As Russia gears up to elections next year an opinion poll is showing Russians happier than ever before, with the level of Russians’ happiness reaching 85% and strong across all demographic groups.
Such polls are necessarily subjective, and there will inevitably be criticism that the polling agency, the All-Russian Centre for the Study of Public Opinion (VTsIOM), is sympathetic to or even controlled by the government. However it is worth pointing out that a recent opinion poll by the rival Levada Centre, which tends to be hostile to the government, has put President Putin’s approval rating at 82%, which is in line with what one would expect if this poll is true.
In addition, VTsIOM has not always produced good results for the government. As the TASS report of the latest poll points out, the rise in Russians’ happiness index contrasts sharply with much lower levels for this index in previous years
The happiness index (in the range of -100 to 100 points) came to 72 points, while in 2016 it reached 66 points, in 2010 it totaled 48 points, and in 1990 the score was 17 points, on the happiness index.
Needless to say most Russians do not credit the government for their happiness. Instead they credit themselves and their families. Outside totalitarian societies no people would ever think of attributing their personal happiness to the government, and one should not look for such a thing in Russia.
However the fact that the economy is now recovering, and that the fall in living standards during the recession has ended, undoubtedly partly explains the reported rise in ‘happiness’.
Happy people do not engage in revolutions against their government. The fact that Russians appear to be at least contented if not actually ‘happy’ doubtless explains why the political situation in Russia is so calm. Constant Western expectations – and hopes – of a political upheaval in Russia look like they will continue to be disappointed.