What kind of people support authoritarian leaders?

This kind:

“It is a less-educated, older part of the population, mainly living in rural areas or in small and medium-sized cities, where the population is poorer and more dependent on power,” he said, referring to those who rely on public funds like pensions and state jobs. “They also receive their whole construction of reality exclusively from television.”

Sure, sure, you’re saying. We know that.

But you might not realize the origin of the analysis above or to what population it refers. The quote is by Lev Gudkov, a Russian sociologist at Levada Center, a research group that tracks Russian public opinion. It appears in Sabrina Tavernise’s New York Times excellent piece today,”Putin’s War in Ukraine Shatters an Illusion in Russia. Russians long lived with an understanding: Stay away from politics, and live your life as you choose. The war in Ukraine wrecked that idea.”

Mr. Gudkov told Tavernise that about two-thirds of people nationwide approve of Mr. Putin’s actions in Ukraine. And he goes on to describe them in the quote, above.

I found the description pretty startling — that is, its overlap with our own population who supports Strong Men and their incitement to violence.

One huge difference though. Here, the proportions are more like one-third of our population who can be described as Mr. Gudkov described Russians. And Americans’ “whole construction of reality” may be from television, but we do have a choice as to what news network we consume and what newspapers we read. Fox is not, despite its pretensions, the Word of the State. The only Word of the State.

Two huge differences, actually. As 2020 proved, here we vote.

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