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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Nemtsov Dethrones Lebed For 'Most Trusted' Rating

Just three weeks after being named first deputy prime minister, a young reformer has dashed past his rivals to become Russia's most trusted politician, according to a nationwide poll released Thursday.


Boris Nemtsov, the 37-year-old former governor of Nizhny Novgorod, was rated most trustworthy by 47 percent of respondents to a poll by the Russian Independent Institute for Social and National Problems.


About 20 percent said they didn't trust him, and the rest were undecided, according to the poll, conducted in the first week of April, about three weeks after Nemtsov was named to his new post.


Nemtsov's rating showed a significant jump from the institute's last poll in December, in which only 34 percent of respondents said they trusted him.


"This is a remarkable growth for a politician who just entered the nationwide political scene,'' said Mikhail Gorshkov, the institute's director. The results appear to unseat former security chief Alexander Lebed -- a brash general and former presidential candidate who was fired last year by President Boris Yeltsin -- from the top spot.


Nemtsov first became popular as the reformist governor of the Volga River region of Nizhny Novgorod. Last month President Boris Yeltsin appointed him first deputy prime minister with a broad mandate to streamline Russia's struggling economy.


In a characteristic populist gesture, Nemtsov immediately proclaimed that Russian bureaucrats should forgo their imported luxury government cars for modest Russian-made sedans. Gorshkov attributed a rapid rise in Nemtsov's popularity to steps like that, noting that many people admire his open and tough manner.


Lebed had also been hailed for the same qualities, which earned him the support of 60 percent of respondents in December's poll. This month he fell to second place, with 42 percent rating him trustworthy.


Moscow's powerful mayor, Yury Luzhkov, came in third with 40 percent, liberal lawmaker Grigory Yavlinsky followed with 35 percent and Communist chief Gennady Zyuganov polled at 26 percent -- a steady decline since he lost last year's presidential race to Yeltsin.


Yeltsin himself fared poorly, with only 15 percent of those polled saying they trust him.


The margin of error for the poll of 2,200 people was calculated at plus or minus 4 percentage points.


A separate poll released earlier this month also showed Nemtsov topping the list, but had Lebed in a statistical dead heat. In the poll by the All-Russia Public Opinion Center, 18.8 percent chose Nemtsov as Russia's most trustworthy politician, while Lebed received support from 18.6 percent.


Gorshkov warned, however, that Nemtsov's current popularity may dwindle when he serves longer with an unpopular government. "An attractive image and ability to capture audiences aren't enough to secure popularity,'' he said.


Indeed, the Russian Independent Institute poll indicated that Russians are still deeply cynical about their government, with more than half the respondents saying Yeltsin's revamped Cabinet would be unable to solve the country's economic crisis.