A quote assigned to Stalin famously rejected the importance of voters: it’s who counts them that matters. In contemporary Russia, how they are counted is, it would seem, just as important.
Last week, a new poll by state pollsters VTsIOM revealed a worrying state of affairs for the Kremlin. Only 31.7 per cent of respondents said they trusted their president. The new baseline, which represented a 13-year low, led usually loyal publications to conclude that Russians were close to “losing patience” with Vladimir Putin.
Fast forward to Thursday, and the Kremlin’s press secretary Dmitry Peskov was fielding questions about the polling. Was the president worried about falling levels of trust? Mr Peskov, audibly irritated, answered that the polling was “not consistent” with figures he had seen:
“How can trust fall, but electoral rating increase? … We await their analysis of the correlation of figures.”
Overnight, VTsIOM answered the spokesman’s call and issued an update to their polling figures. The headlines changed: in fact, 72.3 per cent of Russians trusted Vladimir Putin.