Publication Date



Open access

Embargo Period


Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PHD)


Accounting (Business)

Date of Defense


First Committee Member

Roger E. Kanet

Second Committee Member

Bruce M. Bagley

Third Committee Member

Alejandro Portes

Fourth Committee Member

William C. Smith


An analysis of leadership approval ratings in Russia after the fall of the USSR until the present day was conducted through a review of secondary literature, a demonstration of statistics, process-tracing and discourse analysis to answer the following research question: What explains President Vladimir Putin’s sustainably high approval ratings today despite economic downturn? Indicators including economic performance, political and civil liberties, centralization of power, foreign policy actions, and security levels were examined in their relation to presidential approval ratings during former Russian President Boris Yeltsin’s and current President Vladimir Putin’s time in office respectively. The former was used to provide a comparative analysis with the latter and presented important variations in the indicators necessary for the construction of the argument. It was concluded that while improved economic performance, higher levels of security, increasingly assertive foreign policy, and greater centralization of power led to positive approval ratings for Putin – absent characteristics during Yeltsin’s terms – declining economic indicators and stricter political controls after 2014 had no adverse effect on Putin’s popularity. In fact, they were even associated with higher approval ratings, as were the more assertive foreign policy and continued levels of security. This latter situation presented an interesting puzzle which was examined through a specific theoretical framework including the use of “social creativity” as an identity management strategy within Social Identity Theory. The conclusions noted that the consolidation of a strong and conservative Russian national identity representing a direct counter to liberal democratic values, possessing both domestic and international features, has fostered “positive national self-esteem” in Russia and has consequently led to Putin’s continued successful approval ratings today despite an economic downturn. This process was facilitated by the presence of threat, be it economic, physical or existential. These findings were then applied to the literature on the sustainability of hybrid regimes and what that may signify for the liberal democratic world order.


Russia; Foreign Policy; Domestic Politics; Crimea; NATO; EU