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Putin's Image Rises in U.S., Mostly Among Republicans

Putin's Image Rises in U.S., Mostly Among Republicans

by Art Swift
Chart: data points are described in article

Story Highlights

  • 22% of Americans hold a favorable opinion of Putin; 72% unfavorable
  • Republicans' favorable views of Putin up sharply from 2015
  • 28% of Americans have favorable view of Russia

WASHINGTON, D.C. -- Americans see Russian President Vladimir Putin in a better light than two years ago. Twenty-two percent now say they have a favorable opinion of Putin, up from 13% in 2015 and the highest percentage with a favorable view of the Russian leader since 2003. His unfavorable rating is unchanged at 72%, while fewer Americans say they have no opinion of him.

Americans' Views of Putin

These data are from Gallup's Feb. 1-5 World Affairs survey. In the two years since Gallup last measured the Russian leader's popularity in the U.S., Putin authorized Russian military support for the Syrian government in that country's civil war and has been implicated in allegations of Russian interference in the U.S. presidential election.

Gallup's last measurement of his U.S. popularity in February 2015 was around a year after Russia's involvement in Crimea and controversy surrounding the 2014 Sochi Winter Olympics.

Americans' negative opinion of Putin is a relatively recent phenomenon. When Gallup first asked about Putin in 2002 during his first term as president, 41% of Americans had a favorable view of him, 18% had an unfavorable view, and 41% had never heard of him or had no opinion. In 2013 when Gallup resumed asking this question during Putin's third term, far more Americans viewed him negatively than positively.

Republicans Fuel Rise in Putin's Favorable Ratings

A major reason for the overall rise in Putin's favorable rating this year is Republicans' more positive views of the Russian leader, from 12% in 2015 to 32% today. This comes at a time when President Donald Trump wants to improve relations with Russia, after somewhat frosty relations between the two countries during Barack Obama's presidency. Independents' opinions of Putin also have grown more positive in the last two years, but to a lesser extent than Republicans'. Democrats' views have become slightly less positive, with just 10% viewing Putin favorably today.

Americans' Favorable Ratings of Putin, by Party
  2015 2017 Change
  % % pct. pts.
Republicans 12 32 +20
Independents 12 23 +11
Democrats 15 10 -5

Americans' Impressions of Russia Also Up From 2015

Americans' views of Russia are similar to their opinion of Putin: 28% view the country favorably, while 70% view it unfavorably.

The percentage viewing Russia favorably is similar to last year's 30% but is up slightly from 24% in 2015 -- the all-time low favorable score for the country in Gallup's trend.

Americans' Opinions of Russia

Americans' views of Russia have fluctuated over the past two decades, rising and falling depending on the relationship between that country and the U.S. Following the breakup of the Soviet Union in 1991, Americans had a largely positive view of Russia, with the country's favorable ratings consistently outnumbering its unfavorable ratings by several points. However, these ratings turned negatively in 1999 and 2003, following the country's military actions in Chechnya and elsewhere, as well as Russian opposition to U.S. military operations, first in Kosovo and then Iraq.

Similar to the wide partisan divide in views of Putin, Republicans are much more positive than Democrats about Russia, 35% vs. 16%, respectively. Democrats' views are sharply more negative than a year ago when they were essentially the same as Republicans'. This is perhaps due to the allegations of Russian interference in the 2016 U.S. presidential election, including leaked emails of close Hillary Clinton associates.

Bottom Line

Putin's favorable ratings may have edged up in the U.S., but 72% of the public still views him negatively. Putin has been central to a series of controversial events, including allegations of tampering with the presidential election and the resignation of former National Security Adviser Michael Flynn after three weeks in office. Flynn admitted in his resignation letter that he had provided incomplete information to then President-elect Trump and others regarding an alleged conversation with Russian government officials prior to taking office.

Trump's friendlier approach toward Putin appears to have garnered more positive feelings from members of the president's party toward the Russian leader. Democrats' views of the Russian leader, on the other hand, are still quite low. This year could be pivotal in determining how much the U.S. finds agreement with Russia -- and whether the modest increase in goodwill toward Putin is a short-lived phenomenon or an indication of more positive views to come.

Historical data are available in Gallup Analytics.

Survey Methods

Results for this Gallup poll are based on telephone interviews conducted Feb. 1-5, 2017, with a random sample of 1,035 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. All reported margins of sampling error include computed design effects for weighting.

Each sample of national adults includes a minimum quota of 70% cellphone respondents and 30% landline respondents, with additional minimum quotas by time zone within region. Landline and cellular telephone numbers are selected using random-digit-dial methods.

View survey methodology, complete question responses and trends.

Learn more about how the Gallup Poll Social Series works.

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