The most recent polls for the Duma campaign released by VTSIOM reveal the effect of Putin’s decision to head United Russia’s electoral list. Specifically, United Russia is now polling at 54% – a 6% increase over its rating before Putin’s announcement (the graphic comes courtesy from VTSIOM as well). The increase mostly came at the expense of Just Russia (1%) and the Communists (1%). The other 4% came from a decrease in the number of people saying they would either not vote or were unsure whether they would vote.
Despite the increase in support, I was somewhat surprised that it was not more significant. Most importantly, if elections were held today, United Russia would not have a constitutional majority in the Duma. Gazeta.ru, however, reports other polls that show 68% support levels for the party. Still, if you average the two polls, United Russia still does not reach the constitutional majority. Thus, we could see a Duma that is able to rubber stamp normal legislation but unable to pass Federal constitutional laws. Finally, there is no reason to assume that the Putin Bump will endure. Remember, the LDPR’s rating was temporarily raised by the announcement that Andrei Lugovoi would head its party list, though this increase is now all but gone.
Lastly, the most significant outcome of these recent polls is the continuing decline of Just Russia, which is now polling at a dismal 3%. Of course, it is still way too early in the campaign to know how it will turn out, but the current trend does not bode well for Russia’s party system. If Putin’s decision to associate his name and popularity with United Russia enables that party to establish long-term domination of Russian politics, then the blame should lie at his feet.