LONDON — President Donald Trump isn't the only person who admires Vladimir Putin: He boasts sky-high approval ratings in Russia.
A new Pew Research Center survey suggests 87 percent of Russians have “some or a lot of confidence” in his handling of global issues.
However, the positive perception of Putin’s handling of relations with the U.S. has recently dropped. A total of 85 percent had positive view of his dealings with the U.S. in 2015, when Barack Obama was president. But now that Trump is in the White House, the figure now stands at 73 percent, according to Pew.
Pew found that the most important domestic issue for Russians is the economy. However, the country is almost completely divided in its view of it: 46 percent described the economic situation as “good” while 49 percent said it is “bad.”
Asked by Pew about nine issues, “rising prices” topped the list cited as a “very big problem” at 71 percent, with the perception of corrupt political leaders coming in second — at 58 percent.
Russians also seem to be becoming less nostalgic about the Soviet era.
While Putin has bemoaned the collapse of the Soviet Union as “the greatest geopolitical catastrophe of the century," most Russians seem to be moving on.
Compared to 2015, the share of respondents who view the end of the Soviet as a “good thing” has nearly doubled, jumping from 17 percent to 31 percent today.
And while Putin has shown disdain for NATO and recently suggested that it is an outdated military alliance during a recent panel discussion moderated by NBC News’ Megyn Kelly, fewer Russians view it as a major threat — 41 percent, compared to the 50 percent who held that view in 2015.
The results of the Pew survey are based on face-to-face interviews conducted with 1,002 Russians from Feb. 18 to April 3, and had a margin of error of 4 percentage points.
Putin's approval rating reached an all-time high of nearly 90 percent in Oct. 2015, according to a nationwide poll released by state-run VTsIOM. That came just months after Moscow annexed Ukraine's Crimea peninsula and upped its engagement in the conflict in Syria.
Part of the president's popularity can be attributed to the daily diet of nationalistic, pro-Kremlin, pro-Putin, anti-Western news delivered to Russians through the largely state-controlled media.
Since the early 2000s, Putin has consolidated control of the media and today the leading television networks — the main source of information for Russians — are either directly run by the state or owned by companies with close links to the Kremlin.
However, Russia does have a small number of independent media outlets that offer alternative view points.
Just last week thousands of people took to the streets across Russia to protest corruption as part of opposition leader Alexei Navalny's long-shot drive to unseat Putin at the ballot box next year. The protests were the second wave of large scale anti-Kremlin demonstrations this year — the first in March resulted in more 1,000 arrests, putting rare domestic pressure on Putin.