In polling data it published on April 11, 2013, the Levada Center asked Russians whether they’d like to see Vladimir Putin continue in power in 2018 when his third term expires, or be replaced.
Only 22% of Russian respondents said they’d like to see Putin retain power. 47% said they’d like to see somebody other than Putin or Dmitri Medvedev take power, while 8% said they’d like to see power returned to Medvedev’s hands. In other words, a clear majority — 55% — of Russians do not want Putin to seize a fourth term as president.
This is the third time in the past year that Levada polling has shown a majority of Russians rejecting a fourth term for Putin. In August 2012 57% opposed this outcome, and in December 2012 51% did so. One year ago, in March 2012, 49% were opposed to a fourth term for Putin.
Another result was still more interesting. For the first time since Levada began asking the question (in March 2004), less than a majority of Russians said it was a good thing for the country that Putin had virtually unlimited power. The first time the question was asked 68% of Russians said it was a good thing; in March 2013, only 49% said so.
Dissatisfaction with Putin is hardly surprising given that economic growth is plummeting while inflation is soaring, the horrific one-two punch that economists refer to as “stagflation.” It is also known as the disease that killed the USSR.
But this hardly means that Putin will actually be replaced. A Levada poll from February 2013 shows that a whopping 65% of Russians think Putin has brought the country more good than bad. Another February 2013 Levada survey shows that Putin would get three times more votes than any named rival if an election were held today, and shows his job approval rating at a heady 65%. It has never been less than 60% at any time in the past two years. As we reported recently, Russians blame their bureaucracy and their legislature for their troubles, not Putin.
Russians could have turned Putin out of office in 2012, of course, but instead they reelected him in a landslide, not even calling for a second round to select between the two best candidates. They instinctively seem to know it’s not a good idea for Putin to remain in power forever, especially not with unlimited power, but they appear unwilling to actually place power in the hands of any other specific person.