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UMD Poll: Partisan Divide Deepens Following Recent Russian Mutiny

By Rachael Grahame ’17

The Russian mutiny by the Wagner mercenary group heightened the partisan divide among Americans on U.S. policy toward Ukraine, according to the latest University of Maryland Critical Issues Poll.

It was the sixth such poll that tracked Americans’ opinions on the war; because it was fielded the same week as the June 23-24 mutiny, it revealed real-time insights into the episode’s impact on American public support for Ukraine, said the poll’s director, Department of Government and Politics Professor Shibley Telhami.

Compared to Democratic respondents who completed the poll before the mutiny, Democrats who said the United States should stay the course in supporting Ukraine increased by 7 percentage points afterward. On the flip side, Republican respondents who said the same fell by 9 percentage points after the mutiny.

Evaluating the costs associated with U.S. support, the share of post-mutiny Democratic respondents who said that the United States’ current level of support was “too much” was nearly sliced in half, from 14% before the mutiny to 8% after. While just 1% more Republicans said U.S. support was “too much” after the mutiny, Republicans who said the current level of support was “the right level” fell from 25% before the mutiny to 19% after.

The affair highlighted the two main issues that are shaping American public attitudes toward Ukraine, Telhami said: assessments of who has the upper hand in the war, and how Ukraine is impacting our next presidential election.

“As we enter the 2024 presidential campaign season, Ukraine has been a major foreign policy topic for candidates,” he said. “Perceived Russian failure and Ukrainian success would reflect well on President Biden’s policy and may thus worry Republican candidates who want to defeat him in the election.”

However, despite the increased partisanship in the responses before and after the mutiny, the June poll revealed a slight increase in Americans’ support for the U.S. staying the course in supporting Ukraine; 43% expressed support in June compared to 38% who did the same in the March-April poll.

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