Russia has become an enemy in the eyes of many Americans

December 23, 2020, 5:00 PM UTC

In the four years of the Trump Administration, more Americans have become convinced that Russia is not just an unfriendly nation but is now an enemy of the United States.

That’s not just because of the belief (held by both the Secretary of State and the Attorney General but not by the President) that Russia was responsible for an extensive cyberattack on U.S. government and corporate computer systems, the scope of which is not yet completely known.

Perceptions of Russia have been changing slowly, and despite President Donald Trump’s cultivation of a relationship with Russian President Vladimir Putin, most Americans in the latest Economist/YouGov Poll who are aware of the attack blame Russia for it.

Republicans typically agree with President Trump: for example, in this poll (as in previous polls) most Republicans believe fraud changed the outcome of the November Presidential election. But on this question a plurality of Republicans disagree with President Trump and agree with the overall public that Russia is responsible for the attack.

More than two-thirds of the public have heard something about the cyberattack, with Democrats much more aware of it than Republicans. More than eight in ten Democrats (83%) and 63% of Republicans have heard at least a little about the cyberattack.  So have two-thirds of independents. 

Perception of Russia as an “enemy” of the United States has risen 11 points since April 2017. It is now the plurality view - held by 38% - which it was not four years ago. Republicans have changed the most: 40% now call Russian an enemy, up 16 points from 2017.

Republican opinion of Russia has gotten worse just in the last month. In late November, only 28% of Republicans said Russia was an enemy of the US; now 40% of Republicans think that. 

Among the quarter of the public who say they have heard nothing about the attack, 17% call Russia an enemy. Among those who have heard something, 44% do. Among those who believe Russia is responsible for the cyberattack, 58% do.

President-elect Joe Biden will have to deal with Russia in less than a month, and Americans, even his own voters, are not particularly optimistic about what he might accomplish. Biden supporters think he can improve relations with China and with Iran, and tend to think relations with North Korea won’t change one way or the other during his time in office. But when it comes to Russia, more than four in ten Biden voters (43%) think relations will get worse. Just one in four think relations would improve in a Biden Administration.

The public overall is more negative about the future of future US relations with all four countries.

Foreign Policy

Related: Face mask wearing is up, but willingness to be vaccinated is not 

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 US Adults interviewed online between December 19 - 22, 2020. This sample was weighted according to gender, age, race, and education based on the American Community Survey, conducted by the US Bureau of the Census, as well as 2016 Presidential vote, registration status, geographic region, and news interest. Respondents were selected from YouGov’s opt-in panel to be representative of all US citizens. The margin of error is approximately 3.3% for the overall sample.   

Image: Getty