'On President Putin’s popularity: Evidence from survey experiment on the streets of Moscow' by Margarita Mecheva

ISS Working Paper No. 624

ISS MA Research Paper Award winner for the academic year 2015-2016

Margarita Mecheva is one of the ISS MA Research Paper Award winners for the academic year 2015-2016.

“This RP addresses a very relevant topic, with a research question that is exciting and topical. It is about a person – President Putin - on whom we all have an opinion. It analyses the role of the media  in explaining the popularity of [this] populist leader. It applies an innovative research method, which is well applied. It is very impressive that  Margarita has conducted and analysed 331 interviews in an experimental setting. This research approach is applicable and innovative within the context of development studies”
(as formulated by the Evaluation Committee consisting of Dr. Helen Hintjens, Dr. Rosalba Icaza from ISS, and Dr. Jan Fransen from IHS).



During his sixteen years in power Vladimir Putin has enjoyed high approval ratings. Despite a recent deterioration of Russia’s economy the President remains very popular. The research paper studies the possible effect of allegedly threatening media content on the support for Putin using survey experiments conducted on the streets of Moscow. The study explores whether experimentally induced anxiety may influence citizens’ support for a controversial internet censorship policy, and that, in turn, can help to understand whether people may alter their attitudes based on the frightening signals from media. The experimental evidence suggests that priming may induce confusion-anxiety emotions. The threatening effect of media content elicited by priming was not detected. The framing of internet censorship policy has merely a moderate effect on tested attitudes, suggesting that the level of Putin’s public support may not be that high.

Putin, survey experiment, media effects, terror management theory

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About the author

Margarita Mecheva has an MA in Development Studies (Economics of Development). She studied at Erasmus University and Russian State University for Humanities. Her main area of interest is behavioural/experimental economics, with a focus on wellbeing and political decision-making.

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