Russian President Vladimir Putin worked hard to get the International Olympic Committee to award this year’s winter games to Russia and then plowed about $51 billion to turn the Black Sea resort of Sochi, with its subtropical climate, into a fitting site. But if the Russian leader hoped to burnish his country’s image, and his own, the effort has fallen short —at least, with the U.S. public.
About six-in-ten (58%) Americans expressed an unfavorable view of Putin compared with 27% who saw him favorably, according to a new Washington Post/ABC News survey.
The poll also found that just half of Americans have a favorable impression of this year’s event while 40% have an unfavorable view. By comparison, 72% of Americans had a favorable view of the 2012 summer Olympics held in London, the survey noted.
A Pew Research Center survey conducted at about the same time as the Post/ABC News poll asked whether Americans thought it had been a mistake to award the games to Russia. The survey found that 44% of Americans thought it was a bad decision compared to 32% who saw it as a good one, with the rest expressing no opinion. Among those who thought it was a bad decision, 62% cited security concerns. (The New York Times showcased a front page story on Wednesday headlined, “An Olympics in the Shadow of a War Zone”).
Russia also had to deal with bad publicity about Russia’s anti-gay policies, although the Pew Research survey found that, among Americans who thought holding the games in Russia was a mistake, only 4% cited that country’s treatment of gays and lesbians.
As for Putin’s standing with Americans, he has presided over a chilly period of relations with the U.S. since his return to the presidency in 2012. A Pew Research survey conducted last Oct. 30-Nov.6 found Russia near the bottom of a list of 12 countries when it came to how Americans viewed them. Just 32% had a favorable view of Russia, putting it just ahead of the least positively viewed country, Saudi Arabia (27%) and about the same as China (33%).