For the first time in over four years, Russia's leading polling agency has found that the number of Russians who have positive views of the United States is greater than those who have negative views.
The results, published Thursday by the independent Levada Center for Public Opinion, show a considerable increase in the number of Russians who said they generally felt good about the United States, while the number who felt bad dropped from almost 70 percent to 40 percent.
At 42 percent, the number of Russians who view the United States positively is the highest it has been since January 2014 — one month before Russia annexed the Ukrainian peninsula of Crimea, leading to condemnation and sanctions from the United States.
The increase in positive views of the United States comes after Russian President Vladimir Putin held a summit July 16 in Helsinki with President Trump. The meeting was viewed negatively by many in the United States, with 50 percent saying in a recent Washington Post-ABC poll that they disapproved of Trump's handling of the meeting.
However, Russians had a more positive view of the summit's outcome, according to Levada's data. While the majority, 53 percent, said the meeting hadn't changed relations between the United States and Russia, 29 percent said it had improved bilateral relations. Only 4 percent said the meeting had worsened relations.
Levada's polling also may hint at a broader shift. The data showed a sharp increase in positive views of the European Union among Russians, with 42 percent saying they generally felt good about the E.U. vs. 38 percent who said they felt bad. These were the most positive views of Europe since early 2014.
At the same time, other recent polling from Levada has found that Putin's approval ratings have declined substantially in recent months — dropping from over 80 percent in April to 67 percent in July. Experts have attributed that to domestic problems — notably, a failure to live up to promises about pensions — rather than Putin's foreign policy.
The Levada Center has operated in some form since 1987. Although opinion polling is difficult under authoritarian governments like Russia's, Levada has long been a respected surveyor of public opinion in the country, and its results are generally in line with those of international polling firms. For Thursday's data, it interviewed 1,600 people at their homes between July 19 and July 25.
Levada's historical data shows that until 2014, Russians generally held positive views of the United States and Europe. However, the collapse of the pro-Russian Ukrainian government in early 2014 and a Russian intervention in eastern Ukraine and Crimea led to a breakdown in relations between Putin and the West. Tensions have been further exacerbated by alleged Russian interference in Western elections and an alleged assassination attempt against a former Russian double agent in Britain.
According to survey data released by Gallup this year, 72 percent of Americans view Russia unfavorably, while 25 percent view it favorably.
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