Putin’s Popularity Peaking

Russian President Vladimir Putin arrives for the Orthodox festival to honor the birthday of Venerable Sergius of Radonezh in the Trinity Lavra of St.Sergius on July 18, 2014, near Moscow.

Photograph by Sasha Mordovets/Getty Images

Russian President Vladimir Putin arrives for the Orthodox festival to honor the birthday of Venerable Sergius of Radonezh in the Trinity Lavra of St.Sergius on July 18, 2014, near Moscow.

For all the trouble that Russia’s incursion into Ukraine has caused in Europe and the United States, for all the sanctions that European Union and U.S. allies have imposed on Russian business interests, Russian President Vladimir Putin is as popular as he’s ever been back home.

Putin’s approval rating stood at 83 percent in Gallup polling conducted in Russia from late April through early June.

His approval had soared by almost 30 percentage points from just last year.

Granted, this measure was taken before a Malaysian airliner was “blown out of the sky” over Ukraine this week, as Vice President Joe Biden put it. Early indications point to Russian-backed separatists in Ukraine, a conflict that Putin has stoked.

Yet it’s a measure of how much nationalism can play into a public’s opinion of their leader. During his time as president and prime minister and president again, Putin’s approval rating had reached 83 percent in 2008 and slid steadily through the following years until its slump at 54 percent in 2013 — a “slump” that President Barack Obama, scoring in the low 40′s lately in the U.S., might like to have.

It’s reminiscent of the 90 percent public approval that former President George W. Bush scored in the weeks following the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, when the nation rallied around a leader after a deadly assault on the homeland.

The Russian taking of Crimea may have inflamed tensions among Russia and Europe and the U.S., yet it rebuilt the Russian public’s sense of world power.

They’re still not sure about those elections, however:

“The 29-percentage-point increase in Putin’s job approval between 2013 and 2014 suggests he has solidified his previously shaky support base,” Gallup’s Julie Ray and Neli Esipova write. “For the first time since 2008, a majority of Russians (73%) believe their country’s leadership is leading them in the right direction. This renewed faith is apparent in their record-level confidence in the country’s military (78%), their national government (64%), and honesty of elections (39%).”

Russians' Approve of Job Putin Is Doing

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