- Favorability of Russia down from 15% in 2022
- 68% in U.S. view Ukraine favorably, highest by one point
- 56% now say Russia-Ukraine war is critical threat to U.S. vital interests
WASHINGTON, D.C. -- Americans’ already-negative opinions of Russia have soured further in the past year, dropping from 15% holding a favorable view to 9%. The current reading for Russia is the lowest Gallup has measured since it first asked about the “Soviet Union” in this format in 1989.
Russia is now the fourth country in Gallup’s polling of country favorable ratings to register a sub-10% favorable score. Iran, Iraq and North Korea have had ratings below 10% on multiple occasions. The all-time low favorable rating for any country was 3% for Iraq in 1991 during the Persian Gulf War.
Gallup’s 2023 World Affairs poll finds 90% of Americans having an unfavorable opinion of Russia, including a 59% majority who have a “very unfavorable” view. Last year, 42% held a very unfavorable opinion of Russia, and in 2021, 36% did. Before 2020, no more than 32% had viewed Russia very unfavorably.
Americans’ opinions of Russia have not always been negative. In the late 1980s and early 1990s as the Cold War was ending, majorities in the U.S. viewed the Soviet Union and, later, Russia favorably amid increased cooperation between the powers. In the late 1990s, though, favorability toward Russia waned as Moscow opposed NATO intervention in the Kosovo region of Serbia.
U.S.-Russia relations improved in the early 2000s, and once again a majority of Americans had favorable opinions of Russia, peaking at 66% in February 2002. Opinions of Russia dipped temporarily in March 2003 after President Vladimir Putin opposed the U.S. taking military action against Iraq. But Americans’ opinions bounced back in subsequent years, mostly staying above 50% favorable until 2012.
During the past decade, with Putin in power for a second time, the U.S. and Russia have become increasingly at odds. This largely stems from U.S. criticisms of Russia’s human rights record and annexation of the Crimean peninsula as well as concerns about Russian meddling in U.S. elections.
Americans’ favorable ratings of Russia fell to 24% in 2015 after the annexation of Crimea and dropped to 15% last year as Russia was preparing to invade Ukraine. The current reading comes a year into that conflict, which has seen the U.S. provide billions in support for Ukraine.
Two-Thirds of Americans View Ukraine Favorably
In contrast to their negative opinions of Russia, Americans are mostly positive toward Ukraine. Sixty-eight percent have a favorable opinion of Ukraine, up six percentage points from a year ago and 11 points higher than in 2020. The current reading is by one point the highest in Gallup’s trend since 2005, with the prior high occurring in that initial 2005 reading.
Americans have become more familiar with Ukraine over time, with the percentage not having an opinion declining from 15% in 2005 to 2% today.
Currently, 23% of Americans have a “very favorable” opinion of Ukraine, more than double the 9% who did so last year.
Majority Sees Russia-Ukraine War, Russian Military Power as Critical Threats
Asked how much of a threat the Russia-Ukraine conflict presents to U.S. vital interests, 56% of Americans describe it as a “critical threat,” 36% say it is “important but not critical,” and 8% do not believe it represents an important threat. The perception of the conflict as a critical threat is up slightly from 52% a year ago and is much higher than the 44% measured in 2015.
A majority of Americans, 51%, also view the military power of Russia as a critical threat, though this is down significantly from 59% a year ago. The decline may be related to the prolonged battle with Ukraine. Many military experts thought the Russian military would overwhelm Ukraine, but it has made gains only in limited parts of the country. Those gains have come at a heavy cost in Russian military personnel and equipment.
Still, the percentage of Americans regarding Russia’s military power as a critical threat to the U.S. is among the highest Gallup has measured since it first asked the question in 2004. The higher readings have come in the past eight years as Russia has taken a more aggressive stance toward Ukraine. Since 2015, at least 39% of Americans have said Russia’s military was a critical threat to the U.S.; before that year, no more than 32% did.
From 2004 through 2013, at least half of Americans described Russia’s military as an important, but not critical, threat.
Republicans, Democrats Now Have Similar Opinions of Russia
Since 2021, Russia’s image has worsened among all major party groups, with its favorable rating down 19 points among Republicans, 13 points among independents and 10 points among Democrats.
Republicans and Democrats now each give Russia identical 6% favorable ratings, while independents are slightly higher at 11%.
The similar ratings among Republicans and Democrats are notable, given that Republicans have been more positive than Democrats toward Russia in the past, and that many more Democrats than Republicans regard Russia as the greatest U.S. enemy. Republicans are much more inclined to say China is the United States’ chief enemy.
In addition to having similar favorable ratings, Democrats’ “very unfavorable” ratings of Russia are only slightly higher than Republicans’, 65% to 59%.
Meanwhile, Democrats and Republicans diverge in their opinions of Ukraine, although both groups (82% and 56%, respectively) view the country favorably. A party gap was apparent last year, but it has expanded greatly as Democrats’ favorable ratings of Ukraine increased 16 points this year while Republicans’ were unchanged.
Similar percentages of Republicans (62%) and Democrats (58%) believe the Russia-Ukraine conflict represents a critical threat to U.S. vital interests, as do a smaller majority of independents (51%). Republicans (up six points) and independents (up five points) are modestly more likely to see that conflict as a critical threat than in 2022.
Last year, all three party groups showed notable spikes in perceptions that Russia’s military power is a critical threat to the U.S. Those figures have shown sharp declines this year among Republicans and Democrats, but not independents. Now, 60% of Republicans, 50% of independents and 45% of Democrats say Russia’s military power is a critical threat.
The Russia-Ukraine war is now in its second year, and Americans’ opinions of Russia have deteriorated further. Fewer than one in 10 Americans have a positive view of Russia, and a majority now say they view that nation “very unfavorably.” Those are easily the worst ratings of Russia in at least 34 years of Gallup polling. Russia is now in the company of nations like Iran, Iraq and North Korea, in receiving nearly universal disapproval from the American public.
The U.S. government and many of its allies have condemned Russia’s actions in Ukraine, imposed sanctions on it and strongly supported Ukraine’s defense. The end game of the conflict is unclear, and diplomatic efforts have so far been unproductive. As long as the war persists, it is unlikely Americans’ opinions of Russia will improve.
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