Americans Have Mostly Negative View Of Putin And Russia

The Cold War may be over, but the negative opinions in the U.S. regarding Russia and its leadership seem to have continued.

Vladimir Putin Sunglasses
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:

Russia GallupAnd Putin doesn’t fare much better than the nation he leads. In fact, his reputation has been becoming consistently more negative among Americans for the past eight years:

Putin Gallup

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.


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Doug Mataconis
About Doug Mataconis
Doug Mataconis held a B.A. in Political Science from Rutgers University and J.D. from George Mason University School of Law. He joined the staff of OTB in May 2010 and contributed a staggering 16,483 posts before his retirement in January 2020. He passed far too young in July 2021.


  1. OzarkHillbilly says:

    Except for conservative columnists like Victor David Hansen. That was NOT a banana in his pocket when he wrote that column the other day.

  2. Tyrell says:

    I don’t have an opinion either way about Mr. Putin as I don’t read or hear much about him. What I do have is a strong memory of three major events of the 1960’s that had a profound effect on my generation. The Berlin Wall was a symbol of enslavement and Communist totalitarianism that we will never forget. Then they put nuclear missiles in Cuba. Nuclear missiles ninety miles from our shores, put there to destroy the eastern half of the US. Talk about a cloud over our future outlook.
    Then in 1968 I went down to breakfast and was greeted by my mother with the news that the Russians had invaded Czechoslovakia, sending a tank battalion into Prague. This was after Premier Brezhnev had promised the Czech leaders that they were free to implement reforms and give their people some basic human rights, of all shocking things. We grew up with the Soviet Union trying to take over everything, the memory of which is still clear. The Allies should have kicked the Russians back to their own territory after the German surrender in WWII.

    “Those d_____ Russians!!” (President Nixon, upon hearing of the invasion of Czechoslavakia, 1968)

  3. Franklin says:

    Why would we like him? He’s always rearing his head and coming into our airspace.

  4. C. Clavin says:

    Apparently we have looked into his eyes…and gotten a sense of his soul…

  5. Dave D says:

    @Tyrell: Really, because the US lost about 400,000 people in that war while the soviets lost over 20 million. The soviets killed 2/3rds of the germans in the war and pretty much won it almost single handedly. If you think the US was prepared to lose even a fraction of the people the soviets were willing to sacrifice to push them back into their own country you are sorely mistaken. Add to it that that the soviets had and probably still have the greatest spy network in the world, and knew about the a bomb before Truman did. You’re living in a fantasy world if you think even for a second we had the military power to fight the 1945 soviet union.

  6. Jeremy R says:


    Except for conservative columnists like Victor David Hansen. That was NOT a banana in his pocket when he wrote that column the other day.

    Add Tucker Carlson’s outfit too:

    Daily Caller: 17 photos of the world’s most interesting man, Vladimir Putin

    Vladimir Putin served 15 years in Russia’s foreign intelligence before becoming the Russian President from 1999 to 2008, and then the Prime Minister from 2008-2012. In 2012 he took back his role as president and has been serving his nation since then.

    But even with these intensive jobs, he has made sure to take some personal time to enjoy his life and show his great athleticism.

    With these displays of strength and agility he no doubt hopes to have inspired his athletes to rack up the gold medal count at the Sochi Olympics.

  7. rudderpedals says:

    Matthew Bernius’ point is essential. There’s an understandable (confusion, concern) but in the 21st century a very harmful tendency to worship tough looking daddy figures, to the extent that nominal lefties like Chris Mathews aren’t ashamed to admire the physical manifestations of manliness such as the bulge in 43’s flight suit, for others the toughness of Putin’s “manly” display of martial arts.

  8. rudderpedals says:

    Of course Bernius made that point in another thread so the above comment will sit here in the wrong place looking out of place.

  9. Roger That says:

    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…
    Would we? None of those graphs shows that there’s a correlation between how we feel about them and how they feel about us; Russians opinions of the US were on the upswing in 2008-2009 while our opinion of them was sinking. This stuff is based far more on current events than emotional reciprocity.