April 20, 2017

Share of Democrats calling Russia ‘greatest danger’ to U.S. is at its highest since end of Cold War

Nearly four-in-ten Democrats (39%) name Russia as the country that represents the greatest danger to the United States – the highest percentage expressing this view in nearly three decades, according to a new survey.

Compared with 2013, the last time this question was asked, greater shares in both parties volunteer Russia as posing the greatest danger to the U.S. – but nearly twice as many Democrats as Republicans now say this (39% vs. 21%).

The new Pew Research Center survey of 1,501 adults was conducted April 5-11, before the recent rise in tensions with North Korea, its failed missile test and Vice President Mike Pence’s visit to South Korea.

Overall, 31% of Americans, answering an open-ended question, cite Russia as the country representing the greatest danger to the U.S., while 22% point to North Korea. The shares naming both countries are among their highest dating back to 1990.

Fewer cite China (13%), Iran (9%), Syria (6%) and Iraq (5%) as countries representing the greatest danger to the U.S.

The new survey is the latest indication of growing concern among Democrats, in particular, about Russia in the wake of reports that the Russian government interfered in the 2016 U.S. election. A January survey found that Democrats were far more likely than Republicans to say that Russia was behind the hacks of the Hillary Clinton campaign and the Democratic National Committee. That survey also found that 38% of Democrats viewed Russia as an “adversary,” compared with 20% of Republicans.

The new survey finds that Russia is by far the top national threat in the view of Democrats and Democratic-leaning independents: 39% name Russia, while 21% cite North Korea and 13% point to China.

Opinion is more divided among Republicans and Republican leaners. About a quarter (27%) say North Korea poses the greatest danger to the U.S., and another two-in-ten each cite Russia (21%) and Iran (18%).

The current partisan divide in mentions of Russia as the “greatest danger” is as large a partisan gap as for any country dating back to 1990, when Pew Research Center first asked this question.

It also is the first time that a significantly larger share of Democrats than Republicans has named one single country as representing the greatest U.S. threat. Historically, the pattern has been reversed, with greater proportions of Republicans than Democrats naming one particular country as our greatest threat.

The share of Americans citing Russia as the country representing the greatest danger to the U.S. has fluctuated a great deal over the past three decades. In March 199o, 32% of the public said Russia was the greatest danger, but just two years later, that figure fell to 13%.

The share citing Russia as the greatest danger has remained at a fairly low level until this year, except during the conflict between Russia and Georgia in the summer of 2008. Throughout this period, there has not been a significant partisan difference in mentions of Russia as the greatest U.S. danger until now.

Note: The full topline and trend data can be found here (PDF).

Topics: International Threats and Allies, National Security, Political Party Affiliation, Foreign Affairs and Policy, Russia

  1. Photo of Rob Suls

    is a research associate focusing on U.S. politics and policy at Pew Research Center.


  1. David Frost4 months ago

    Ha, ha– the eighties called, Dems– they want their foreign policy back!

  2. Anonymous4 months ago

    I seem to remember a certain Presidential candidate making this point back in 2012 and the eventual winner laughing it off with snark. Seems the Dems are late to the party, and only because they lost this time.

  3. Nurdin Paşa4 months ago


  4. Packard Day4 months ago

    Say this for Donald Trump, not since the fall of Czar Nicholas II have so many American liberals, progressives, socialists, Democrats, and neo communists chosen to speak ill of anything associated with Russia. On the other hand, anyone can have a bad century. Just ask the Chicago Cubs._______Calling W. F. Buckley, Ronald Reagan, & Dick Nixon: Wherever you are right now, you won.

  5. Anonymous4 months ago

    Isn’t that what Palin said in 2008 and got skewered by dufus / doofus media and the Dems?

  6. Eamon Kelly4 months ago

    This year marks the 100th anniversary of the Bolshevik Revolution and communism’s grip upon the world. It’s been insinuated into the very fabric of western society, very often with disastrous and telling impact, and only now the democrats are seeing the danger?

    1. Eric Zuesse4 months ago

      In 1991, Russia ended communism, the Soviet Union, and its Warsaw Pact military alliance which mirrored America’s NATO alliance, but the U.S. continued its NATO alliance against, this time, Russia itself, and has absorbed all of the Warsaw Pact countries and all of the former USSR except Russia itself, and now stations U.S. nuclear weapons right on Russia’s borders. And you think that Russia is the aggressor?

  7. Anonymous4 months ago

    Russia has an economy the size of Italy. They are a threat to no one.

  8. Elaine McCoy4 months ago

    The greatest threat to the American Republic is internal corruption at the highest levels of political leadership. In both houses of Congress and in the current Presidential administration there exists blatant abuse of power and a base venality that undermine the very fabric of our nation.

    In America, the apparatus of government has been captured by shamelss opportunists beholden to both domestic and foreign corporate overlords. Your survey asks the wrong question pointed in the wrong direction.

    1. Anonymous4 months ago

      Thank you

    2. Anonymous4 months ago

      Well said!