MOSCOW (Reuters) – The popularity of Dmitry Medvedev, anointed successor of Russian President Vladimir Putin, soared in an opinion poll released on Thursday.
Medvedev was endorsed by Putin as his preferred presidential candidate on December 10 but he was already pulling away from other possible contenders, independent pollsters Levada said of a survey carried out from December 7 to 10.
Medvedev, currently First Deputy Prime Minister, had 35 percent support, Sergei Ivanov, also First Deputy Prime Minister, had 21 percent and Prime Minister Viktor Zubkov attracted 17 percent ahead of the March election.
Around 20 percent of the 1,600 people questioned in 46 regions of Russia were approached after Monday’s announcement by Putin, Levada said.
In November, Medvedev led by just one point over Ivanov.
Forty percent of those polled had said they would vote for whoever Putin anointed and, even before Putin’s public endorsement, Medvedev was benefiting from favorable media coverage, Denis Volkov of the Levada Centre said.
“There were many events concerned with Medvedev. For example, he met religious leaders and this had been the privilege of the president until then.”
When asked how they would vote if neither Ivanov or Zubkov were candidates, the support for Medvedev leaped to 63 percent. Communist leader Gennady Zyuganov was in second position with 15 percent. The poll has a 3 percent margin of error.
Putin has yet to declare if he will accept Medvedev’s offer to serve as his prime minister, should he win the election.
Anti-Kremlin candidates received very little support in the poll with the strongest, the Yabloko party leader Grigory Yavlinksy, securing 3 percent.
Putin’s United Russia party has already ensured it will dominate the next parliament with a landslide election victory in a December 2 parliamentary vote.
The results were denounced as unfair by Western observers and some Western governments, although the Kremlin rejected the criticism as politically motivated.