Vladimir Putin’s Russia has shown a remarkable enthusiasm for elections. His regime has regularly held presidential, parliamentary, and local elections as well as a 2020 plebiscite on constitutional reform. Russia is arguably the world leader in electronic voting: If the country deploys e-voting nationwide in the next presidential election as planned, it will have the largest population of online voters. Polling is also of paramount importance to the Kremlin, which orders weekly polls from two state-owned polling agencies: the Public Opinion Foundation and the Russian Public Opinion Research Center. The results are widely covered in state-controlled and independent media.

But voting and polling in Russia are not signs of genuine electoral competition, nor are they simply window dressing for deceiving Western observers. Rather they play a crucial role in Putin’s political designs, shaping the relationship between him and the people. Russia exists in a state of constant plebiscite in which the regime aims to continuously demonstrate popular support for Putin to domestic and foreign audiences. His invasion of Ukraine beginning on 24 February 2022 has made this fact grimly acute. According to the Levada Center, an independent Russian pollster, Putin’s domestic approval rose from 71 percent in February to 83 percent in May despite the costly course of the war for the Russian people. So how should the attitude of the Russian population toward the invasion be properly understood? And what does it say about the fate of Putin’s regime?

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