The Putin Threat

March 06, 2014, 5:19 PM GMT+0

Nearly half of Americans think that Vladimir Putin poses a threat to the United States, and Russia is identified as the most serious military threat to the US

Americans continue to distrust Russian President Vladimir Putin, but (perhaps) grudgingly think of him as a strong leader. The latest Economist/YouGov Poll finds Americans believing that Putin has made Russia a country less friendly to the United States since he assumed power.

This is probably not what President Putin hoped for when he opened the Winter Olympic Games in Sochi last month; but Americans are now looking at him as someone who has sent troops into another country – Ukraine – in what the current Ukrainian leadership calls an invasion (Putin claimed on Tuesday Russia had not sent in troops). Older adults are more likely than younger adults to agree that Putin has made Russia less friendly to the U.S., and Republicans and conservatives, at 55% and 53% respectively, are the most likely to say this.

Earlier in the poll, respondents were asked in general if they think any country poses a “serious military threat” to the United States. The Russian “threat” appears here, too. More than half think some country does – and about half of that group – 26% of all Americans -- say it’s Russia. China was volunteered nearly as often as Russia, followed by North Korea and Iran.

In fact, 43% of the country believes Putin himself poses a “threat” to the United States. Nearly every group, with the sole exception of those under the age of 30, believes this.

Once again, Republicans and conservatives, at 54%, are the most likely to see a threat from Putin, though pluralities of Democrats and independents agree.

The Ukraine situation has focused the attention of more than half the country. 16% are following the story very closely, and another 41% are following it somewhat closely. Those paying very close attention to the situation in Ukraine are much more likely to see the existence of a military threat to the United States from Russia and other countries. 61% of those who are following the story very or somewhat closely think Russia has become less friendly to the United States since Putin became the Russian President, and more than half of them see Putin himself as a threat.

Americans in this poll worry about Russia and don’t like Putin (only 16% have a favorable opinion of him and two-thirds are unfavorable), they credit the Russian President with leadership. Nearly two out of three describe him as a strong leader. Republicans and conservatives, who are particularly likely to worry about Putin, are especially likely to call his a “very strong” leader.

Despite their current concerns (or perhaps because of them), the public wishes that the U.S. had good relations with Russia. More than eight in ten think it’s important to maintain good relations with Russia, with 37% saying that is very important.

Image: Getty

Full results can be found here.

Economist/YouGov poll archives can be found here.

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