The Washington PostDemocracy Dies in Darkness

Post-ABC poll finds bipartisan support for sanctions on Russia as it invades Ukraine

Views of Russia turn sharply negative. But the public also disapproves of Biden’s handling of the crisis.

Protesters gather in Los Angeles on Feb. 24 to demonstrate against the Russian military operation in Ukraine. (Etienne Laurent/EPA-EFE/REX/Shutterstock)
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A large and bipartisan majority of Americans supports economic sanctions on Russia for its military invasion of Ukraine, as public antipathy toward Russia climbs to Cold War levels, according to a Washington Post-ABC News poll.

But while the invasion has produced a bipartisan and sharply negative consensus about Russia, it has not eliminated partisan divisions about President Biden. Overall, the president receives negative marks for handling the situation, with 33 percent approving and 47 percent disapproving, while another 20 percent have no opinion.

About half of the public doubts Biden’s ability to handle a crisis and says U.S. leadership in the world has “gotten weaker” during his presidency, levels similar to former president Donald Trump’s ratings while he was in office.

The Post-ABC poll was conducted Sunday through Thursday. The Russian onslaught began early in the week with President Vladimir Putin’s order for troops to enter breakaway sectors of Ukraine, escalating Thursday to strikes across the country and a ground invasion advancing on areas including the capital, Kyiv.

Read full Post-ABC poll results

Two-thirds of Americans (67 percent) support the United States and its European allies imposing economic sanctions on Russia for its military actions in Ukraine, while 20 percent oppose sanctions and 13 percent have no opinion. About half of the public says they would still support sanctions if they result in higher energy prices in the United States, although in that case opposition rises to one-third.

Roughly 8 in 10 Democrats support economic sanctions on Russia in general, as do about 6 in 10 Republicans and independents alike. Less than half of Republicans support sanctions if that were to result in higher energy prices (44 percent), but 51 percent of independents and 62 percent of Democrats say they would continue to support the sanctions even if that were to happen.

Russia’s image has reached a three-decade low, with 80 percent of Americans seeing the country negatively, including 41 percent saying it is an “enemy” to the United States. Those results are similar to a 1987 Harris Poll, when 39 percent saw Russia as an enemy. Antipathy remains lower than in 1983, during a particularly frosty period in the Cold War in President Ronald Reagan’s first term, when as many as 63 percent saw Russia as an enemy.

Given the partisan divide in the country, Democrats and Republicans generally take opposite sides on contemporary issues. But on the crisis in Ukraine, they are relatively unified in their negative views of Russia. More than three-quarters of Democrats and Republicans regard Russia negatively, including 47 percent of Democrats and 40 percent of Republicans who view it as an “enemy.”

In videos, photos, and maps, how Russia’s invasion of Ukraine is unfolding on the ground

Trump recently praised Putin’s moves against Ukraine, but nonetheless sentiments about Russia are roughly aligned across the political spectrum. Twelve percent of Democrats say they consider Russia an ally or friendly nation, while 14 percent of Republicans shared that view. Ten percent of independents are positive toward the Cold War foe.

Americans have yet to rally around Biden, who announced sweeping sanctions against Russia on Thursday. Three-quarters of Republicans (75 percent) and 54 percent of independents disapprove of Biden’s handling of the situation between Russia and Ukraine, while 66 percent of Democrats approve, a lukewarm figure from fellow partisans.

Asked whether Biden “can be trusted in a crisis,” 43 percent overall say yes, while 52 percent say no. Those results are identical to ratings for Trump in early 2017 but worse than ratings of President Barack Obama in 2009 and 2014.

Nearly half of the public says America’s leadership in the world has gotten weaker under Biden (48 percent), while 23 percent say it has gotten stronger and 26 percent say it has stayed the same. In 2017 and 2018, between 47 percent and 53 percent of Americans said U.S. leadership had gotten weaker under Trump.

The Post-ABC poll was conducted among a random national sample of 1,011 adults, reached on cellphones and landlines. The margin of error is plus or minus four percentage points for overall results.

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