A poll released Friday predicts that Vladimir Putin's party will receive 53 percent of the vote in Russia's parliamentary election, now a little over a week away.
While still a majority, this would be a significant drop for United Russia and deprive it of the two-thirds majority that has allowed it to amend the constitution without seeking the support of the three other parties in parliament.
United Russia dominates political life in Russia and has received more favorable coverage during the campaign, but it is increasingly disliked by those who see it as representing the interests of a corrupt bureaucracy.
The new poll by the independent Levada Center put the Communists in second place with 20 percent, a boost that suggests they may benefit from the protest vote on Dec. 4.
But many Russians have become disillusioned with the electoral process. Only parties that have the Kremlin's approval are allowed to field candidates, and past elections have drawn strong accusations of vote rigging.
"Forgery, the semblance of a (political) struggle, this won't affect my life and will likely be unfair. This is a summary of a Russian citizen's attitude today to what is going on," Levada Center sociologist Boris Dubin said at the presentation of the polling data.
Nearly half of those surveyed said they expected the vote count to be manipulated.
Nikita Pasternak, a 26-year-old businessman, is among the many Russians who say they see no point in voting.
"Our votes mean absolutely nothing, everything has already been decided," he said. "Putin will be president and United Russia will win the election."
Putin, now prime minister after eight years as president, plans to run for a third term in March, an election he is considered certain to win.
In 2007, United Russia won more than 64 percent of the vote and was awarded 315 of the 450 seats in the State Duma, parliament's elected lower house. The higher percentage of seats is explained by votes that went to parties that failed to rise about the 7 percent threshold; these votes are then distributed to the parties that made it in.
The new poll predicts that the Communist Party's share of the vote will rise to 20 percent from less than 12 percent four years ago. The poll also shows an uptick for the two other smaller parties in parliament: the nationalist Liberal Democratic Party and Just Russia, a party established with Kremlin support to steal votes from the Communists.
The Levada poll was conducted Nov. 18-21 among 1,591 people across the country and has a margin of error of plus or minus 3.4 percentage points.
(This version CORRECTS Corrects that poll shows 53 percent not 56 for United Russia. Adds details, photo, byline.)