Amid Russia-Ukraine war, 70% of Americans see Russia as an enemy - Pew

An overwhelming majority of Americans (92%) have unfavorable views of Russia. * Republicans and Democrats are largely in agreement.

 People take part in a protest against Russia's invasion of Ukraine, outside the Russian Mission to the United Nations in New York City, US, February 24, 2022.  (photo credit: JEENAH MOON/REUTERS)
People take part in a protest against Russia's invasion of Ukraine, outside the Russian Mission to the United Nations in New York City, US, February 24, 2022.
(photo credit: JEENAH MOON/REUTERS)

The ongoing Russian invasion of Ukraine has caused a major shift in overall US public opinion towards Moscow, with a wide majority (70%) of Americans now seeing Russia as an enemy, according to a new Pew Research study.

This is a dramatic increase from opinions at the start of 2022, when only 41% of Americans thought of Russia as an enemy of the US. 

Not only do most Americans think of Russia as an enemy, but an overwhelming majority of Americans (92%) also have unfavorable views of Russia, with 69% expressing very unfavorable views – a 28 percentage point increase from 2020.

Party lines

The views on Russia are divided by party lines to a very small extent, with both a majority of Democrats (72%) and Republicans (69%) alike sharing the same negative view of Russia.

 SINCE 2012 Putin has remained president and recently enacted a law that guarantees his position until 2036.  (credit: Sputnik/Kremlin/Reuters) SINCE 2012 Putin has remained president and recently enacted a law that guarantees his position until 2036. (credit: Sputnik/Kremlin/Reuters)

Ehen asked on the threat posed by Moscow, a majority of both Democrats and Democrat-leaning independents (66%) and Republicans and Republican-leaning independents (61%) agreed Russia was a major threat to the US. In 2020, only 48% of Republicans thought so, alongside 68% of Democrats.

Overall, Republicans have changed more drastically than Democrats regarding their view of Russia. Currently, 67% of Republicans have very unfavorable views of Russia, but in 2020 that number was just under a third (32%).

Interestingly, from 2018-2016, and most notably following the Russian annexation of Crimea, Republicans were more concerned than Democrats regarding Russia, though this partisan divide has flipped, widened and subsequently shrunk over the years.

How many US adults have positive views regarding Russia?

According to Pew, just 7% do, and just 6% have any confidence in Russian President Vladimir Putin.

Regarding Ukraine's President Volodymyr Zelensky, however, a majority of Americans (72%) expressed confidence.

Another major change in the US public's view of Russia is that, while views of Russia have never been particularly positive (indeed, the share of Americans who thought Russia isn't a threat at all to US interests has never exceeded 10%, according to Pew), they weren't seen as an enemy as much as a competitor. Just two months ago, according to Pew, 49% of Americans thought of Russia as a competitor while 41% thought of them as an enemy and 7% called them a partner.

The numbers now are very different, with 70% viewing Russia as an enemy, 24% viewing them as a competitor and just 3% as a partner.

Who in the US feels Russia is a threat?

The negative views of Russia among the US public span all demographics to an extent. However, the demographics most likely to view Russia as an enemy are older Americans aged 65 and up (83%) and educated Americans (77% for postgraduates, 74% for graduates, 68% with some college education and 66% with high school eduction or less).

How do Americans view NATO?

As NATO is playing a major role in the background and ongoing discourse surrounding the Russian invasion of Ukraine, interest is also directed at the views the American public has regarding it.

According to Pew, the general view is overall positive, jumping in the latest survey to 67% favorable compared to 60% in 2020 and 2021.

Before 2020, however, these numbers were more mixed, even dipping to just 49% support in 2013 and 2015.

Party lines also play a role here, but unlike with Russia, the partisan division is much more pronounced.

A large majority (78%) of Democrats see NATO in a positive light while just over half (55%) of Republicans feel the same, though the number of Republicans who do so has increased since 2021.

Demographically speaking, though positive views of NATO tend to be seen across the board, Americans aged 65 and up (73%) are more likely to view NATO positively than Americans aged 18-29 (64%). Again, those with higher education also hold more favorable views of NATO (80% of postgraduates, 73% of college graduates, 64% of those with some college education).

Overall, most Americans (69%) believe the US benefits from being a member of NATO.