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Better Relations With U.S. Not Top Priority for Russians

Better Relations With U.S. Not Top Priority for Russians

by Julie Ray and Neli Esipova

Story Highlights

  • Less than one-third of Russians say good relations are important
  • Few expect Russia-U.S. relations to get worse under Trump
  • Nearly half of Russians have no opinion of the U.S. president

WASHINGTON, D.C. -- Though U.S. President Donald Trump and Russian President Vladimir Putin will not meet formally this week on the sidelines of the APEC summit, when they do meet, Russians would prefer Putin act firmly rather than try to improve relations. The majority of Russians (52%) say it is important for Russia to act firmly with the U.S., while 29% say it is important for Russia and the U.S. to have good relations. At the same time, only 7% say Russia should terminate all relations with the U.S.

Russians Want Strong Hand in Dealings With U.S.
There are different opinions about the relationship between Russia and the United States. Which of the following statements do you MOST agree with?
  It is important for Russia to act firmly with the U.S. It is important for Russia to have good relations with the U.S. Russia should terminate all relations with the U.S.
  % % %
All Russians 52 29 7
15-29 51 29 9
30-44 57 23 9
45-59 55 29 5
60+ 45 38 3
Primary education or less 38 30 12
Secondary education 53 29 7
Tertiary/College degree 60 30 3
Gallup World Poll, June 9-Aug. 20, 2017

Beginning his trip to Asia this week, Trump had said he expected to meet with Putin at the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation summit to urge him to help resolve the crisis with North Korea. However, on Friday, the White House nixed a formal meeting, citing "scheduling conflicts." The meeting would have been the first between the two men since July.

Since then, Congress has imposed new sanctions on Russia to punish it for meddling in the 2016 U.S. election, and Moscow responded by expelling hundreds of U.S. diplomats -- increasingly straining relations. Gallup surveyed Russians this summer as these events unfolded and in the fallout afterward.

While the majority of Russians prefer a firm approach to dealing with the U.S., their attitudes differ by generation and by education, and not in the way that might be expected. Russians aged 60 and older -- most of whom lived through decades of the Cold War, when the U.S. was portrayed as their main enemy -- are the most likely of any age group to say that improving relations with the U.S. is important (38%). At the same time, support for acting firmly rises with education, reaching 60% among Russians with the highest level of education.

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Few Russians Expect Relations to Get Worse Under Trump

While both Moscow and Washington had hoped to forge better relationships when Trump took office, most Russians now do not expect relations to get worse -- but they don't expect them to get better either. Given the state of relations before and since Trump became president, just 16% expect them to get worse under Trump. The remaining Russians are divided into three camps: those who say they don't know (30%), those who feel relations will stay the same (29%) and those who think relations will improve (25%).

Russians Not Overly Optimistic About Relations Under Donald Trump
Do you think the relationship between Russia and the United States will strengthen, remain the same or weaken with the new U.S. president Donald Trump?
  Strengthen Remain the same Weaken Don't know/Refused
  % % % %
All Russians 25 29 16 30
15-29 30 31 17 23
30-44 23 30 18 30
45-59 23 30 13 33
60+ 26 25 15 34
Primary education or less 21 29 19 30
Secondary education 26 27 15 31
Tertiary/College degee 26 33 14 27
Gallup World Poll, June 9-Aug. 20, 2017

Unlike their views of their country's approach to relations with the U.S., key subgroups of Russians are fairly unified in their expectations for future relations under Trump. There are no major differences by demographic group.

Nearly Half of Russians Have No Opinion of Trump

Even though news about Trump and Russia has made headlines from day one of his presidency, less than a year into his first term, he is still somewhat of an "unknown" in Russia. Nearly half of Russians (48%) do not know enough about Trump to rate the job he is doing as president of the U.S. However, those who do have an opinion are slightly more likely to disapprove (30%) than to approve (22%).

Trump Unknown to Many Russians
Now thinking of the president of the United States, do you approve or disapprove of the job performance of Donald Trump?
  Approve Disapprove Don't know/Refused
  % % %
All Russians 22 30 48
15-29 31 31 38
30-44 22 32 46
45-59 20 30 50
60+ 14 27 59
Primary education or less 24 33 43
Secondary education 20 30 50
Tertiary/College degree 25 28 47
Gallup World Poll, June 9-Aug. 20, 2017

Americans, on the other hand, are very familiar with Russia's longtime president and hold him in even lower esteem than Russians do Trump. At roughly the same time the survey was conducted in Russia, Americans were being asked to rate Putin's favorability (rather than his job performance). At the time, just 13% viewed him favorably, and 74% viewed him unfavorably. The unfavorable rating this past summer was the highest in Gallup's trend.


If Putin and Trump do eventually meet formally, they will have much to discuss on both international and bilateral fronts. But if Putin does not attempt to mend relations with the U.S., it will likely not disappoint the majority of Russians, who prefer a firm approach. Further, it would likely live down to Russians' already low expectations, who for the most part don't think relations will get worse under Trump.

Survey Methods

These results are based on face-to-face interviews with 2,000 adults in Russia, aged 15 and older, conducted June 9-Aug. 20, 2017. For results based on the total sample of national adults, the margin of sampling error is ±2.5 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.

People living in remote or difficult-to-access areas in the Far North, North Caucasus and Far East (Nenets autonomous region, Yamalo-Nenets autonomous region, Chukotsk region) were excluded. The excluded areas represent about 20% of the population.

For complete methodology and specific survey dates, please review Gallup's Country Data Set details.

Learn more about how the Gallup World Poll works.

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