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Polls Show Support For Putin Slipping As Backing For Constitutional Reform Rises

Russian President Vladimir Putin takes part in a meeting via a video conference at the Novo-Ogaryovo residence outside Moscow on April 29.

MOSCOW -- An opinion poll by Russia’s independent Levada Center polling agency has found that President Vladimir Putin's approval rating has declined to its lowest level since he was prime minister in 1999.

The poll released on May 6 found support for Putin was at 59 percent in April, down from 63 percent the previous month. It was the lowest recorded approval rating for Putin since September 1999, when the newly minted prime minister polled at 53 percent.

A second Levada poll released the same day, however, found increased support for proposed constitutional amendments that would, among other things, enable Putin to seek two more presidential terms.

According to that poll, 47 percent of Russians favor the package of amendments, up from 40 percent in March. Those who said they would definitely participate in the national vote on the constitutional changes were even more likely to support them, with 58 percent saying they would vote "yes."

Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov told journalists that the government did not trust Levada's polling and pointed out that the state-controlled VTsIOM agency found that support for Putin was just under 70 percent in April.

The Levada polls come as the country copes with the economic and social fallout of the coronavirus pandemic, although the number of infections has risen most dramatically since the polls were conducted on April 24-27.

Pollsters cautioned that the most recent polls were conducted by telephone rather than face-to-face interviews because of coronavirus-related restrictions and that change could make it difficult to compare the results.