Following allegations of Russian interference in the 2016 election, a majority of Americans believe the Russian government tries to influence domestic U.S. politics, according to polling data released Wednesday.
But polling conducted around the same time in Russia suggests that an even larger majority of Russians believe that Washington is trying to influence their politics. Seventy-eight percent of Russians polled said the United States meddles “a great deal” or “a fair amount” in Russian politics, compared to 69 percent of Americans who say the same about Russian interference in U.S. politics.
The results come from comparative polling data collected by the Chicago Council of Global Affairs and its Russian partner, the Levada Center, late last year. While a previous release of polling data from their project showed some shared foreign-policy goals between Washington and Moscow, the latest release focuses on tensions that have emerged over the past year due to the contentious 2016 U.S. presidential election and other ongoing issues.
Only 3 percent of Russians said they thought the United States did not try to affect their domestic affairs at all, the poll found, while 7 percent of Americans said the same of Russia. In response to a separate question, 13 percent of Americans said they did not believe that Russia tried to influence the 2016 election, despite the conclusions of U.S. intelligence agencies.
Meanwhile, Russians are more likely to downplay their own country's alleged interference. The poll found that 31 percent of Russians said Moscow tried to influence U.S. domestic affairs in a significant way, compared to 55 percent of Americans who felt that their own government tried to do the same thing in Russia.
There's little evidence of a “reset” in the polling data. Continuing a trend that has now lasted several years, Americans and Russians have negative views of each other at levels not seen since the Cold War: Only 31 percent of Americans say they hold a positive view of Russia, and 24 percent of Russians say the same of the United States.
Indeed, the poll finds that although 46 percent of Russians said in January 2017 that the election of Donald Trump, a candidate who has frequently spoken positively of the Russian government, might improve their relations with the United States, few now think any positive change has occurred. Polled in December, 51 percent of Russians were found to think that U.S.-Russia relations had not changed; 28 percent said they had gotten worse.
When asked to list countries that were enemies of Russia, 35 percent of Russians surveyed listed the United States first — the largest share for any option. Comparatively, just 3 percent of Russians listed terrorists. And in both nations, there was a sense that their country was being sabotaged. Eighty-one percent of Russians said they felt the United States was working to undermine Russia on the world stage; 77 percent of Americans said the same of Russia.
Though President Trump initially refused to acknowledge Russia's alleged interference in the 2016 election, many members of his administration have since conceded that such interference did occur. Last week, Nikki Haley, the U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, said that Russia's acts ahead of the election were “outrageous” and that the Trump administration would be “taking steps” to prevent a recurrence.
CIA Director Mike Pompeo told the BBC late last month that he expects Russia to try to subvert this year's U.S. midterm elections. “We are going to go out there and do our damnedest to steal secrets on behalf of the American people,” Pompeo said of the CIA. “And I wanted to get back on our front foot.”
Russian President Vladimir Putin has denied accusations of meddling in U.S. politics, but he has asserted that the U.S. government interfered in Russia's 2012 presidential election and that it would try again in the upcoming 2018 presidential vote. The Kremlin has also used a number of laws to pressure Washington-backed election monitors and private groups that operate in Russia.
Despite the mutual animosity, the data from the Chicago Council and Levada does show some points of agreement. In the poll released last month, for example, both countries ranked international terrorism and nuclear proliferation as key foreign policy issues.
There was also a widespread agreement in both Russia and the United States that Moscow is increasingly important on the world stage, with 56 percent of Russians saying their country plays a bigger role than it did 10 years ago, while 41 percent of Americans said the same. Comparatively, 47 percent of Americans said their country was less important than it was a decade ago, and 32 percent of Russians agreed.
The Chicago Council conducted its poll between Dec. 1 and Dec. 3 using GfK Custom Research’s national online omnibus service, Knowledge Panel, to speak to a nationally weighted sample of approximately 1,000 American adults over the age of 18 who live in all 50 U.S. states and the District of Columbia. The margin of error is plus or minus three percentage points
Levada, one of Russia’s oldest and most well-respected polling companies, held its own poll of Russians between Dec. 1 and Dec. 5, with face-to-face interviews of a representative sample of 1,602 Russians age 18 or over, living in eight federal districts of the Russian Federation. The margin of error is plus or minus 3.4 percentage points.
More on WorldViews