Poll: Stark Russian divide over Vladimir Putin

By Lynn Berry

Associated Press

Published: Monday, July 2 2012 12:00 a.m. MDT

To consolidate his base ahead of the election, Putin promised higher wages and benefits to soldiers, police, doctors and teachers. He pledged to pump billions of dollars into ailing industrial plants and the military.

But economists warn that the additional spending is unsustainable if oil prices remain low. Russia is able to balance its budget if the Urals blend of oil stays above $115, but it is currently trading at closer to $90.

Sergei Mikheyev, an analyst with the Center for Political Technologies, said the economic troubles would have to be lasting and deep to drive people in the region out onto the streets.

"To make the regions rise up in a revolt, the oil price will need to take a dramatic toll on living standards, for example by making millions of people jobless," he said.

Petrov, the Carnegie scholar, is more pessimistic. He points to substantial hikes in the cost of heating and electricity that will go into effect in July and begin to bite once the weather turns cold, coupled with unpopular new taxes and education reforms going into effect in September.

"We've witnessed a big wave of political protests, with Moscow as the leader, in big cities. I don't think this political protest will go down to small towns, but in the fall there will be socio-economic protests, and socio-economic protests across the country combined with political protests in the big cities will create a deadly mix."

The AP-GfK poll was conducted by GfK Roper Public Affairs and Corporate Communications from May 25 to June 10 and was based on in-person interviews with 1,675 randomly selected adults nationwide. The results have a margin of error of 2.9 percentage points.

Liya Khabarova in Vladivostok, Arsen Mollayev in Makhachkala, Sergei Venyavsky in Rostov-on-Don and Nataliya Vasilyeva in Moscow contributed to this report.

On the Net: www.ap-gfkpoll.com

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