Polls (see Figure 1) suggest that, once again, none of the other candidates will even come close to challenging Putin. More in doubt is the likely turnout. With a Putin victory all but guaranteed, many voters are likely to stay at home, thus repeating the results of the 2016 parliamentary election, in which a record low turnout of 47 % spoiled an otherwise overwhelming victory for Putin’s United Russia party.
According to Levada Centre polls carried out in November and December 2017, 58 % of respondents were either certain or likely to vote, whereas in August 2017 the figure was 57 %. Comparing the results of similar polls for previous elections with actual turnout, Levada Centre predicts that turnout in March 2018 will be 4-6 % lower than what polls suggest, giving a likely figure of just over 50 %.
By contrast, a February 2018 poll by Levada competitor, FOM, claims that 84 % of voters are certain (61 %) or likely (23 %) to take part in the election. However, Levada’s figures are more credible, as they fit better with previous trends – the post-Soviet record was 69 % in 1996, and turnout has been on a declining trend since then. Moreover, FOM gets part of its revenue from government contracts, making it vulnerable to political pressure.