by Mitch Kokai
Senior Political Analyst, John Locke Foundation
Americans are deeply unsettled by Russian President Vladimir Putin’s decision to invade neighboring Ukraine, a just-released I&I/TIPP Poll shows. The March public opinion survey shows Americans fear a widening of the conflict could lead to the involvement of U.S. troops and even the use of nuclear weapons by Putin’s Russia.
President Joe Biden’s White House and its supporters in Congress are telling a story of America boldly stepping up to lead Europe in its response to the threat of an aggressive Russia. It’s been repeated by some in the mainstream media.
But a solid majority of Americans are focused on something very different: They worry that a desperate Putin might resort to nuclear weapons.
Those responding to the poll who were following the Russia-Ukraine situation were asked the following: “(Russian) President Putin has placed his nuclear weapons on high alert. How likely do you think he will use nuclear weapons in the current conflict?”
The answer: A shocking 56% said it was “likely,” with 21% saying it was “very likely” and 35% saying “somewhat likely.” Just 31% said it was “not likely.”
Respondents who followed the Russia-Ukraine situation were also asked to what extent they agreed or disagreed with the following statement: “The disorderly withdrawal of the U.S. troops from Afghanistan emboldened Russia to invade Ukraine.”
The response shows the White House has an uphill battle in its public relations campaign: 56% said they either agree “strongly” (30%) or “somewhat” (26%) that the botched departure from Afghanistan encouraged Putin to move against Ukraine. Only 32% disagreed with that statement.
Meanwhile, 78% of those who were following the Russia-Ukraine situation agreed “the situation in Ukraine will develop into a larger regional conflict that could lead to the U.S. military getting involved.” Only 14% said they disagreed with that statement, while 9% were “unsure.”
Strikingly, there was largely bipartisan agreement on this, with more than 70% of Democrats, Republicans, and independents agreeing.