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#6. The ultimate week of the electoral campaign for Russia's 15-17 March presidential election. Noon versus dusk.

Updated: Mar 16

 

From 8 to 12 March 2024, the ExtremeScan research agency conducted the sixth wave of electoral monitoring: a telephone survey of 1,000 Russian adults, using a representative sample, about their intention to vote in the Russian presidential election and their choice of candidate.

The sixth wave of electoral monitoring results indicates relatively high stability of the intentions of voting for the incumbent president. In the first three weeks, starting from the last week of January, Putin's rating held at the level of 67-69%, and in the last three weeks – at 63-64%.

Other indicators of the elections per se (candidate recognizability, intention to vote) show limited dynamics. However, the parameters that are influenced by these elections change significantly. 

Candidate recognizability

Putin's recognizability was not measured.

The electoral campaign in the last two weeks increased the recognizability of the recently active candidates with political experience, Kharitonov and Slutsky, whereas the ratings of the fresh candidates, Nadezhdin and Davankov, have been growing throughout the monitoring period. We did not exclude Boris Nadezhdin from the recognizability list because he continued to be publicly active despite being excluded from the candidate list. However, in the last week, his recognizability dropped to almost the initial level, which indicates a gradual reduction of his presence in the media space


Table 1. Candidate recognizability. Electoral monitoring, January-March 2024.
Table 1. Candidate recognizability. Electoral monitoring, January-March 2024.

Intention to vote

The intention to vote briefly decreased after Nadezhdin was barred from participating in the elections in early February. In general, declared willingness remains at the same level. Once again, we reiterate that these figures are not a turnout prediction.


Table 2. Intention to vote. Electoral monitoring, January-March 2024.
Table 2. Intention to vote. Electoral monitoring, January-March 2024.

Rating dynamics

The number of those who found it difficult to choose a candidate increased by 5-6 percentage points, from 19% to 26%, after Nadezhdin's elimination.


Table 3. Dynamics of support for candidates. Electoral monitoring, January-March 2024.
Table 3. Dynamics of support for candidates. Electoral monitoring, January-March 2024.

Putin's rating, which had remained at 67-69% for three weeks, dropped to 64% in the fourth through fifth weeks of observation, and to 63% in week six.There are grounds to hypothesize that part of his peripheral electorate may have been affected by Navalny's death.

Kharitonov's and Slutsky's ratings have been fluctuating. Davankov's rating shows growth. We observed a similar growth in the first three weeks of monitoring Nadezhdin's rating.


Quoting our first release:

“By publishing our rating data, we do not aim to predict the outcome of the vote, as we cannot account for the influence of special electoral technologies. Polling methods cannot measure such a shift. Besides, 26% of those who expressed their willingness to take part in voting have not yet decided on their candidate. Traditionally, their votes are distributed among all candidates in the same proportion as the votes of those who have indicated their preferences, but in this case, it would be incorrect.
Obviously, these 26% of voters will not vote for the incumbent president. The first reason for this is that there is no resource for increasing publicity: this candidate is perfectly well known to everyone, and the assumption that Putin has not been named simply because he is not promoted enough does not look convincing. Secondly, as special studies show, the current election is presented to the voters' mass consciousness as "Putin's election", and an undecided position here means a direct refusal to vote for Putin. Thirdly, the last three weeks have shown a decline in Putin's rating, which will be difficult to compensate for to a significant extent.

Our assumption: if all these undecided voters came to the polling stations, they would go to vote for an alternative option.


Apparently, the 63% to 64% level of support achieved by Putin as a likely voting resource, assuming equal participation of his supporters and his opponents in the elections, is an upper-bound estimate.


Table 4. Estimated ratings. Electoral monitoring, Wave 6, 8-12 March 2024.
Table 4. Estimated ratings. Electoral monitoring, Wave 6, 8-12 March 2024.

Political technology time

The elections will be held for three days and in three formats: at polling stations, at home and electronically (in regions where approximately half of the voters live). This is an important resource for the authorities to influence the elections. It is already possible to see in advance, based on research results, how it will influence the voting results.

For weeks, there has been an ongoing campaign to persuade dependent people – state employees, corporate workers, law enforcers, teachers – to choose electronic voting.

"Home voting" has become an actively promoted format, not only for the older people and people with disabilities, but for all willing voters.

And the estimated results reflect the disposition of the formats: 79% of people will cast their ballots for Putin at home, in addition to the procedure there being traditionally uncontrollable, while 61% will vote for him at polling stations.


Table 5. The effect of voting format and knowing about the "Noon Against Putin" campaign on voting.  Electoral monitoring, Wave 6, 8-12 March 2024.
Table 5. The effect of voting format and knowing about the "Noon Against Putin" campaign on voting. Electoral monitoring, Wave 6, 8-12 March 2024.

There are active calls from the opposition forces to come to the polling stations at noon on 17 March and vote for any candidate other than Putin, to vote for Davankov, or to spoil the ballot by ticking boxes for several candidates. 

24% of Russian voters are aware of this action. Among those who know, 9% will vote for Davankov, which is twice as many as among all voters.

It is difficult to predict how many people will follow these appeals. The main result may be people realizing that they belong to a fairly massive group of "dissenters", as was the case after collecting signatures in support of Boris Nadezhdin.

Signs of active processes in Russian residents' attitudes towards war, peace, and Putin

It should be said that the anti-war candidates led to the activization of opposition-minded voters. This could be observed from the data of the six waves of monitoring.

The death of Alexei Navalny and his nationwide funeral also served as a strong stimulus for such activization. 30% of Russian residents experienced grief, regret, or anger.

Putin's rating dropped by 5% after this event. 

We have already analyzed the phenomenon of Nadezhdin in terms of its impact on support for the war and for withdrawing troops from Ukraine, transitioning to a ceasefire despite the unachieved goals.

Thoughts of peace, voiced legally during the three weeks of the signature collection campaign, turned out to be a trigger for a decline in the indicator of declared support for the special military operation, the indicator that had long demonstrated inertial stability.

First, it dropped in one week of Nadezhdin's active campaigning by 3-4%, from 56% to 53-52%. And in the last week of the measurement, it fell to 46%, a record low in two years of measurements.

Willingness to support troop withdrawal in the main week of the Nadezhdin campaign's anti-war rhetoric from February 1-7 rose by 10% to 49%. That figure then dropped to pre-election levels. And in the poll just released, "unwillingness to withdraw troops" dropped to 30%. This is the result of this election, in which the most popular candidate, starting with Yekaterina Duntsova as the first taker, was a collective candidate by the name of "No to War!".


Table 6. Dynamics of support for the special military operation and troop withdrawal. Electoral monitoring, Waves 1-6, 25 January – 12 March 2024
Table 6. Dynamics of support for the special military operation and troop withdrawal. Electoral monitoring, Waves 1-6, 25 January – 12 March 2024

In search of more reliable formats for determining people's sentiments than a direct question about support for the special military operation, we started to pose a projective question about how the respondent's immediate social environment feels about the special military operation, the elections, and the candidates. And here, the dynamics of willingness to vote for Putin looks even more significant: from 61% to 52%.

Also, after Nadezhdin's barring and Navalny's death, the share of those who find it difficult to decide on a candidate increased from 22% to 33%. 

Apparently, the feeling of fear and disappointment, actualized by the murder of the country's leading opposition figure and the groundless barring of Nadezhdin, had an impact here.


Table 7. Voting of the immediate social circle. Electoral monitoring, Wave 6, 8-12 March 2024.
Table 7. Voting of the immediate social circle. Electoral monitoring, Wave 6, 8-12 March 2024.

Results of the 15-17 March 2024 Russian Presidential Election

In general, we can sum up the results of the 2024 presidential campaign, which may not yet be clear to everyone.

The elections have had a considerable impact on the development of anti-war sentiment in the country and on the willingness of Russian residents to support the decision to withdraw Russian troops from Ukraine.

Paradoxically, for the task of Putin's successful reelection for the next term, the outcome is a decrease in loyalty to Putin and the introduction of instability into the "immutable leadership" of the country's president.

The elections have contributed to the rapid consolidation of opposition-minded people around a common objective: to oppose the authoritarian electoral machine with accessible formats for citizens to freely express their will in the face of repression. 


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