Russians care about economic and political stability, not democracy, according to a new poll conducted for news agency Interfax.
Run by the Levada Center for Independent, the poll asked 1,600 Russian respondents to rank issues they viewed as important. Respondents first and foremost chose economic and political stability. In contrast, only 7 percent of Russians said they cared about democracy. The same poll was conducted in 1999 and at that point in time only 50 percent of Russians chose economic and political stability.
Stability has taken the center stage above unemployment at 48 percent and personal safety at 45 percent. Other values traditionally associated with liberal-democratic countries also took a plunge. Freedom of speech, expression and the right of assembly dropped from 11 percent in 1999 to 9 percent now in 2016.
Despite liberal-democratic values falling in importance, a majority of Russians still consider themselves free. A second Levada Center poll in December found that 66 percent felt they were free.
At the same time, fewer Russians at 22 percent think President Vladimir Putin is in danger of moving the country towards a dictatorship. Putin continues to rake in high approval ratings. A state-run poll found an approval rating of 89.9 percent, which was supported by an independent Levada Center poll. The Levada poll found an approval rating of 88 percent.
This approval rating continues to stay high despite a crumbling oil price, which reverses the usual connection between poor economic performance and poor government approval ratings. One political scientist, Alexei Chadaev, suggests that this is the case because although Putin does not rely on democratic governance, his decisions tend to be in alignment with what Russians actually want and believe.
Recent economic rumblings have devastated the ruble. As of Monday, the exchange rate was 85 rubles to a single euro as oil is now down to $30 dollars a barrel and the Russian government is looking to make wide-ranging cuts across services.
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