Smooth transformation of Anomaly-2014 into Anomaly-2015 is confirmed by the head of state’s ratings. Despite the December devaluation trust rating remained almost the same (Graph 1). It is by 11.1 points higher than the last value registered before the beginning of “Crimeaisours” (the first column, December 2013).
Government’s trust rating is naturally lower than the head of state’s. In March it amounted to 37%, which is by 7.6 points higher than the December 2013 value. But relatively to December 2014 government’s trust rating decreased by 4.4 points. Let us note that in the year of presidential elections under the conditions of Anomaly-2015 it turns out that government bears more responsibility for negative trends in economy than the President.
Electoral rating of A. Lukashenko amounted to 34.2%. Relatively to December 2014 it decreased by 5.8 points (Graph 2). Under the conditions of a real decrease of salaries (–3.2% in January-February 2015 in comparison with January-February 2014) this decrease should be recognized as an insignificant one.
Electoral rating is the share of votes which a politician received when respondents answered the open question “If presidential elections were held tomorrow, for whom would you vote?” It is calculated based on all respondents in the sample. But during elections percents are calculated based on the turnout (it is another question if somebody really counts votes in Belarus…). In March 73.4% of respondents confirmed their readiness to vote on presidential elections in November 2015 (“yes, of course” – 35.8%, “rather yes” – 37.6%). If we re-count electoral rating of A. Lukashenko based on the share of people who are going to vote, it amounts to 42.9%.
Let us note that the answer “yes, of course” was chosen by 51.6% of respondents trusting A. Lukashenko and by only 19.9% of those who don’t trust him.
One of the base factors which support popularity of authoritarian leaders is the lack of alternative. Maintaining the state of lacking alternative is the main task of state propaganda. In Belarus propaganda succeeds in this task very well. It’s hard to remember when was the last time when electoral rating of someone from President’s inner circle reached a value exceeding the statistical error of 3%. March survey shows that his opponents’ results are not an exclusion: V. Neklyaev’s rating amounted to 7.6%, N. Statkevich’s – 4.5%, A. Lebedko’s – 2.9%.
The importance of the principle of lacking alternative is registered in Graph 3. The variant of answer “there is no one better” invariably takes the first place. In general, perception of A. Lukashenko’s political merits hasn’t significantly changed over the last six years. At least, the results of Graph 3 don’t give any ground for “voter fatigue” talks.
The data for the crisis year 2011 shouldn’t confuse you. That survey was conducted prior to panics on exchange market. In the answers of March 2015 you can see the influence of Anomaly-2015.
Answers to the question “According to you, is a significant improvement of Belarusian people’s lives possible under the current rule and its policy?” (Graph 4) are well connected with the answers to the previous question. Even after four presidential terms A. Lukashenko is still a president of hope for majority of Belarusians. Naturally, the level of support of 2006 is unachievable today, but it is not needed for another prolongation of power.
Analyzing the answers to the questions of Table 3-4 one should remember, that, in addition to Anomaly-2015, respondents’ past experience influences public opinion as well. During 10 of 15 previous years, growth of population’s incomes was expressed in two-digit numbers. It’s not easy to refuse such heritage.
30.6% of Belarusians didn’t “notice” that leaders of the government and the National Bank were changed in December 2015 (Table 1). If we take into account the fact that approximately 85% of adult population of the country watch TV-news (“Yes, regularly” + “Sometimes”). We should recognize that this level of awareness is quite humble. Probably this is related to the popularity of the TV-show “Ukraine” among Belarusian viewers. Watching this show distracts attention not only from current economic problems, but also from home policy events.
Table 1. Distribution of answers to the question: “In the end of December 2015 President A. Lukashenko changed the leaders of the government and the National Bank. Are you aware of it?” depending on attitude to A. Lukashenko, %
Variant of answer
All respondents
Attitude to A. Lukashenko
Don’t trust
Let us note the formal difference in awareness between supporters and opponents of A. Lukashenko. It would seem that the higher level of education of the latter should have a positive influence on their awareness. But this time practical results don’t confirm this habitual dependency.
Solidity of electoral position of A. Lukashenko is confirmed by the dynamics of answering the question of Graph 5. As you can see, over the last six years electoral structure of Belarusian society hasn’t really changed. Under conditions of electoral mobilization, which is always present during presidential campaigns in Belarus, the number of those, who are undecided, will reduce significantly, and this will let A. Lukashenko and his political opponents to take the habitual crop of votes.
Longstanding ripples of A. Lukashenko’s electoral rating don’t reflect changes in the system of values of Belarusians society, but they do reflect the level of satisfaction by the scale of state paternalism. In any case, level of electoral support, registered during surveys, is only virtual. These are TV-viewers who support a TV-hero. But TV-hero doesn’t need any other support.
Exhaustion of the inner resource of Belarusian model may form serious threats to the authoritarian regime, not from the electorate (TV-viewers), but because of tension growth inside the power “vertical”. Let us remember “the biggest tragedy of XX century” – the breakup of the USSR. It happened without opposition and mass protests.
But this is not a today’s prospect. Up to the end of the year solidarity of the ruling class in Belarus will most probably remain unchanged.