On Russia and Putin, opinions of Evangelical Christians resemble those of Americans overall

Taylor OrthDirector of Survey Data Journalism
March 15, 2022, 6:41 PM GMT+0

In the years leading up to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, a number of prominent Evangelical leaders in the United States expressed a shared sense of identity with Russia and sought out connections with Russian leaders including President Vladimir Putin.

In the week following Russia’s attack on Ukraine, televangelist Pat Robertson said that Putin was “compelled by God” in his decision to invade Ukraine, and last month, a Republican Senate candidate in Delaware, Lauren Witzke, expressed support for Putin’s right to protect Russia’s “Christian values,” claiming that “Russia is a Christian nation.” Witzke added, “I identify more with Putin’s Christian values than I do with Joe Biden.”

These remarks have led some in the media to speculate that Evangelical Christians in the U.S., especially white Evangelicals, hold uniquely favorable views of Russia and of Putin.

In the most recent Economist/YouGov Poll, we asked Americans who they are more sympathetic toward in the conflict: Russia or Ukraine? The vast majority of American adults (73%) sympathize more with Ukraine, while only 6% choose Russia. A similar share (5%) of those who identify as Evangelical Christians sympathize with Russia. Among Evangelicals, there is no apparent racial divide regarding Russian sympathies; white Evangelicals and non-white Evangelicals share similar opinions on the conflict. (See the methodology section below for more on how we defined Evangelicals.)

Two weeks earlier, we asked Americans whether they would describe Putin as “a Christian” and found that only 5% of Americans — as well as the same share of white Evangelicals — said they view him as one.

Our polling demonstrates that, while a number of Russia’s most prominent supporters in the U.S. may fall under the umbrella of Evangelicalism, there is little evidence of widespread support for Russia or its leader among American Evangelicals overall. The vast majority of Evangelicals — white and non-white — view Putin negatively and sympathize with Ukraine over Russia in the conflict.

See the toplines and crosstabs from this Economist/YouGov Poll

Methodology: The Economist survey was conducted by YouGov using a nationally representative sample of 1,500 U.S. adult citizens interviewed online between March 5 - 8, 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 2016 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 3% for the overall sample.

* Evangelical Christians include respondents who said their present religion was Protestant, Catholic, Mormon, Eastern or Greek Orthodox, or “something else,” and who also answered “yes” to the question, “Would you describe yourself as a 'born-again' Christian or evangelical Christian?”

Image: Getty