- 81% of Finns and 74% of Swedes approve of NATO's leadership
- 62% of Finns and 40% of Swedes approve of U.S. leadership
- 6% of Finns and 2% of Swedes approve of Russian leadership
WASHINGTON, D.C. -- With only five member countries still needing to approve their accession, few hurdles remain for Sweden and Finland to become NATO's newest members.
Gallup surveys suggest there are also few hurdles among the publics in these countries, with strong majorities in Finland (81%) and Sweden (74%) approving of the alliance's leadership.
Surveys in Sweden and Finland took place between April and July 2022, overlapping each country's formal request to join the alliance in mid-May as the war between Ukraine and Russia intensified. Both countries faced warnings from Russia not to pursue membership in the alliance.
Finns' Approval of U.S. Leadership Reaches New High as They Sour on Russia
More than six in 10 Finns express approval of U.S. leadership in 2022, which is up from 52% in 2021 and represents a new high. This new high comes after the Biden administration expressed strong support for Finnish membership in NATO. Before 2010, 30% or less of Finns approved of U.S. leadership. However, from 2010 to 2016, during the administration of President Barack Obama, no less than 45% expressed the same sentiment. In 2017, after Obama left office, Finns' views of U.S. leadership plunged again -- no more than 21% expressed approval from 2017 to 2020.
Finns' views of Russian leadership are nearly universally negative, with just 6% approving and 92% disapproving. Approval has been this low only once before, when it dropped to 7% after Crimea joined Russia in 2014. No less than 77% of Finns have disapproved of Russia's leadership each year since 2014.
Swedes Mixed on U.S. Leadership, Profoundly Negative on Russia's
Swedes are less ebullient than Finns about U.S. leadership, but they are even more negative about Russia's leadership. In 2022, 40% of Swedes approve of U.S. leadership, down from 52% in 2021. The 2022 approval rating still represents a substantially more positive stance toward U.S. leadership than was seen between 2017 and 2020, when no more than 13% of Swedes approved of U.S. leadership.
Just 2% of Swedes approve of Russia's leadership in 2022, while 96% disapprove. Russian leadership has not been popular in Sweden over the past two decades. At no point in Gallup's trend have more than 9% of Swedes approved of Russia's leadership.
Clear majorities of Finns and Swedes approve of NATO's leadership as they are poised to join the alliance's ranks. This could change depending on the outcome of the war in Ukraine. It is likely that both countries are largely positive about NATO as they see membership as a potential security guarantor against potential threats from Russia.
Both Finns and Swedes have seen substantial swings in their approval of U.S. leadership. However, throughout most of the trends in both countries, approval of U.S. leadership has exceeded that of Russian leadership. Given aggressive Russian policies over the past several years, approval of NATO leadership is also likely to exceed that of Russia's in the future.
Editor's note: On Sept. 16, 2022, this article was updated to reflect the accurate number of NATO member countries that still have to approve Finland's and Sweden's membership in the alliance.
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