Putin’s popularity

One question dominated a recent workshop on New Stability, Democracy and Nationalism in Contemporary Russia’ at the University of Basel. How did Vladimir Putin manage to gain the trust of the population and such impressive popularity figures? And how has he managed to sustain the public trust in his person throughout his presidency and into his position as prime minster today? The latter question is easier to answer: constant economic growth, increased feelings of stability, the re-emergence of the Russian Federation as an important global political power. But the first question?

Speaker after speaker expressed the view that traditional/conventional (western) political science models, methods and theories are simply unable to explain why Putin suddenly attracted such support when he was promoted to Yeltsin’s Prime Minister in 1999.

This seems to be the gap in the literature that a discourse theoretical approach may be able to fill. We will be watching the output of Philipp Casula, the workshop’s central organiser, keenly to see which proposals he makes, drawing perhaps on Ernesto Laclau’s theorising of populism in On Populist Reason (i.e., did Putin and his advisors manage to unite a wide range of popular demands; something that Yeltsin and his ‘Family’ clearly failed to do?).

Full workshop programme available as pdf file.

Selected data from the Levada Centre (March 2008):

Relation to Vladimir Putin

Results: largely favourable (mid blue), largely unfavourable (dark blue), don’t know enough about the issue (light blue).

Trust, Optimism and Wellbeing

Results: Index of Trust in the Presidency (green), Index of Economic Optimism (red), Index of National Wellbeing (blue).


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