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Russians, EU Residents See Sanctions Hurting Their Economies

Russians, EU Residents See Sanctions Hurting Their Economies

by Julie Ray and Neli Esipova
Chart: data points are described in article

Story Highlights

  • Nearly half in EU countries in Eastern Europe see economic harm
  • Sanctions still have sizable support among several EU members
  • Most Russians against sanctions, but don't personally feel effects

WASHINGTON, D.C. -- As European Union and U.S.-imposed economic sanctions on Russia near the two-year mark, Gallup surveys show many Russians (43%) see the sanctions as negatively affecting their economy. However, residents of EU countries in Eastern Europe (48%) are even more likely than Russians are to see the sanctions hurting their economies. In fact, they are also more likely than residents elsewhere in Eastern Europe or the Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS) to think this.

Economic Sanctions Against Russia
Positive effect on economy% No effect on economy% Negative effect on economy%
EU countries in Eastern Europe 7 22 48
Non-EU countries in Eastern Europe 8 31 31
CIS countries (without Russia) 12 29 36
Russia 22 21 43
World Poll, 2015

These results are based on Gallup surveys in summer 2015, about one year after the EU and U.S. instituted economic sanctions against Russia for its actions in Ukraine and Crimea. For nearly as long as the EU and U.S. sanctions have been in place, Russia has banned most imports of agricultural products from the EU, the U.S., Canada, Australia and Norway. The EU must decide by this July whether to continue its sanctions, and Russia's ban is in effect until at least August 2016.

While some may feel the sanctions are hurting their economies in general, adults in all regions are less likely to say the sanctions negatively affect "people like them." Russians and residents of CIS countries are the most likely of all the groups surveyed to say the sanctions have negatively affected people like them, but only slightly more than one in three, on average, say this.

Sanctions Still Find Support in Eastern Europe

Although about half of residents of EU countries in Eastern Europe see the sanctions as hurting their economies, they are still more likely to favor than oppose the sanctions. About half of residents overall (47%) support the sanctions, and 32% do not support them. However, support varies a great deal among these countries -- several of which count Russia as one of their top export and import partners.

The United States and the European Union have introduced economic sanctions against Russia because of their actions in Ukraine and Crimea. Do you support these economic sanctions against Russia, or not?
Yes, support%
EU countries in Eastern Europe
Poland 70
Romania 52
Croatia 50
Estonia 49
Lithuania 45
Latvia 38
Czech Republic 35
Hungary 29
Slovakia 25
Bulgaria 23
Greece 11
Non-EU countries in Eastern Europe
Albania 60
Kosovo 57
Bosnia and Herzegovina 24
Macedonia 19
Montenegro 10
Serbia 5
World Poll, 2015

Support for the sanctions is most solid in countries such as Poland, Romania, Croatia and Estonia, where roughly half or more residents favor the sanctions. The sanctions find the least support in Greece, which has particularly suffered under Russia's retaliatory ban on EU food imports. Before the sanctions, Greek agricultural exports to Russia made up 41% of all Greek exports to Russia. Only 11% of Greeks support the sanctions, which nearly half (45%) say have hurt their economy.

Elsewhere in Eastern Europe, support is strongest in Albania (60%) -- which is a candidate for EU membership -- and Kosovo (57%). In all countries, except Greece, Serbia and Montenegro, adults with more education are more likely to support sanctions.

Sanctions Unpopular in Russia, CIS Countries

A small percentage of Russians themselves -- just 5% -- support the sanctions against their country. With the exception of Ukraine and Georgia, the rest of the countries in the CIS follow Russia's suit. The majority of Ukrainians (62%) and about half of Georgians (48%) support the sanctions.

The United States and the European Union have introduced economic sanctions against Russia because of their actions in Ukraine and Crimea. Do you support these economic sanctions against Russia, or not?
Yes, support%
CIS countries
Ukraine 62
Georgia 48
Moldova 32
Azerbaijan 29
Kazakhstan 12
Kyrgyzstan 12
Armenia 11
Belarus 9
Tajikistan 8
Uzbekistan 2
Russia 5
World Poll, 2015

These views largely follow how people feel about the impetus behind the sanctions themselves -- Crimea becoming part of Russia in 2014. Majorities in Russia (88%), Kazakhstan (73%), Kyrgyzstan (70%), Tajikistan (69%), Belarus (68%) and Armenia (58%) support Crimea becoming part of Russia. Countries with a history of territorial conflicts with Russia (the Baltics and Moldova) or in which Russia supported the opposite side of civil conflicts (Georgia, Azerbaijan and Armenia) are generally less positive.

Bottom Line

After nearly two years of sanctions between Russia and Europe, EU leaders will soon once again find themselves debating whether to extend the sanctions. U.S. President Barack Obama said Monday that the West needed to uphold the sanctions until Moscow fully implements the Minsk agreement. These words may ring hollow in some parts of Eastern Europe, where Gallup's data suggest that at the time of the survey, the EU sanctions against Russia were hurting EU countries more than their intended target.

This is likely true in places such as Hungary, where the country's leadership has been openly critical of the sanctions and just 29% of the population supports the measures. "You cannot afford in this part of the world not to have a pragmatic cooperation with Russia," Peter Szijjarto, Hungary's foreign minister, said last year.

Survey Methods

Results are based on face-to-face interviews with 1,000 adults in each country (2,000 in Russia), aged 15 and older, conducted from June to September 2015. For results based on the total sample of national adults, the margin of sampling error ranged from ±2.8 percentage points to ±3.4 percentage points. The margin of error reflects the influence of data 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.

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