The media and politicians debate the results of a recent opinion poll carried out by the Levada Analytical Center. The poll involved 1,600 people in 46 regions of Russia. The respondents were asked to single out the problems of top priority the Russian government should tackle. The commentators were quite surprised to find the “fight against corruption and embezzlement of state property” on top of the list. The same percentage of the polled (41%) believes “the measures for curbing soaring prices” are the most important objective. Just a year ago, the number of respondents calling attention to the above priorities varied significantly: 47% of the Russian were appalled by a hike in the prices, while 38% point out the widespread corruption as the nation’s biggest problem. Back in 1999, a rather piddling amount of respondents (22%) highlighted the fight against the bribe-taking as a matter of top priority.
Do the poll results indicate that corruption has increased twofold over the last few years?
“The results undoubtedly have to do with rising corruption figures and an increase in the pubic opinion toward the problem,” says Yuri Levada, in an interview to Arguments and Fakts. “Both President Putin and the Russian media have been speaking repeatedly about corruption. Therefore, the people become more aware of the problem. These days we’re slightly less concerned about the rise in consumer prices than were a year ago,” adds Levada.
According to sociologists, things have bettered a bit in Russia. Last year 39% of the Russians demanded that the government take steps to make an adjustment in wages, pensions and social-security payments in accordance with rises in the cost of living. This year’s number of respondents demanding the same has dropped to 33%. The number of those who believe that “life has improved and the standard of living is O.K.” has increased to 25% this year. The number of respondents in the same category totaled 21% in March this year. “Life is hard, but not unbearable,” is an opinion shared by 51% of the Russians involved in the recent poll. There were 45% of those who agreed with the statement in January of 2005. Only 18% of the respondents describe their situation as “dire and unbearable.” There were 26% in the same category five months ago.
It is noteworthy that President Putin’s approval rating was 79% this July, and a total share of those who are ready to “bear up” and those who call themselves “optimists” in the poll would stand at 76%. The proportion of those who are unhappy about Putin’s presidency equals 19% i.e. the number of respondents who are unhappy about their well-being.
Translated by Guerman Grachev
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