Russians like Putin and Obama, polls find

MOSCOW (Reuters) - Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin would triumph over President Dmitry Medvedev if presidential polls were held this weekend, an opinion poll showed on Wednesday.

US Democratic Presidential nominee Senator Barack Obama (D-IL) speaks to the audience during a campaign stop at Mott Community College in Flint, Michigan September 8, 2008. REUTERS/Rebecca Cook

A separate survey showed that if Russians were allowed to vote in U.S. polls, they would prefer Democrat Barack Obama to Republican John McCain.

The polls follow Russia’s intervention in Georgia last month to crush Tbilisi’s attempt to retake a pro-Moscow separatist region of South Ossetia.

Moscow defied Western threats of punitive action and recognized South Ossetia and another breakaway province, Abkhazia, as independent.

Medvedev, a handpicked successor of Putin who took office in May, assumed the leading role during the conflict. But in many episodes Putin’s firebrand anti-Western statements overshadowed his performance.

When asked by independent pollster the Levada Centre which of the two they would vote for if elections were held next week, Russians preferred Putin, giving him 33 percent backing against 14 percent for Medvedev.

No other candidate received more than 4 per cent, Levada said. It surveyed 1,600 Russians in 10 cities between August 15-18 on who they would back if elections were held the following Sunday. Some 44 percent did not indicate if, or how, they would vote.

Pollsters for state-run VTsIOM found that if Russians could vote in U.S. elections, the Republicans would get little support, though most of those queried did no give a view.

Obama would receive 27 percent support and McCain 6 percent, VTsIOM found, in the September 6-7 poll of 1,600 Russians.

“I attribute our findings mainly to the fact that McCain has made more anti-Russian rhetoric. Obama seemed to be a little more pro-Russian,” Olga Kamenchuk, VIsIOM communications director, told Reuters.

Levada found strong public support of 80 percent in favor of Russia’s decision to recognize South Ossetia in a second poll carried out on September 5-8.

The survey found public opinion was against another Kremlin policy -- leaving a permanent military presence in Georgia’s breakaway regions, a policy the Kremlin announced this week.

While 46 percent said they endorsed the presence of Russian peacekeepers, only 34 percent said they wanted regular Russian soldiers there, in a sign that public support for the Georgian policy is not unconditional.

A further 11 percent backed either UN or EU peacekeepers and 9 percent gave no view.

Reporting by Conor Sweeney; Editing by Angus MacSwan