Vladimir Putin's Approval Rating Rose Slightly in February Poll

Vladimir Putin's Approval Rating Rose Slightly in February Poll

Vladimir Putin's approval rating among Russians ticked up slightly to 71 percent in February from 69 percent in a poll conducted in January.

Nearly four weeks after Russia’s invasion of Ukraine began, Russian troops have largely been halted in the country’s north and east. Persistent supply problems and fierce Ukrainian resistance have slowed the Russian advance. Ukraine’s defense ministry has claimed that as many as 12,000 Russian soldiers have been killed in the invasion, nearly as many in three weeks as the Soviet Union lost in Afghanistan over the course of ten years. 

Russian president Vladimir Putin has remained broadly popular in his country despite the struggles of the Russian military and economic devastation wrought by Western sanctions. A poll conducted in mid-February 2022 by the Levada Center, an independent Russian public research firm, found that Putin’s approval rating was 71 percent. That was up from 69 percent in January 2022.

The Levada Center’s poll, which was conducted in mid-February 2022, asked Russian citizens whether they generally approved or disapproved of Putin’s leadership. The Levada Center noted that this was the Russian leader’s highest approval rating since May 2018, when the Levada Center recorded a 79 percent approval rating.

In the same survey, 27 percent of Russians answered that they disapproved of Putin, while one percent were unsure or did not answer.

A second telephone poll conducted by the Levada Center in early March asked Russians about their approval or disapproval of the Russian “special military operation” in Ukraine. The poll found that 58 percent of Russians answered that they approved of it, while 23 percent indicated disapproval.

Putin’s approval rating has remained consistently high throughout his twenty-three year rule over Russia, according to independent survey data. In his first decade in power, Russia, which had seen a sharp economic decline after the breakup of the Soviet Union in 1991, experienced a significant increase in living standards and Russia’s accession to the World Trade Organization, which many associated with Putin’s economic policies. Although Putin’s support declined in the early 2010s—owing partly to controversy surrounding corruption in Russian elections in 2011 and 2012—it increased once again after the seizure and annexation of the Crimean peninsula.

Putin’s supporters have used his broad approval rating to justify his more controversial actions in power, while his opponents cite his high approval ratings as evidence for the Kremlin’s high level of control over the country’s media. That stranglehold has been strengthened by the shuttering of several independent media outlets, including the “Echo of Moscow” radio station, at the onset of the invasion of Ukraine.

Trevor Filseth is a current and foreign affairs writer for the National Interest.

Image: Reuters.