Public against getting involved in Ukraine, even after MH17

July 22, 2014, 9:20 AM GMT+0

People tend to think that Russia was involved in shooting down Malaysia Airlines Flight 17, but there is no increase in support for action against Russia

On July 17th 2014 Malaysia Airlines Flight 17, headed from Amsterdam to Kuala Lumpur, was shot down and crashed, killing just under 300 people. The American government says that it has satellite evidence indicating that the plane was hit by a surface-to-air missile launched from rebel controlled areas of Ukraine, and wreckage discovered at the scene confirms that the plane had been struck by a missile. Separatist militias in Ukraine are unlikely to independently have the training or experience needed to operate the complicated missile system that was likely used, raising questions of exactly how involved the Russian military and government were.

The latest research from YouGov shows that few Americans believe the Russian government's story that they had nothing to do with the shooting down of MH17. Only 14% say that the Russian government or military weren't involved in any way, while 46% say that they were. 40% aren't sure whether they were involved.

Asked what people think the US government should do if the Russians or pro-Russian separatists were involved in shooting down MH17, the most popular response (42%) is to impose further economic sanctions on Russia. 33% think that the US should intervene diplomatically in the Russia-Ukraine crisis. Only 15% support minimal military involvement - arming the Ukrainian military to fight the rebels - and airstrikes against rebels are only supported by 10% of Americans. 5% of the country think that American soldiers should be sent to the country.

Public support for the various measures the US could take are actually relatively unchanged from when they were first asked in March 2014, when respondents were provided with a similar question that did not reference the shooting down of MH17 or the possibility of airstrikes on separatists. 40% of Americans supported economic sanctions then, compared to 42% now, though support for diplomatic negotiations with Russia has dropped from 44% to 33%.

The consistency of public opinion on Ukraine can be clearly seen when people are asked whether the US should get involved in Moscow's dispute with Kiev. Most Americans still oppose any US involvement in Ukraine, while support for involvement has actually fallen from 25% in March to 18% today.

Asked whether they approve of how Barack Obama is handling the situation/crisis in Ukraine, public opinion is also largely unchanged. In April, 36% approved and 43% disapproved of his handling, while today 32% approve and 39% disapprove of his handling, as the number of 'not sures' increased.

While public opinion in the US has not changed dramatically in favour of more action, the British public have become increasingly supportive of a tougher stance towards Russia. Given the size of Russian investment in the UK, any British sanctions could carry more weight than American sanctions.

Full poll results can be found here.

Image: Getty