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The 2018 Russian presidential election was effectively a contest not between Vladimir Putin and the other seven candidates on the ballot paper, but between Putin and the level of election turnout. Anything less than a large majority based on a respectable level of turnout would have undermined Putin’s legitimacy to serve for a further six-year term. In the event, Putin achieved his goal. In this paper we examine the background to the election and the conduct of the campaign, and analyse the result. Putin’s success can be traced to, first, long-standing patterns of differential turnout across the regions and, second, administrative initiatives by the election authorities which created a renewed confidence in the integrity of the election process. While there is evidence that those wishing to protest against Putin spoiled their votes, the impact of this was minor.

In: Russian Politics

Because of the predicable outcomes of recent Russian elections, voters are often characterized as passive actors in the electoral process. However, as we show in this article, political and social factors still underpin the motivations for people’s voting behavior. The article analyzes voting behavior in the 2016 State Duma election, using a post-election, nationally representative survey to assess the differences between the four parliamentary parties’ support bases. It finds that voting decisions in the 2016 election were strongly related to voters’ attitudes to the national president, Vladimir Putin, as well as to their attitudes to corruption and the economic situation. Voters who were more positive to the president and viewed the economic crisis more benignly were more likely to vote for the ‘party of power’, United Russia. Moreover, the four parties’ electorates had distinctive social profiles that were consistent with long-term patterns established in previous State Duma elections.

In: Russian Politics

A quarter of a century after the collapse of the Soviet Union, its demise still has ramifications for public opinion across the postcommunist world. Using surveys conducted in Belarus, Russia and Ukraine, we show that nostalgia for communism is both widespread and persistent. Across all three countries, nostalgia is concentrated among the old and less well-off and, not surprisingly, among those with Communist Party connections. Social networks and travel to other countries is relatively unimportant in shaping views of the communist past. However, despite these widespread feelings of nostalgia, they have implications for contemporary political opinions only in Belarus. Overall, the results suggest that regret for the demise of the Soviet Union will remain in postcommunist societies for some time.

In: Russian Politics

Under communism, official election returns suggested that around 99 percent of the electorate voted. Since then, election turnout in Russia has declined dramatically, with the 2016 Duma election recording the lowest level of turnout since democratization. This paper uses national survey data collected just after the 2016 election to test four hypotheses to explain this low turnout, and to evaluate its consequences for party support. The results show that a voter’s resources, the degree of mobilization and his or her sense of efficacy all influence the probability of voting. A belief in electoral integrity also matters, but only insofar as it is related to support for the Putin regime. The level of differential turnout across the regions in the 2016 election was exceptional. Both aggregate and individual level analyses confirm that United Russia gained considerably from the higher turnout that occurred in the remoter regions, and from lower turnout in the urban regions. United Russia has pursued a strategy of voter demobilization in areas of low support, and this explains its continuing electoral success.

In: Russian Politics


In July 2020, Russian voters gave strong support to a package of constitutional reforms that reconfigured the Russian political system and enshrined social guarantees and conservative identity values, consolidating the regime that has been built over a 20-year period. This was achieved through an alteration that ‘zeroed’ presidential terms that commenced before the constitutional change, potentially allowing President Vladimir Putin to overcome term limits and continue in office beyond 2024. The article explains how such a far-reaching and important change was successfully endorsed by the Russian electorate. The analysis shows that the main explanation rests with variations in voting patterns across the regions, a pattern that has been evident in previous Russian elections and resulted in strong pro-Putin support. The article also evaluates questions raised about the legitimacy of the result, and its long-term significance for the Russian political system.

Open Access
In: Russian Politics