MOSCOW, December 24 (Alexey Eremenko, RIA Novosti) – President Vladimir Putin trumped opposition rivals in a race for politician of the year in Russia, gaining 16 percentage points compared to 2011 in an annual poll published on Monday.
Putin scored 54 percent in a national end-of-the-year survey by state-run VTsIOM. The runner-up, his loyal aide-de-camp Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev, was left in the dust with 16 percent.
Newly appointed Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu was the second best achiever, scoring 13 percent of the vote. Despite his charisma and considerable political longevity, he failed to make the list in 2011.
Whistleblowing lawyer Alexei Navalny and firebrand leftist politician Sergei Udaltsov, who led mass anti-Putin rallies in Moscow this year, ended up at the bottom of the poll with 2 percent each. They were not featured in previous polls.
Putin was politician of the year in every annual VTsIOM survey since the question was first offered in 2007 – but that year, he scored 87 percent. His ratings hovered between 50 and 60 percent in 2008-2010 and slid to 38 percent last year.
The presidential elections themselves became the event of the year in Russia, winning mention from 49 percent of respondents, followed by the deadly flash flood in the southern town of Krymsk that killed 160 (12 percent) and the ongoing anti-corruption campaign (9 percent).
Unrest in the Middle East was named the top global event with 27 percent. US President Barack Obama’s reelection was the second most important thing to happen to the world, figuring in 23 percent of the responses, and the London Olympics were third with 16 percent.
The poll also exposed an intriguing discrepancy between what Russians expect from 2013 for themselves and their country.
The public is growing pessimistic about their private prospects, with 33 percent saying they expect the coming year to be worse than the one that is rolling to a close. In 2011, the figure was 7 percentage points lower.
But 59 percent said they were optimistic about Russia’s future, an increase of 5 percentage points year-on-year.
“What you think about your prospects is based on your personal experience, such as the bills you get in the mail, whereas you get information about the country in general from the media,” VTsIOM director Valery Fedorov said at the poll’s presentation in Moscow.
Russian media have taken much flak for their alleged role as propaganda mouthpiece for the authorities. Russia ranked 172th of 197 countries in the 2012 Freedom of the Press report by US watchdog Freedom House.
The VTsIOM poll covered 1,600 respondents nationwide and had a margin of error of 3.4 percentage points.