Punishing Russia: recent sanctions get public support

April 26, 2021, 5:45 PM UTC

Last month, Americans in the Economist/YouGov poll ranked Russia as the country’s second greatest enemy, just behind China. This week, they report their satisfaction with the sanctions the Biden Administration has placed on Russia, though most believe in the importance of “friendly relations” with Russia.

Last month, Democrats were more willing than Republicans to call Russia the country’s greatest enemy. Now Democrats overwhelmingly support the sanctions (75%); Republicans are also in favor (46%), though by a smaller margin. Those sanctions are in response to computer hacking operations allegedly by Russia against the US government and large US corporations.  

Americans’ criticism of the sanctions is more that they weren’t strong enough (22%) than that they were too strong (12%). Though more of those who disapprove of sanctions say they were too strong (43%) than believe they weren’t strong enough (19%), many of those who approve would have liked them to be even tougher (30%).  

Many Democrats’ special antipathy towards Russia has been affected by the charges that Russia interfered in the 2016 and 2020 elections, though that was not the cited reason for the new sanctions. Despite findings that Russia did interfere in the 2016 election in a report by Special Counsel Robert Mueller, as well as one by the GOP-controlled Senate Committee, most Republicans (55%) reject that finding. 

While more than one in four Republicans see Russian interference in both elections (23% and 22% respectively), more Republicans deny there was any interference at all (55% say no when asked about 2016 and 2020 interference). Democrats are less likely to see interference in 2020 (59%) than in 2016 (75%). Of course, Democrat Joe Biden won the election in 2020.  

Despite current issues with Russia, two-thirds of Americans (69%) believe it is still important to have friendly relations with that country, and Republicans (37%) are more likely than Americans overall (28%) to call this very important.  

Russian Sanctions
 

Whether they approve or disapprove of the sanctions, three-quarters of both groups (74-75%) believe friendly relations with Russia are important.   

But opinion of the sanctions does matter when Americans assess how well they believe President Biden is handling Russia. Three in five Americans (61%) who approve of the sanctions approve of Biden’s performance on this issue – especially those who strongly approve (77%). Those who disapprove of the sanctions disapprove of how President Biden is handling Russia as well (72%).  

See the toplines and crosstabs from this Economist/YouGov poll

Related: Americans support decision to withdraw US forces from Afghanistan

Methodology: The Economist survey was conducted by YouGov using a nationally representative sample of 1,500 US Adult Citizens interviewed online between April 17 - 20, 2021. 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 2.7% for the overall sample 

Image: Getty