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Americans, Particularly Democrats, Dislike Russia

Americans, Particularly Democrats, Dislike Russia
by Megan Brenan

Story Highlights

  • 72% of Americans view Russia unfavorably, highest in 30 years
  • Republicans are twice as likely as Democrats to view Russia favorably
  • Younger Americans view Russia more favorably than older Americans

WASHINGTON, D.C. -- As revelations about Russian interference in the 2016 U.S. presidential election continue to develop, Americans now view Russia more negatively than they have in three decades of Gallup polls. Currently, 25% of Americans have a favorable opinion of Russia and 72% have an unfavorable opinion, the highest negative reading historically, though statistically unchanged from last year's 70%. Americans' unfavorable sentiment toward Russia has been on the rise since Vladimir Putin returned to the presidency in 2012.

Americans' Opinions of Russia

These results are based on Gallup's annual World Affairs poll, conducted Feb. 1-10, which measured Americans' opinions of 22 countries and found Russia among those viewed least favorably.

After World War II, the relationship between the U.S. and the Soviet Union was tense for decades as the Cold War wore on. Relations thawed in the mid-1980s, and Americans' opinions were largely positive from the end of the Cold War through the late 1990s. Views of Russia faltered with the resignation of the country's then-president Boris Yeltsin in 1999. Americans' perceptions of Russia rebounded in 2001 amid positive dealings between George W. Bush and President Putin. Opinions were then mixed under Dmitry Medvedev's presidency, but after Putin reclaimed the presidency in 2012, Russia's favorability began to sink.

The lowest favorable rating for Russia -- 24% in 2015 -- came amid Russian interference in Ukraine and parliamentary restrictions on gay and lesbian rights. The current 25% favorable and 72% unfavorable ratings come as the U.S. Justice Department continues its investigation into Russian meddling in the 2016 presidential election and the relationship between Russia and Trump campaign and administration officials.

Republicans and Younger Adults View Russia More Favorably

Partisan differences on Russia have varied over the past two decades, with both Democrats and Republicans at different times holding more positive views than their counterparts. During the Obama administration, Democrats viewed Russia more favorably than Republicans. Most recently, as evidence has mounted suggesting that Russian interference in the 2016 election was designed to benefit the Trump campaign, Democrats' opinion of Russia has fallen more sharply than Republicans'. Thirty percent of Republicans now have a favorable opinion of Russia, compared with 15% of Democrats.

Americans' Opinions of Russia, by Party

Americans aged 18 to 29 (32%) are much more likely than those aged 65 and older (19%) to view Russia favorably. This has been the case historically in Gallup polls and is likely a result of the fact that younger people did not live through the Cold War which contributed to shaping older Americans' views of Russia.

Bottom Line

While the U.S.-Russia relationship has been fraught with conflict for decades, tensions have risen sharply since Putin once again assumed the presidency in 2012. Americans' opinions of Russia have hit new lows in recent years. Whereas in the past, partisans have often had similar feelings about Russia, that is not the case now, as Democrats hold a less positive view than Republicans do.

As the Justice Department continues its investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 election, President Trump continues to deny that his campaign was involved. The outcome of the investigation could further affect Americans' views of Russia.

Survey Methods

Results for this Gallup poll are based on telephone interviews conducted Feb. 1-10, 2018, with a random sample of 1,044 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. For results based on the samples of Republicans, independents and Democrats, the margins of sampling error are between ±6 and ±8 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.

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