June 15, 2015

Republicans and Democrats sharply divided on how tough to be with Russia

Partisan Divide in U.S. on What to Do About RussiaAs the Obama White House and its NATO allies discuss their responses to Russia’s activities in Ukraine, Washington faces its own internal divisions, some of which are being reflected in the early stages of the 2016 presidential campaign. Republicans and Democrats in the United States are strongly divided on the situation in Ukraine and what to do about it.

Members of both American political parties see Russia as a major military threat to neighboring countries, but to differing degrees, according to our latest survey.

Two-thirds of GOP members see Russia as a military threat, but only 56% of Democrats share their fear. And while half of Republicans say Russia is to blame for the violence in eastern Ukraine, just 39% of Democrats agree.

There is a similar partisan divide over what to do about the situation in Ukraine. Republicans are far more likely than Democrats to support military assistance. Six-in-ten Republicans voice support for NATO sending arms to the Ukrainian government compared with 39% of Democrats.

The smallest partisan division is over economic aid to Kyiv: 69% of Republicans back such assistance, as do 60% of Democrats.

Substantial percentages of both parties favor keeping U.S. and EU economic sanctions against Russia about the same: 44% of Republicans and 54% of Democrats. However, 40% of Republicans would increase those sanctions, while only 23% of Democrats approve of such action.

Members of both parties support NATO membership for Ukraine. Such support is greater among members of the GOP (71%) than among Democrats (59%). Moreover, there is a partisan difference about U.S. obligations to come to the military assistance of other NATO members. Nearly seven-in-ten Republicans (69%) say that Washington should come to the aid of its allies in the event of Russian aggression. But only 47% of Democrats back that long-standing U.S. treaty obligation, while 48% oppose it.

Topics: Europe, International Threats and Allies, U.S. Political Parties, Elections and Campaigns, Russia

  1. Photo of Bruce Stokes

    is director of global economic attitudes at Pew Research Center.


  1. Kalle Fauset2 years ago

    What no one seems to be talking about is that as Crimea is Russia only southern sea route. It would be totally irresponsible for Putin or any other Russian leader not to secure a land route there. As the only route is through southern Ukraine and it is going to happen one way or another. Why don’t we recognize that reality and use it as a bargaining chip for help with other issues like an Iran nuke deal or fighting isis? When Krushciev gifted Crimea to Ukraine, it was all part of the USSR. That “gift” never would of happened had he seen into the future.

  2. MEHerlihy2 years ago

    Was it clear that those responding to the question on the use of military force to defend a NATO ally know that the NATO Treaty by its terms requires such defense? Query what responses would result from a question asking whether the U.S. should fail to honor its NATO Treaty obligations?

  3. Lux2 years ago

    It’s interesting that only 39% of Democrats agree that “Russia mostly to blame for violence in eastern Ukraine”. Who are the majority of Democrats blaming for the war in Ukraine? Do they really believe Putin’s propaganda blaming the US for the war there? Or are they blaming the Ukrainians? I wonder if there were similar polls in the late 1930’s in the US and whether the Democrats blamed the Poles for attacking Nazi Germany.

  4. sandy miller2 years ago

    If they continue delaying help to Ukraine it will be gone. Democrats need to explain how they believe Ukraine has any responsibility for Putin’s invasion of Ukraine? I’d like to know what they think exactly??? It’s unbelievable. I will never vote for another democrat again.

  5. John Newcomb2 years ago

    Democrats love tough talk from Russia as Putin’s chief propagandist Dmitriy Kiselyov pronounces on television that Russia is the only country capable of turning the United States into “radioactive ashes.”: washingtonpost.com/blogs/worldvi…

  6. Joel Frese2 years ago

    No surprise, Republicans leaders are positioning for their next war. They love war, unless one of them has to actually go fight in one.

    1. sandy Miller2 years ago

      So you think America should just let Russia disrupt the world by stealing territory, killing and devastating Ukraine. We should walk away from Ukraine who’s been our ally forever? We should throw Ukraine under the bus when we asked them to give up their nuke’s which left them vulnerable to Russian aggression? You have no honor sir.