Snowden - And Putin - Complicate U.S. Relations With Russia

July 24, 2013, 4:08 PM GMT+0

(Week of 7/20/2013) Edward Snowden, the former NSA analyst who leaked information about U.S. internet and telephone surveillance activities, has now spent a month in the transit area of the Moscow airport where he is waiting for the Russian government’s decision on his request for political asylum. Americans in the latest Economist/YouGov poll oppose Russia granting this request. Furthermore, the incident may be complicating what many see as worsening relations between the two countries. Although eight in ten Americans believe it is important that the U.S. and Russia maintain friendly relations, many think those relations have gotten worse since Vladimir Putin became the Russian leader. Nearly half the public disapproves of Russia granting Snowden’s asylum request. Only one in four approve.

Attitudes about the former NSA analyst have continued to worsen. In this week’s poll, just over a third have a favorable attitude towards him. 46% are unfavorable. Feelings about his actions are more mixed: this week, 41% approve of his leaking information about the surveillance activities, 44% do not.

Snowden continues to get more favorable assessments from younger Americans. More Americans who are 44 years old or younger, approve of his decision to leak the information about the NSA than disaprove. The reverse is true for Americans who are 45 or older. Two-thirds of Americans 65 or older disapprove of Snowden’s actions.

The public’s desire for good relations with Russia means that Americans reject two possible ways of punishing Russia if Snowden accepts asylum – permanent or temporary – in that country. By 46% to 28%, they do not want President Obama to cancel travel to the September G-20 summit there. By an even greater margin, the public rejects any U.S. boycott of the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi, Russia.