Back home, though, it's the complete opposite. As Russia has enmeshed itself in controversies in Syria and Ukraine -- and now allegations that its allies were responsible for shooting down a civilian plane last week -- its strongman leader has only grown more popular. In fact, he's more popular than a politician in the United States could ever dream to be.
A new poll from Gallup shows that 83 percent of Russians approve of Putin's job performance.
That's up nearly 30 points from last year -- and tied with the previous high from his first stint as president, in 2008. Clearly, his people think he's doing something right.
To put that in perspective, the last time any American leader or politician was that popular was George W. Bush, for a brief period shortly after the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001. And just four months after the attacks, Bush was back below 80 percent.
For the half-century before Bush, only George H.W. Bush, John F. Kennedy and Harry S. Truman ever matched Putin's popularity for any period of time. All three men rose to that height in large part because of major military events. Putin, though, has remained hugely popular even in the absence of a major war directly affecting his country.
Indeed, it's pretty difficult for anything in the United States to attain that level of popularity -- especially in today's polarizing environment in which many politicians struggle just to get half of the people to like them.
Among things that 83 percent of Americans don't agree on:
- Whether Social Security is worth the costs (73 percent)
- Pope Francis (76 percent approval; insert joke about Putin's infallibility)
- Whether they are "very" proud to be American (82 percent)
- Whether the nation has made a lot of progress on civil rights since the 1960s (78 percent)
And it's not just Putin who's popular. People profess to being quite happy with the government of Russia in general -- or at least, more happy than they were before.
So does Putin suddenly have a massive mandate from his people to do whatever he wants on the world stage? Well, not really. He might see it that way, but his popularity isn't all that new.
Although he's riding about as high as he ever has, this isn't the first time his approval rating has peaked above 80 percent. In fact, according to polling from the Levada Center, he was hovering around or above 80 percent for much of his first stint as president.
Putin's numbers are undoubtedly inflated by the fact that his country has state-run news media; it's much easier to look like a hero when the media are consistently on your side. And that goes double when you're involved in major events on the world stage. The Russian people, for instance, had a far different understanding of precisely what happened in Crimea, believing Ukranian nationalists were responsible for it.
But for a man facing a very significant role in the world and increasingly bad reviews outside his borders, it's important to remember that the most important feedback he's getting for his political legacy -- in Russia -- is overwhelmingly positive.
He has oodles of political capital back home. The question is how he uses it.