WASHINGTON, D.C. -- After a tumultuous winter in which Russia has been at odds with the West over Crimea, more than two-thirds of Americans say Russia is either unfriendly (44%) or an enemy (24%) to the U.S. This is a departure from sentiments in recent years and a record high since 1999.
The March 22-23 survey was conducted after Crimea voted to secede from Ukraine, and Russian President Vladimir Putin announced that Crimea had joined the Russian Federation. From 1999 to the middle of last year, Americans viewed Russia more positively than negatively. As recently as June 2013, 52% of Americans said Russia was an ally or friendly.
Americans' negative views are a fairly recent development after an increasingly tense period in U.S.-Russian relations, starting when Putin granted temporary asylum to Edward Snowden, the former National Security Agency contractor who went public with his insider knowledge of the agency's surveillance secrets. Putin also intervened in the Syrian chemical weapons conflict last fall, ultimately brokering a peaceful solution, and chastised President Barack Obama in an op-ed in the New York Times.
This winter, the Sochi Olympics drew immense attention to Russia, including its anti-gay policies, its difficulties in preparing for the Winter Games, and fears about possible terrorist attacks at the global competition. But the situation in the Crimean region of Ukraine has garnered the most recent headlines because Putin called into question the sovereignty of the territory.
Ukraine Seen as an Ally or Friendly to the U.S.
At the same time, 64% of Americans believe Ukraine is an ally (17%) or friendly (47%) nation to the U.S. This is the first time Gallup has asked this particular question about Ukraine, and Americans' support is softer than what Gallup sees for other nations that are often considered allies. For example, 86% of Americans in the same poll say France is an ally or a friendly nation, and 92% perceive Great Britain this way.
Putin's Favorable Ratings Drop to All-Time Low
The Russian president's favorable rating dropped to 9% in the most recent poll, down 10 percentage points since February. His unfavorable rating rose six points to 69%. Though he has never been popular in the U.S., Americans viewed Putin more favorably than unfavorably in 2002 and 2003, during his first term in office.
This week, Obama said that while he doesn't foresee the U.S. and Russia entering a new "Cold War," it is a priority to protect Ukraine. The tensions engendered by Russia's interest in Crimea have directly affected Americans' views of Russia and Putin, which are now at historical lows. While it is unclear what the next step will be in the Crimean conflict -- and in the region at large -- Americans' dramatically souring views are reminiscent of the Cold War, despite Obama's dismissals.
The further development this week that the U.S. and other G7 nations have effectively kicked Russia out of the conclave is a sign that strained U.S.-Russia relations will likely continue in the near term.
Results for this Gallup poll are based on telephone interviews conducted March 22-23, 2014, on the Gallup Daily tracking survey, with a random sample of 1,012 adults, aged 18 and older, living in all 50 U.S. states and the District of Columbia.
For results based on the total sample of national adults, the margin of sampling error is ±4 percentage points at the 95% confidence level.
Interviews are conducted with respondents on landline telephones and cellular phones, with interviews conducted in Spanish for respondents who are primarily Spanish-speaking. Each sample of national adults includes a minimum quota of 50% cellphone respondents and 50% landline respondents, with additional minimum quotas by time zone within region. Landline and cellular telephone numbers are selected using random-digit-dial methods. Landline respondents are chosen at random within each household on the basis of which member had the most recent birthday.
Samples are weighted to correct for unequal selection probability, nonresponse, and double coverage of landline and cell users in the two sampling frames. They are also weighted to match the national demographics of gender, age, race, Hispanic ethnicity, education, region, population density, and phone status (cellphone only/landline only/both, and cellphone mostly). Demographic weighting targets are based on the most recent Current Population Survey figures for the aged 18 and older U.S. population. Phone status targets are based on the most recent National Health Interview Survey. Population density targets are based on the most recent U.S. census. All reported margins of sampling error include the computed design effects for weighting.
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.
For more details on Gallup's polling methodology, visit www.gallup.com.