WASHINGTON, D.C. -- Recent diplomatic and economic moves aimed at Belarus by the governments of the United States, the European Union, and Russia have strained relations between each of these entities and the former Soviet nation. Gallup Poll data from 2007 show that having a close relationship with Russia is more important to Belarusians than having a close relationship with the United States or the European Union.
Forty-four percent of Belarusians say that it is more important to have a close relationship with Russia even if it might hurt their country's relationship with the United States. Only 6% of Belarusians say closer ties with the United States are more important, and 36% volunteer that it is equally important to have close relations with both countries.
Although Belarusians seem to value close ties with Russia, relations between the two countries have become increasingly strained since Russia raised taxes on oil coming into Belarus. A July 2007 Gallup Poll reveals that a slim majority of Belarusians (51%) say they approve of Russian leadership, one in five (20%) say they disapprove of Russian leadership, and 29% did not have an opinion.
Recent events have also led to a rapid decline in diplomatic ties between Belarus' authoritarian government, led by President Alexander Lukashenko, and the United States government. The United States and the European Union have imposed travel restrictions on President Lukashenko, and the U.S. recently introduced financial sanctions against the government-controlled oil industry in Belarus. The Belarus Foreign Ministry responded by expelling the U.S. ambassador and recalling its own ambassador from the United States.
Regardless of the recent weakening of diplomatic ties between Belarus and the United States, when Gallup polled in the country in July 2007, approval of U.S. leadership was already low. Only 11% of Belarusians surveyed say they approve of U.S. leadership, while 53% disapprove of U.S. leadership, and 36% did not have an opinion.
Belarusians are more likely to approve of the leadership of the European Union than that of the United States, although many Belarusians did not express an opinion about the subject. About one in four Belarusians (27%) say they approve of the job performance of the EU's leadership, while 15% say they disapprove of EU leadership, and 58% did not have an opinion.
When Gallup asked Belarusians if closer ties with the European Union are important even if it might harm the country's relationship with Russia, only 6% of respondents say they share this view. A third of respondents (33%) say closer ties with Russia are more important, and 37% say that it is equally important to have close relationships with both countries.
Gallup Poll data indicate that in the future closer ties with Russia are likely to take priority in Belarus over improving relations with the United States or the European Union.
Results are based on face-to-face interviews with 1,114 adults, aged 15 and older, in July-September 2007 in Belarus. For results based on the total sample of national adults, one can say with 95% confidence that the maximum margin of sampling error is ±3 percentage points.
On questions of leadership approval, a split sample of 557 adults was used. For results based on the split sample of national adults, one can say with 95% confidence that the maximum margin of sampling error is ±4 percentage points.
In addition to sampling error, question wording and practical difficulties in conducting surveys can introduce error or bias into the findings of public opinion polls.