WASHINGTON, D.C. -- Russia's leadership has relatively few fans worldwide, judging by the poor ratings it gets compared with those for the U.S. and other major nations. In 2010, a median of 27% of adults across 104 countries that Gallup surveyed approved of the Kremlin's leadership, while 31% disapproved and 33% didn't have an opinion. Approval of Russia's leadership is significantly higher in former Soviet Union countries and in sub-Saharan Africa.
Russia's sphere of influence continues to be most visible in former Soviet countries, where people are most likely to be familiar with the Kremlin's leadership and a median of 61% said they approved. Out of the 18 countries worldwide where Russia's leadership netted majority approval, more than half are either former Soviet or socialist countries or Russia's neighbors.
The popularity that Russia's leadership enjoys in several countries in Central Asia and in the Caucasus has its roots in their shared history as former Soviet republics. But the high approval also reflects how dependent many residents of these counties are on remittances from Russia. In Tajikistan, where approval of Russia's leadership is highest, the International Monetary Fund estimates that these remittances accounted for 50% of the country's GDP in 2008.
Russia's continued involvement in its former republics' affairs also has helped -- or harmed -- its leadership's reputation. Russian President Dmitry Medvedev's efforts to resolve the Nagorno-Karabakh dispute between Armenia and Azerbaijan, for example, may help explain Armenians' 75% approval rating. But Russia's leadership also registers one of its highest disapproval ratings in Georgia (76%), which shows relations are still sour years after the war between them.
Outside Its Neighborhood, Russia's Leadership Finds Approval in Sub-Saharan Africa
Far from Russia's former republics and neighbors, majorities in several sub-Saharan African countries approved of Russia's leadership in 2010. Although Russia's aid and presence on the subcontinent greatly diminished after the Soviet Union's collapse, it has been able to maintain strong ties with countries such as Mali, where 84% of residents approved of its leadership.
Ratings of foreign leadership tend to be higher in sub-Saharan Africa on the whole, but Russia's leadership is not universally popular in the region and is far less so than U.S. leadership. A median of 48% in sub-Saharan Africa approved of Russia's leadership in 2010, while at least 68% in the 20 sub-Saharan African countries surveyed the same year approved of U.S. leadership.
Russia's Leadership Unknown and Unpopular Elsewhere
Russia's leadership has not earned any type of a reputation in many parts of the world. With few exceptions, majorities in many countries surveyed in the Americas do not know enough about Russia's leadership to offer an opinion. In the Americas, U.S. residents were most likely to have an opinion of Russia's leadership, with a majority (52%) disapproving and 21% with no opinion.
The leadership of Russia also remains an unknown in most of the countries in Asia, excluding its former republics in Central Asia. There were a few exceptions: A majority in Mongolia (56%), which has a long history with its immediate neighbor, approved of Russia's leadership. Substantial majorities of Afghans (74%) and Pakistanis (60%) disapproved, which may stem from leftover resentment from Russia's war with Afghanistan and its close ties with India.
In Europe as well, sizable percentages don't know enough about the Kremlin's leadership to offer an opinion, including majorities in countries such as Belgium (63%), Italy (55%), and the United Kingdom (52%). Only in Serbia (55%) did a majority approve of Russia's leadership, likely reflecting residents' approval of Russia's opposition to Kosovo's independence. Disapproval in Kosovo (83%) was the highest in Europe.
Across the Middle East and North Africa, residents with an opinion of Russia's leadership tend to be more likely to disapprove than approve. Russia's leadership is least popular in Yemen, the Palestinian Territories, and Israel, with roughly 6 in 10 residents saying they disapproved. Only Libyans and Iraqis were more likely to approve.
Despite its status as a major global player and its recent investments in overhauling its image worldwide, Russia's leadership remains relatively unknown outside its former republics and its own neighbors. While other issues, such as corruption and the economy, will likely dominate Russia's elections next year, Russia's future status in its own region, as well as worldwide, will remain vital to its ability to wield political and economic clout.
For complete data sets or custom research from the more than 150 countries Gallup continually surveys, please contact SocialandEconomicAnalysis@gallup.com or call 202.715.3030.
Results are based on face-to-face and telephone interviews with approximately 1,000 adults, aged 15 and older, conducted in 106 countries in 2010. For results based on the total samples, one can say with 95% confidence that the maximum margin of sampling error ranges from ±1.7 percentage points to ±5.7 percentage points. The margin of error reflects the influence of data weighting. In addition to sampling error, question wording and practical difficulties in conducting surveys can introduce error or bias into the findings of public opinion polls.
For more complete methodology and specific survey dates, please review Gallup's Country Data Set details.