Olga Masyutina, Yulia Khalikova, Michael Rochlitz, Koen Schoors
How do expectations of change or stagnation affect individual behavior? In this study, we implement a survey experiment to test how the prospect of an authoritarian leader remaining in office can affect individual incentives. In a representative nationwide survey in Russia, we treat respondents with three different hypothetical situations: the incumbent (Vladimir Putin) staying in office as president for at least one additional term, a member of the ruling elite other than Putin becoming president, or a member of the political opposition with an agenda of economic and political reform becoming president. Respondents in all three treatment groups (and a control group) then have to decide whether to invest in economic or educational activities, or whether they want to leave the country for good. They then also have to respond to a number of questions on the general state of affairs in Russia. We find that Russians seem to be risk averse in their behavior. Although they expect Russia’s economy to decline under Vladimir Putin, they are more likely to invest with Putin as president than if a reformer becomes president, and seem to be concerned about political instability in the case of political change. We also find that expectations on protest behavior, foreign policy and for the general development of the country are polarized with respect to previous approval of the president, with Putin proponents having a more positive outlook than Putin opponents.