Americans Have Mostly Negative View Of Putin And Russia
A new Gallup poll indicates that the American public has a mostly negative view of Russian President Vladimir Putin and Russia as a whole:
WASHINGTON, D.C. — As host nation Russia dominates the world stage at the Winter Olympics in Sochi, Americans clearly do not think highly of the country or its president, Vladimir Putin. Putin and Russia score the highest unfavorable ratings — 63% and 60%, respectively — that Gallup has recorded for them in the past two decades.
These sentiments, based on a survey conducted Feb. 6-9, continue the downward trajectory in Americans’ opinions since Putin returned to Russia’s presidency in 2012. These results align with Gallup’s findings last fall when Americans, for the first time in 14 years of Gallup polling on the topic, said they consider Russia an enemy, not an ally. In the past year, Russia has faced scrutiny for granting former National Security Agency contractor Edward Snowden asylum, involving itself in the Syrian civil war, and restricting gay and lesbian civil rights. The threat of terrorism at the Olympics and the allegedly substandard conditions at the Winter Games have also been big media stories in the past several months.
While their unfavorable ratings of Russia are at an all-time high, Americans’ perceptions of the world power have not always been positive in the years since the former Soviet Union collapsed in 1991. In 1999, Russia’s bombing of the former Soviet republic of Chechnya, along with its opposition to the NATO war in Kosovo, likelysoured American opinion toward Russia. Another spike in anti-Russian opinion occurred in March 2003 (52% unfavorable) when Russia refused to back the U.S. in the Iraq war, claiming that only the United Nations could settle the dispute.
This chart shows how Americans’ perceptions of Russia have fluctuated over the years:
The interesting thing to note, of course, is that public opinion of Russia as a whole has varied far more than public opinion about Putin himself. At several times over the years since the collapse pf the Soviet Union, there have been several times when Americans have been expressed quite positive opinions regarding Russia. Most recently, this happened between 2010 and 2012, when roughly 50% of those surveyed expressed a positive opinion about the nation. At other times, such as in the early 2000s, the favorable number has gotten as high as the low to mid 60s. Most recently, though, there’s been a decided dip from 50% all the way down to 34% while the unfavorable number has gone from the low 40s to 60%. Perhaps not coincidentally, this has coincided with events such as the Edward Snowden affair, the rivalry between the U.S. and Russia over Syria, and the adoption by the Russian legislature of laws banning adoption of Russian children by foreign couples and the new anti-gay “propaganda” laws that have received a lot of media attention in the run-up to the Sochi Olympics.
For Putin himself, there’s never actually been a point since he took office that Gallup has registered a Favorable number for him among Americans that was at or even near 50%. When he entered office, he was viewed positively by 41% of the American public, but this was at a time when public opinion about Russia as a whole was at an all-time high of 66%. Since then Putin’s favorable numbers have been on a steady downward curve while his unfavorable numbers have increased steadily. There are likely a number of reasons for this, but Putin’s reputation as a former KGB agent and the fact that he has spent much of his time in power extolling Russian nationalism and needling the United States in one way or another is no doubt a big part of it. Additionally, one shouldn’t really discount residual anti-Soviet feelings among the American public even though the Cold War ended more than two decades ago now.
It would be interesting to contrast these numbers with Russian public opinion about the United States and President Obama. My guess is that we’d see something largely similar on their part, even though other surveys have indicated that the Russian public doesn’t view Putin very positively either even though they seem to have come to accept the fact that they are stuck with him and his cronies being in power. As for Putin himself, I doubt that he really cares what the American people think about him, or the Russian people for that matter. Much like the authoritarians who have ruled Russia since the time of the Czars, he is proceeding forward on his own agenda. The only this time it’s clothed in the illusion of democracy rather than the myths of royalty or Communist ideology.