Americans are split on whether Russia will use nuclear weapons in Ukraine

September 30, 2022, 7:07 PM GMT+0

Few Americans believe Russia is winning the war in Ukraine. About twice as many say the Ukrainians are currently winning than say Russia is, and many Americans think that Russian support for the war may be ebbing, according to the latest Economist/YouGov Poll, conducted prior to Russia annexing parts of Ukraine and Ukraine submitting an accelerated application to join the NATO alliance.

Relatively few Americans (17%) believe that all (3%) or most (14%) Russians support the ongoing invasion of Ukraine. Twice as many Americans (36%) say that few (32%) or none (4%) are now in favor of it. About one-quarter (27%) think Russians are evenly divided between supporters and opponents of the conflict. Democrats and Republicans are similarly likely to think that few Russians, or none, support the invasion. The share of Americans who think Russia's invasion has little support from the Russian people has risen in recent weeks.

Russian problems in Ukraine — including the recent loss of some of the territory it controlled in eastern Ukraine and its announced draft of 300,000 troops — have fueled American optimism about how well Ukraine is currently doing in the war and brought concern about what might happen next. Nearly two in five (39%) Americans think that Russia is somewhat or very likely to use nuclear weapons in Ukraine, while 37% say it is not very or not at all likely to use them — little changed from last week. More women than men think Russian use of nuclear weapons in Ukraine is likely (43% to 36%).

Although many possible Russian conscripts appear to be leaving Russia, Americans aren’t sure that fleeing Russians should be admitted into the U.S. as refugees. Americans are evenly split on whether the U.S. should (35%) or should not (35%) accept Russian draft resisters. Three in 10 are not sure. Democrats are more supportive of accepting these Russian refugees (48%) than are Independents (35%) and Republicans (22%). Most Americans (56%) say the United States should accept refugees fleeing violence in Ukraine.

The United Nations, which just finished its yearly assembly of global leaders speaking about world problems, heard Ukraine President Vlodomyr Zelensky and U.S. President Joe Biden but not Russia President Vladimir Putin. But the UN gets respect from few Americans. This week’s poll finds that, by a margin of greater than two to one, Americans say the UN is doing a poor job in trying to solve the problems it has to face. About half (51%) say it is doing a poor job, while just 19% give it good marks. The UN’s best result in Economist/YouGov Polls came in 2018, when it issued a major report on climate change. But even then more Americans rated it as doing a poor job (35%) than a good one (27%).

– Linley Sanders, Carl Bialik, Taylor Orth, and Oana Dumitru contributed to this article

This poll was conducted on September 24 - 27, 2022 among 1,500 U.S. adult citizens. Explore more on the methodology and data for this Economist/YouGov poll.

Image: Getty Images (Sean Gallup)