What do we label the situation with Russia and Ukraine?

Linley SandersData Journalist
March 18, 2022, 5:26 PM GMT+0

In the weeks since Russian troops have attempted to seize control of Ukraine, different phrases have emerged to describe Russia’s actions.

President Joe Biden has described the situation between Russia and Ukraine as a war, invasion, and conflict that is unjustifiable. Russian President Vladamir Putin has labeled it a special military operation to accomplish the denazification of Ukraine, and Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky has said Russia’s actions show signs of genocide. Many media outlets have referred to it as a crisis, while others — including in YouGov’s own polling — have referred to it as a conflict.

A new YouGov poll, conducted March 15 - 17, asked U.S. adult citizens whether each of these words describe Russia’s recent actions in Ukraine. Americans were most likely to agree that it could be described as a war (84% say yes, this describes Russia’s actions) and an invasion (84%). There is a similarly high level of support for calling it a crisis (82%) or a conflict (76%). While we asked Americans to give their own opinions on what to call Russia’s actions, it’s likely that they have also been influenced by what media and national leaders have said about the events.

Most Americans say that genocide accurately describes Russia’s actions, though Americans over 45 are much more likely (67%) than adults under 45 (43%) to describe it this way.

Americans generally agree that Putin’s descriptors do not represent Russia’s actions. By 66% to 34%, U.S. adult citizens say it is not a “special military operation.” Nearly four in five (79%) say it is not a “denazification,” though YouGov did not provide a definition for denazification, and many may not be familiar with Putin’s phrase. Women (25%) are slightly more likely than men (18%) to choose denazification, and Republicans (26%) are slightly more likely than Democrats (19%).

More than nine in 10 Americans (92%) say “justified” is not a word that describes Russia’s recent actions, with Republicans (93%), Democrats (92%), and Independents (91%) in agreement on that.

-- Ian Davis and Taylor Orth contributed to this article

See the toplines and crosstabs from this YouGov poll

Methodology: This U.S. News survey was conducted by YouGov using a nationally representative sample of 1,000 U.S. adult citizens interviewed online between March 15 - 17, 2022. This sample was weighted according to gender, age, race, and education based on the 2018 American Community Survey, conducted by the U.S. Census Bureau, as well as news interest and 2020 Presidential votes (or non-votes). Respondents were selected from YouGov’s opt-in panel to be representative of all U.S. citizens. The margin of error is approximately 4% for the entire sample.

Image: Getty