Russian President Vladimir Putin may be more popular than ever among American Republicans, but in Russia his poll numbers are sagging.
Putin’s famously sky-high domestic approval rating is starting to fall back to earth as frustration rises over plans to increase the Russian retirement age. The Russian strongman’s numbers dipped to a four-year low of 72 percent from 77 percent a week earlier. Confidence in the president also fell, dropping to 42 percent from 45 percent a week earlier, the lowest level since late 2013, according to figures released by the state-run polling company VTsIOM.
While 72 percent approval might be an enviable rating for any other world leader, Putin hasn’t been so unpopular in years. The latest results are a far cry from the days when nine-out-of-ten Russians approved of his job performance after Russian forces seized the region of Crimea from neighboring Ukraine in early 2014.
The recent dip doesn’t suggest the Russian president will be toppled anytime soon, but it could be an indicator that Russians are finally getting restless after almost two decades of life under Putin.
The Russian president cruised to victory in an election held back in March, winning a fourth term in a vote that cemented his long-lasting dominance over the country's political scene. But upon winning, Putin signaled economic gains will be high on his priority list in this new five-year term.
Russia’s economy has returned to growth after a sharp recession, thanks in large part to an increase in the price of the country’s main export, crude oil. Yet some of Putin's other efforts at improving the economy through reforms, including raising the retirement age, appear to be angering voters.
The Russian government recently announced plans to raise the retirement age for men to 65 from 60 within the next decade, and for women to 63 from 55 by the year 2034.
That move has provided a rare opening to Putin’s critics. Over 2 million people have signed an online petition opposing the move, and longtime anti-Kremlin agitator, Alexei Navalny, has called a public protest for July 1 against the increase.
Cover image: A portrait of Russian President Vladimir Putin seen on a tourist's t-shirt outside the Nizhny Novgorod stadium, in downtown Nizhny Novgorod, Russia, June 23, 2018. Ramil Sitdikov / Sputnik via AP