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St Petersburg Times, May 6, 2004

Poll: Putin All Right, Officials All Wrong

By Irina Titova

Most citizens of St. Petersburg think President Vladimir Putin is good, while the country's administration is bad, an opinion poll shows.

On the eve of Putin's inauguration on Friday, St. Petersburg's Agency of Social Information found out 65 percent of the population characterize the government negatively, while 62 percent regard the president in a positive light.

"The population obviously perceives Putin quite differently to the way it perceives the power structures," Roman Mogilevsky, head of ASI, said Wednesday at a news conference.

The poll conducted in St. Petersburg in April showed that while the majority of the public characterize Putin as "energetic, fair, and competent," most people also describe the country's administration as "unfair, ineffective, and inactive."

Mogilevsky said few citizens polled found anything negative in Putin.

The highest negative rating for Putin's negative was the 3.6 percent of respondents who saw him as "secretive, incomprehensible, and tricky."

In contrasts, 18.5 percent identified him as "active and energetic;" 17.5 percent described him as "fair and honest; 12.7 percent found him "smart" and 12.7 percent "handsome and charming."

However, 10.5 percent see the nation's power structures, including the government, secrete services, presidential administration, presidential representatives and the State Duma were described as "corrupt and dishonest." Mogilevsky said "the public's consciousness endows Putin's image with the qualities, which it can't find with the power structures."

However, he said the public does not associate Putin with the perceived failures of the authorities.

Boris Vishnevksy, a political analyst and Yabloko faction deputy in the Legislative Assembly, said Wednesday in a telephone interview that the separation in the public eye between the work of the government and the view of its head has to do with the lack of significant independent mass media in Russia.

"I'm sure such separation of responsibilities comes from propaganda in mass media," Vishnevsky said. "Because none of the leading [state-controlled] federal TV channels ever criticizes Putin, it shifts all the responsibility for the country's troubles to the government or governors," he said.

In crises, the mass media shows Putin as a czar, who always comes to help out, he added.

"If we had more independent media, they would instantly show that the president is also to blame for the country's problems," he said.

Mogilevsky said for many people see Putin as a man with charisma.

"For many people his look and his ability to perform a deed, such as fly in a military jet, look charismatic," he added. "Many also like Putin's apparent modesty, which for many Russians means that he is not arrogant and doesn't show off."


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St Petersburg Times, May 6, 2004

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