As the situation worsens, American opinion on Ukraine has undergone a rapid shift. Prior to the direct attack on Ukraine, attitudes towards Ukraine trended towards apathy and concern about what the economic impact of interfering might be.
But that was then. Now that the rubber has hit the road, Americans are coalescing around support for sanctions against Russia, even if that means higher prices domestically.
That said, partisan opinion remains somewhat uneven, with Republicans significantly less certain that higher fuel prices are worth the cost of defending Ukraine than Democrats. This comes after months of GOP messaging about the risks of getting involved and some pro-Russia statements from prominent Republicans like Trump.
Below, where public opinion on Ukraine stands today.
- Early views. Much ink was spilled and many tweets were fired off before Russia invaded Ukraine. Earlier this week, we tested how well some of these messages resonated with the American public. Certain themes emerge – Americans generally don’t want active troop engagement in Ukraine, and relatively few buy into adulation for Putin. But remember that public opinion is changing quickly.
- Blame game shift. To that point, who Americans hold accountable for the current situation in Ukraine has already undergone a bit of a sea change. A majority now believe that it’s Putin’s fault, while the number of Republicans who (likely in a knee-jerk reaction) blamed Biden for it has fallen from 25% to 14%. As Vandenberg said, politics stops at the water's edge.
- Coalescence. We are reaching a tepid consensus: a majority now agree it’s worth paying more at home to levy sanctions against Russia in response to the situation in Ukraine. Neverthless, Dems and Republicans are still far apart on this question, even if opinion among both parties is moving in the same direction.
- Sanctions yes. Americans are clear what form of involvement they’re comfortable with. For most, the preference is for sanctions, not military intervention. However, there has been a slight uptick among Republicans in support for sending American troops to Ukraine – two in five Dems and Republicans now support this, per our most recent polling with Reuters. The American public is acutely aware of the risks of a hot war with Russia. Trepidation is a logical response.
Rally around the flag. The public is warming towards Biden’s handling of Ukraine – with a 9-point improvement in approval of how he is handling the situation from last week to this. However, this hasn’t translated to a bump in his overall approval ratings, which also remain flat at 43%. Expect his approval ratings around these international issues to improve.
The facts on the ground continue to change, but the early signs suggest that the US is rallying towards action against Russia. That said, partisan hurdles remain. Although Republicans still aren’t fully sold on the cost benefit of sanctions, public opinion is more pro involvement than against it.