The rehabilitation of Vladimir Vladimirovich Putin

(AP)

In July of 2014, 51 percent of Republicans in a YouGov poll reported that they held a very unfavorable opinion of Russian leader Vladimir Putin. Just 9 percent of GOP voters had a very or somewhat positive impression of Putin.

Democrats and independents largely shared that overwhelmingly negative sentiment. For example, 44 percent of Democrats said they had a very negative opinion of Putin, and just 11 percent viewed him at all favorably.

By July of 2016, however, a truly remarkable transformation had occurred.

According to YouGov, sentiment among Democrats hadn’t changed over that two-year time period; some 45 percent still had a very unfavorable opinion of Putin. Among Republicans, however, the number expressing a very unfavorable opinion of Putin had plummeted from 51 percent to 22 percent. Putin’s overall net negative rating among Republicans — his very and somewhat negative score, subtracted from very and somewhat positive — had fallen from 66 percent to just 22 percent.

 

putin

You look at those numbers, scratch your head and wonder:

What had Putin done in that two-year-period to so significantly improve his standing among Republicans, and only among Republicans?

Since that 2014 poll, Russia has been hit with international sanctions as punishment for its annexation of Crimea and its semi-covert use of Russian troops to threaten Ukraine. The Russian economy has tanked, foreign investment has fled and the value of the Russian ruble against the dollar has fallen by almost half. In part to distract from the economic mess, Putin has committed Russian troops and warplanes to support the Syrian dictatorship, which at this very minute is retaking the city of Aleppo and according to the United Nations is committing the mass execution of civilians, including women and children.

Putin has also cracked down harder on Russian media and his political opposition. In February 2015, Russian opposition leader Boris Nemtsov was shot several times in the back as he walked across a bridge in Moscow, right outside the walls of the Kremlin. Nemtsov, a physicist by training, had recently expressed grave fears that Putin had targeted him for elimination.

As Putin critic, Russian exile and former world chess champion Garry Kasparov put it at the time, Nemtsov’s murder “shocked even those of us who thought we had lost the ability to be shocked by events in Vladimir Putin’s Russia.” “The western administrations that have passively watched Putin turn Russia back into a dictatorship – and invade his neighbors – are out of excuses,” Kasparov wrote.

That record would not seem to explain why so many Republicans were suddenly willing to hit the reset button on Putin’s behalf. So instead of looking overseas for the answer to our mystery, maybe we should be looking closer to home. Maybe it’s the fact that a week before that July 2016 poll, Donald Trump had accepted the GOP nomination for president at the party convention in Cleveland.

The rise of Trump, an unabashed Putin fan and ally, has put the Republican base in an uncomfortable position. How can they reconcile their embrace of Trump as party leader and now president while maintaining a deep dislike for Trump’s friend Putin? The feat had become psychologically difficult, and something had to give. To resolve it, they have begun to discover merits in the Russian leader that they hadn’t previously seen.

If that theory is valid, I suspect Putin’s popularity among Republicans has grown even more since the July YouGov poll. It grew with Trump’s surprise election victory, and it probably grew again just this morning, when Trump announced the nomination of Exxon Mobil CEO and Putin supporter Rex Tillerson as secretary of state.

Tillerson was awarded the Order of Friendship by Putin. He has been an ardent advocate of ending economic sanctions against Russia.  You can’t continue to perceive Putin as a threat to American interests and values and also believe that Tillerson will make a great secretary of state, so again, I suspect that the perception of Putin in certain circles will have to change, even though the ex-KGB agent himself hasn’t changed a whit.

It’s really something watching a plan come together like this.

 

 

Reader Comments 0

2177 comments
JamVet
JamVet

What a superb piece of journalism, Jay!

Excellent!

So many damning facts that it left the intellectually insufficient here to do nothing but mewl to each other!


Infraredguy
Infraredguy

Where is Hillary and Bill ? surely they are busy planning a run in 2020

Infraredguy
Infraredguy

@DoubleNaughtSpy That's all he will write about for the next 4 years while he whines about Trump, Jay is a one trick pony

KUTGF
KUTGF

Wonder when DIA is going to express his outrage at Dem electors having their lives threatened and address the hundreds of acts of violent that have occurred since the election in Trump's name.

DoubleNaughtSpy
DoubleNaughtSpy

Maybe they'll investigate death threats against trump electors as well...

td1234
td1234

@KUTGF I am actually surprised there has not been more violence. I guess when Soros stopped footing the bill then the protesters really showed how upset they were when they went home and got on with life. 

Paul42
Paul42

@DownInAlbany

How do you figure a group of teens writing "build that wall' are a result of progressives raising children?

I already related the case of the college-age waitress who said how right after the election a group of young white males addressed her with 'good luck with your deportation."  (Her father is Caucasian and she was born in the US).

You really think those young men were raised in progressive homes?

skydog12
skydog12

@DownInAlbany


At least we are not raising them in Albany.


Albany is #31 out of the 32 places I have lived. Only Topeka, Ks was worse.

Peachs
Peachs

@DownInAlbany and when you get through laughing explain to me what purpose hacking a third level politicians would have on the real world. 

Nick_Danger
Nick_Danger

DoubleNaught and USMC, thanks for the education, seriously...  Although I feel like I was happier with the mystery than the solution.  LOL!

FIGMO2
FIGMO2

How long is jay gonna leave Putin hanging out to dry here?

Not very flexible, are you, jay? 

Nick_Danger
Nick_Danger

@DoubleNaughtSpy 

The things I miss by not watching cable news!

Was this the kind of thing that caused Trump to call for "safe zones" at theaters?

USMC2841
USMC2841

@Nick_Danger @DoubleNaughtSpy It was on most of the networks and universities around the country and WE broad-brushed it.  Asking for evidence and refusing to accept it.  You ever work as a democratic pollster?

Nick_Danger
Nick_Danger

@USMC2841 @Nick_Danger @DoubleNaughtSpy 

I see.  I don't watch cable news - thank you for confirming the wisdom of that choice!  LOL! 

BTW - "asking for evidence? 

No... I figured it was some "inside the bubble" thing.  And so it was.

TetoLeo
TetoLeo

One possible reason I have seen to explain why republicans have softened in their hatred for Putin is his stance and willingness to take a stand against radicalized Islamic terrorist.

Many republicans seem to self identify as Christian, thus a leader in the world who seems eager to take on terrorist that self professes their hatred for Christians is bound to get more support from those particular Christians. Especially given the concerns those same Christians have about how much their own country has done to take on these particular terrorist

TetoLeo
TetoLeo

Mcgarnagle,

I never said it was my opinion of Putin, I simply have why add a conservative I thought this flip in polling had occurred as was asked for by other posters here.

I also think it would be wise to have it known what each parties interest are regarding this issue. Which is why I don't think we need to worsen relationships with Russia, or improve them either, so as we are able have a better grasp as a country add to our next act.

TetoLeo
TetoLeo

Eye Wonder,

You're possibly correct, could be a combination of both. Could easily be that in Trump they saw/see someone who will be willing in much the same fashion as Putin and the attaching to the cult of personality.

McGarnagle
McGarnagle

@TetoLeo


I don't think Putin wants to take on Islamic terrorist. Only groups that get in his way, they just so happen to be Islamic terrorist in Syria. Actually the number 1 terrorist group for them are the Chechnya rebels. How many Russian troops are in Afghanistan or Iraq. Putin and Trump are looking out for themselves, which unfortunately people view that as a sign of great leadership. Nothing Christian about it.

TetoLeo
TetoLeo

Mcgarnagle,

I was simply giving a possible reason for the shift, as some here have been asking a conservative poster to do.Being that I don't think you self identify as Republican, then what you think about Putin has little to do with the why in this regard.

Also notwithstanding why Putin has taken on terrorist, he nonetheless is taking them on aggressively. That is what I'm referring to and in the view of the Christians maybe it is the idea of, they don't care why the terrorist are being taken on as much as if terrorist are being taken on.

Peachs
Peachs

@TetoLeo Religion is a dying form of life.  The reason Russia battles the radicalized Islamic terrorist is they can fill a vacuum like the mob selling protection to retailers. The Republican support comes as a rebellion to the establishment.  

TetoLeo
TetoLeo

Peaches,

You may be correct. But it's just your opinion as it my opinion. Both are plausible but I just don't see that many people flipping in 2 years just because they want to rebel against the establishment. I don't think republicans have been for the establishment for well over 2 years

McGarnagle
McGarnagle

@TetoLeo


I may not self-identify as Republican but I can say that its some short-sighted thinking to say that Putin has some vested interested in going after radical Islamic terrorist. Much like we thought the Taliban was our buddy for fighting the Russians back in the 80s. Each side has their own motives and agenda. It serves our best interest to know that they are.

Peachs
Peachs

@TetoLeo I ,some what, agree, but the anti establishment movement really is not a sub culture of the Republicans Party, but a universal movement that parts of the Republican Party have joined. This explains the lack of control the Republican establishment has on it. It really is not even Republican and you are going to see a divide in the Republican Congress and Trump that he can't control, since Trump was no material help to the Congressmen being elected. 


I think we are Id ing non participates who voted for Trump as Republicans or Christians when they are neither. 

Paul42
Paul42

@Peachs

I'm betting Republicans will keep repeating "WE" won.

Thing is, they're going to believe it, and that will create all sorts of opportunities.

Whether or not Democrats will capitalize on it is another matter.

Paul42
Paul42

@TetoLeo

I think Putin's propping up his ally, Assad, against those fighting against him.  They just happen to be radical Islamic terrorists.  He's not fighting them because they ARE radical Islamic terrorists.  He'd be waging the same kind of action if they were Christian militias.


TetoLeo
TetoLeo

Paul42,

I don't disagree with that assessment but I don't know if you are correct either. I don't have a way to really know. But I think of it in these terms as to the easy of thinking by those who may now have a more positive view of Putin.....it is extreme I am aware but I think illustrates the kind of thinking going on.

If you are holding me hostage and proclaiming you are going to kill me, holding a gun to my head and someone breaks in and kills you and I'm able to get away unharmed. I'm not so sure I'm concerned with why that person came in to kill you (may have not liked you, or maybe you had evidence of their wrong doing) my only real concern is that they were willing to engage you and set me free

Peachs
Peachs

@Paul42 @Peachs totally agree, we have such timid leadership, or at best special interest near sightedness that doesn't see the whole playing field, just their backyard. 


There are alliances to be formed in congress that are more natural than teaming with Trump and when Trump doesn't deliver the undeliverable they are not caught in his backwash. He didn't get them elected so why drown with him?

Peachs
Peachs

@Paul42 @TetoLeo it is the same card game they played with Cuba, just a different territory and opportunity to influence a region. 

Eye wonder
Eye wonder

@TetoLeo

That's a fair analysis but I don't think it is what is driving most of Don's supporters, who are driven more by the id and the cult of personality that Don has inspired than anything else.

McGarnagle
McGarnagle

So the Feds raise rate because economy looks solid. Is that good new, bad news, no news, fake news?

Bruno2
Bruno2

@McGarnagle Zero interest rates for years and years on end cannot produce a healthy economy.  The endless QE was designed to artificially prop up the economy.

Eye wonder
Eye wonder

@Bruno2 @McGarnagle

Mission accomplished and the reason that America's economy is once again the envy of the world. Thanks, Barack Hussein Obama.

Nick_Danger
Nick_Danger

@Bruno2 @McGarnagle 

And QE saved "this sucker" from "going down". 

IMO, economic policy is to do the greatest good for the greatest number.  Wouldn't have changed a thing.

Nick_Danger
Nick_Danger

@DoubleNaughtSpy 

Ah.  So y'all kinda pretend to yourselves that this is a "thing."  What's the thrill of repeating it over and over?

DoubleNaughtSpy
DoubleNaughtSpy

You insinuated you didn't know what it was about. Just gave a few examples. Had I not, some lib would have screamed for proof.

Nick_Danger
Nick_Danger

@DoubleNaughtSpy 

Double-naught, thank you for posting all these examples.  I appreciate the effort.  I figured it was a thing.

Bruno2
Bruno2

Paul42: "Partisan nonsense."

You've pretty much summarized your entire presence here, Paul.  As I detailed below, your blog raison-d'etre is to engage in "Gotcha" type questions designed to support your sweeping generalizations about how terrible Cons are. 

P.S. If you'll go over to Kyle's blog and read up on polling, I gave Hedley a lesson on why polling in general is very unreliable prior to the election, particularly political polling.  The events of the last election pretty much confirmed what I had to say.

Eye wonder
Eye wonder

@Bruno2

Jesus H. Christ, dude - do you have a frikkin' mirror?????????

RandroidWillBoy
RandroidWillBoy

@Bruno2


The actual polls were within the margin of error...it was the media (especially the idiots suggesting odds) that got this so wrong their credibility will reach new lows..

Paul42
Paul42

@Bruno2

Yep, you're straight out of the 'I'm here to teach you" mode of some of our other stellar conservatives.

Read some of what Raindroid and Tetoleo are writing.  That's how you engage in a productive discussion.

Paul42
Paul42

@RandroidWillBoy

Yep.  From several sources I've read, even Trump and his people expected to get beat.  Which is precisely why he went down that route of "look at how many people attend my rallies.  If I lose, it's because Democrats stole it!!!"  

There was only one group - his contract group doing and assessing realtime polling and early voting - that saw a pattern that might give them the win.  Took them a while to get comfortable with it, but they were about the only ones.z


I think the lessons the Democrats learned was that polls are only one component of an assessment.  I think they'll adapt.  Republicans, I'm still not so sure.  They think they 'won' in a broad sense, so why change?

Eye wonder
Eye wonder

@DoubleNaughtSpy

Believe it or not - and this may come as a surprise to you - but not all Jewish people are named Moishe Yitzchak Goldbergersteinstoneman or some derivation thereof.

In fact, I once  knew a Jewish guy named "Egon Toast." Not kidding.  Yeah, his parent had a twisted sense of humor (as did Richard D(i)ck's (another 'not kidding' moment)).