Majority of Russians Support Drastic Reforms

Majority of Russians Support Drastic Reforms
About 60 percent of the Russians believe that significant transformations of the political system and other nationwide reforms are necessary. For comparison, in 2017 only 42 percent of the Russians held this opinion.

Drastic reforms are supported by 59 percent of Russia's adults. According to the survey by Levada Center and Carnegie Moscow Center, two years earlier, only 42 percent of the Russian residents held that opinion. The survey data was obtained by the Russian business daily Vedomosti. A total of 31 percent of respondents said that they support precisely targeted changes and reforms. Eight percent do not see the need for any changes. According to 53 percent of respondents, the reforms should embrace the political system. 34 percent expect the modernization of other spheres apart from that of politics.

Sociologists believe that people do not have an overwhelming demand for a change of power but their dissatisfaction with the current system is growing. Its manifestations may become more frequent over time and grow over into mass rallies.

According to the survey, 69 percent of respondents think that the greatest resistance to the reforms comes from public servants. In 2017, 56 percent of Russians accused officials of stalling the reforms. 67 percent of the Russian residents are confident that the changes do not meet the expectations of big businesses (52 percent in 2017). One Russian in four, vs. 15 percent two years ago, suspects resistance to reforms from the president and his inner circle.

The authors of the survey point out a definite increase of dissatisfaction with the head of state, although the Russians still do not place excessive responsibility on the president, on the whole.

Simultaneously, only 16 percent of respond-ents believe that Vladimir Putin could initiate a long-term plan of reforms. In 2017 only 25 percent of the surveyed said they were thinking so. Nine percent of respondents expect Vladimir Zhirinovsky, the leader of the Liberal Democratic Party, to give an effective reform plan. At the same time, five percent put their hopes on Gennady Zyuganov, the leader of the Communists. Three percent are awaiting reform actions from Sergei Shoigu, the head of the Defense Ministry, and Alexei Navalny, the off-parliament oppositionist, respectively.

24 percent of the respondents consider the increase of wages and living standards to be the most needed shift, while 13 percent hope for a ‘castling move’ of the Cabinet of Ministers and the head of state. Sociologists add that as economic problems are swelling, the Russians feel increasingly irritated by the lavish lifestyle of high-ranking officials and business executives. Along with it, only nine percent of respondents believe that fair elections should be the main focus, and eight percent think that utmost efforts are to be made to ensure the independence of the courts.

In general, sociologists conclude that the Russians are waiting for radical changes but do not want to see the social and economic indicators decline on the background of reforms. The quest for transformation made in 2018, was not answered, and the pension reform resulted in a dramatically decreasing support for the government. Elections in the regions showed the Russians’ interest in populist changes, but the authorities are not willing to hold a dialogue with critics.

Denis Volkov, the sociologist at Levada Center says that today the Russians expect new people to come to power, not some abstract reforms. But they do not know who these people should be. Russians are completely outraged by corruption but less concerned about higher prices for goods and services.

Volkov also believes that people have been partially holding the president accountable for the problems in the country. Respectively, the more problems, the bigger dissatisfaction with the performance of the head of state. In order to restore the confidence of the people, the authorities should carry out a large-scale personnel overhaul or implement the national projects in full, Volkov says.

Andrei Kolesnikov, a co-author of the report and an expert at the Carnegie Moscow Center, is more pessimistic about the chances of practical implementation of the quest for change. The Russians hope that the changes will be carried out without their participation and they will not suffer financially. Society is not ready for any social transformation apart from getting another education. The demands for change remain essentially populist – the Russians reckon the reforms will come about magically. The authorities are responding to this with isolated changes -- the removals of governors and expressions of ideas about a breakthrough. But the basis of the system remains the same, Kolesnikov says.

Dmitry Badovsky, the head of the Institute for Socio-Economic and Political Studies foundation, adds that the Russians find the idea of stability to be less attractive -- it is associated with poverty and accumulation of problems. In fact, people are not inclined to any changes in general but solely to improvements. A large gap between public expectations and reality is increasing the risks for the authorities, Badovsky says.