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UMD Poll: Americans Support Backing Ukraine, But Wearying of Costs

Results Show Widening Partisanship in Attitudes on War

By Rachael Grahame ’17

customer pumps gas into car

A customer pumps gas in California, the state with the highest gas prices in the country. Nationwide, prices are up more than 50% from last year, and have risen sharply since Russia attacked Ukraine.

Photo by Justin Sullivan/Getty Images

Americans approve of policies related to the war in Ukraine, but their willingness to pay a price to confront Russia and hold it accountable appears to be waning, according to the results of a new University of Maryland Critical Issues Poll.

Department of Government and Politics Professors Shibley Telhami, the Anwar Sadat Professor for Peace and Development, and Stella Rouse, director of the Center for Democracy and Civic Engagement, surveyed more than 2,000 Americans May 6-16 to see how their attitudes related to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine have changed since their first Critical Issues Poll on the topic two months earlier.

"There are signs of American public fatigue over the Ukraine war,” said Telhami. A majority is still prepared to see higher energy prices from the conflict, but that support fell from 73% in March to 59% in May.

The share of Americans who said they were prepared to see an increase in inflation (52% in May and 65% in March) and potentially lose U.S. troops (27% in May to 32% in March), likewise shrunk. So, too, did the share of Americans who said that the Russian invasion of Ukraine made them have a “more positive” view of President Joe Biden; there was a 3% drop in the number of respondents who said they had a “more positive view” between the two survey months.

Telhami and Rouse sought to unlock new insights by splitting respondents into two groups, asking one group about their support for a no-fly zone (NFZ) over Ukraine without additional context, and explaining to the other group that imposing a no-fly zone means being prepared to attack Russian defenses, including on Russian territory, shoot down Russian airplanes and having NATO or U.S. planes shot down. Respondents who were presented that context were less likely to support it, no matter their political affiliation.

Similarly, near-identical numbers of Republicans and Democrats said they were most upset by Russia violating “sovereignty and international law,” followed by Russia attacking a democratic country, Russia attacking a country friendly to the U.S., and lastly Russia attacking a European country.

The latest poll also took a closer look at partisanship by asking one group of adults about actions attributed to the U.S. broadly, and the other about the same actions but instead attributed to the Biden administration. Here, there were more differences.

For example, when asked to rate whether they thought “alerting the international community early about Russia’s plan” was an appropriate response, 86% of Democrats were in favor, regardless of whether that step was attributed to the U.S. or the Biden administration. For Republicans, however, 61% said it was a favorable step when taken by the U.S., but only 28% when by the Biden administration.

When asked about their views of “mobilizing NATO support against Russia’s invasion” by the U.S. versus the Biden administration, 85% and 84% of Democrats expressed favorable views compared to 58% and 38% of Republicans, respectively.

"The gap between Democratic and Republican attitudes toward the Ukraine war and the U.S. response to it has widened since last March, dampening any hopes that the blatant Russian invasion would help bridge our own divided public,” Telhami said. “And even as the public remains supportive of most steps undertaken by the U.S. in response to the war, this has not translated into positive views of President Biden.”

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