-23. April 2002. the group and their director were featured in Ogonek. 10. March 2000. Putin's conduct during the hostage-taking crisis was rated 'positively' or 'very positively' by 85% (VTsIOM. 7 March 2001. 29 October 2002. 71. 28-29. 3. pg.ru/fudZ001/ 09L?O/I5789. Prezident: Roman (Donetsk. Dzyudo: istoriya. p.pravda. A memoir of Putin's wife appeared at about the same time: Iren Pitch.ru. I * Rossiiskaya gazeta. 30). 5. Neil Munro & Stephen White. 2002. p. Pikantnaya druzhba: moya podruga Lyudmila Putina. 20 Izvestiya. Putin's support in February 2001 'almost completely coincide[d] with the structure of the Russian population'. 2. lo Kommersant. 22 March 2001. p. 16 June 2001. p. p. l 3 Nezavisimaya gazeta. 2001. 37 Kommersant-vlast'. l 4 Kommersant. 13. p. 2. Sotsiologicheskie issledovaniya. Stalker. 2001. p.61. Vladimir Shestakov & Aleksandr Peritsky. 4. 2002. 2 August 2001. pp. Mezhdunarodnye otnosheni a.. 2001). 25 December 2001. accessed at www. r ~ . 42 VTsIOM data. for the comparisons between Putin and Zyuganov supporters see Richard Rose. Imidzh Vladimira Putina (po rezul'tatarn gruppovykh diskussii). p. V.

. 'Wild Theories'. and 10% of interviews in the main cities were checked in the presence of a supervisor. using 110 sampling points and 209 interviewers. 2 March 2001. 26 March 2002. Thanks are due to Martin Dewhirst. funded by grant R223133 from the UK Economic and Social Research Council to Sarah Oates. 57. p. age and education. April 2001.PUTIN AND HIS SUPPORTERS 49 Private conversations with officials from the presidential administration. Derek Hutcheson. 52 Monitoring. Tania Konn. 2. 5. Stephen White and John Dunn of the University of Glasgow. 11. 10-12. For a more detailed account see Margot Light & Stephen White. The fieldwork took place between 10 and 26 April 2001. Margot Light and Clelia Rontoyanni for their assistance. 61. p. Appendix Our survey was undertaken by Russian Research of London and Moscow under the direction of Igor Galin. Interviews were conducted face to face in respondents' homes. July 2001. with control quotas for sex. 16. 51 Izvestiya. 13 July 2001. 53 Nezavisimuya gazeta. Alexei Levinson. The sample was designed using the multistage proportional representation method with random route as the method of selecting households and the 'last birthday' approach as the method of selecting respondents within households. The World Today. The survey sample was representative of the urban and rural over 18 population of the Russian Federation ( n = 2. p. 50 Vremya novostei. p. Peter Duncan. pp.7. 2002. Local fieldwork supervisors conducted a 20% sample control of each interviewer's questionnaires.000).

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