As their standard of living goes from bad to worse and uncertainty about the future increases, the Russian people have soured on democracy.

By a margin of 51% to 31% Russians say they now favor a strong leader, rather than a democratic form of government to solve their country’s problems. ¬†Only 17 months ago, as the Soviet Union was collapsing, a comparable Times Mirror Center poll found just the opposite division of opinion – 39% of Russians favored a strong hand at the helm and 51% wanted a democratic solution to their nation’s daunting problems.

The slide toward authoritarianism, in a nuclear-armed nation that remains potentially the most dangerous to the United States, is manifested in a number of ways in the survey and in a series of focus groups conducted throughout European Russia in November.   The polling found a growing disillusionment with the Russian parliament, declining interest in politics and no signs that the people feel increased political empowerment in post Soviet Russia.