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Survey Says
Putin Enjoys a Trump Bump in New Gallup Poll

A new Gallup poll on American attitudes toward Vladimir Putin has sent the commentariat into a tizzy. According to the latest data, Putin’s favorability is on the rise, largely thanks to changing Republican views of the Russian President:

Americans see Russian President Vladimir Putin in a better light than two years ago. Twenty-two percent now say they have a favorable opinion of Putin, up from 13% in 2015 and the highest percentage with a favorable view of the Russian leader since 2003. His unfavorable rating is unchanged at 72%, while fewer Americans say they have no opinion of him. […]

A major reason for the overall rise in Putin’s favorable rating this year is Republicans’ more positive views of the Russian leader, from 12% in 2015 to 32% today. […] Independents’ opinions of Putin also have grown more positive in the last two years, but to a lesser extent than Republicans’.

There has already been some handwringing about the significance of the Gallup poll, with alarmist speculation that President Trump is overseeing a disturbing realignment among Republicans in favor of an authoritarian rival of the United States. To be fair, it certainly seems that the Trump effect is driving the trend: Trump’s unusual affinity for the Russian President, and his campaign trail rhetoric about Putin being a stronger leader than Barack Obama, appears to have resonated with the Republican base and even some independents.

Nonetheless, there is good reason to be skeptical that the Gallup poll suggests any lasting ideological realignment. As Alina Polyakova and Peter Kreko wrote this past month, populists leaders’ embrace of Putin, in both Europe and the United States, has hardly caused a widespread shift in underlying voter attitudes toward Russia:

The reality is that the majority of Trump voters (56 percent) still see Russia as an enemy of the United States, and yet these same voters supported a candidate who they believe sees Russia as a friend. In Europe, supporters of populist parties also tend to be rather anti-Russian, yet they too support self-proclaimed allies of Putin. Just as Trump won the presidential election in the U.S. despite his warm views on Russia, European pro-Russian political parties are rising at the same time that voters’ opinions of Russia are falling. Indeed, the great irony of the populist wave sweeping across the Atlantic—represented by the likes of Marine Le Pen in France, UKIP in Great Britain—is that populist leaders’ pro-Russian views do not reflect public opinion or even the attitudes of their supporters.

Despite the uptick in goodwill toward Putin, that dynamic still largely holds true. According to the new Gallup poll, only 28 percent of Americans view Russia favorably, while Putin’s unfavorability rating remains notably unchanged at 72 percent. And the long-term trend since 2003 has been a steady rise in negative attitudes toward Putin:

Seen in this context, Putin’s Trump bump looks likely to be a momentary partisan reaction, not a long-term embrace of Putinism. And if Trump’s efforts to repair ties with Russia remain as beset by difficulties as the early signs suggest, Putin’s American approval numbers could come falling down once more.

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  • Disappeared4x

    “…Q: Can the United States rely on Russia in the war on radical Islamic terrorism? A: If it were a matter of life or death, I would always
    choose to have Russia on my side, rather than a Western ally, such as France. When Russians wage a war, they do it to win, not to satisfy lawyers by following every rule specifying acceptable ways of killing the enemy. …”

  • Pait

    At some point Republicans will admit that their anti-communism, and opposition to dictatorships, rather than being based on any love of liberty, was just an electoral campaign tactic, similar to their term limits campaign (anyone remembers that?), or defense of balanced budgets (that one I’m sure no one remembers).

    • Jim__L

      Go to sleep again, Pait. The only place the nonsense in your head will ever be fulfilled is in your dreams.

      Or better yet, read some William F. Buckley, for an eloquent statement of the Conservative basis for anti-communism.

      • Pait

        I have edited the comment to clarify that my statement only applies demonstrably to the last 20 years or so.

        • Jim__L

          I hate to be the one to break it to you Pait, but the TEA Party won most of the states of the Union. It wasn’t (as you might think) some kind of bad dream. It didn’t fade into irrelevance like Occupy did. It’s still with us, even under all the Trumpian noise.

          • Pait

            I know the result of the election. You don’t need to repeat it the way the so-called president does. It may bring masturbatory satisfaction but it is a sterile activity, intellectually speaking.

          • Jim__L

            Actually, I don’t consider Trump to be particularly true to the TEA Party. Fortunately, (and here, I think everyone on the Left needs to be reminded of this) we live in a country where there are multiple levels of government, that are far closer and more responsive to local and individual interests which, Constitutionally, have powers that are specifically denied the Federal government… we don’t just have some kind of omnipotent President.

            Those levels of government are far more likely to be run by TEA Partiers than by Occupiers. That certainly makes me happy.

            Honestly Pait, it should make you happy too. You’re likely (though not as likely as I) to be able to find a state or municipality where your politics are in the driver’s seat, even with Trump as president.

            Learn to love the ninth and tenth amendments of the Constitution, and learn to deprecate penumbras and the Commerce Clause. You’ll be a happier person. =)

          • Andrew Allison

            It’s getting increasingly difficult (and I suspect will be much more so after the 2018 election) to find a State where he can find sanctuary, although there do remain a (soon-to-be-bankrupt) municipality or two [grin]. Maybe we could arrange a house swap to get one of us out of CA.

          • Andrew Allison

            I derive almost masturbatory satisfaction from the fact that, ex. CA, Trump won the popular vote and the GOP controls two-thirds of the States. With a bit of luck CA will secede, giving the GOP unassailable majorities in both houses. The pain which you obviously feel from the fact that Trump is the legitimately elected President gives me almost as much pleasure.

          • Tom

            That is far more information than anybody needed.

    • Tom

      So, is now a bad time to remind you of 2012’s “The 1980s called, they want their foreign policy back”?
      Or the “greater flexibility” and “reset button”?

  • Jim__L

    Honestly, Putin now has diplomatic cover to stomp on people (like terrorists) the American people don’t like. People we do like, less so.

  • Andrew Allison

    Good Grief! Just how how delusional can you get. A far more likely explanation for the bump is that there’s a pragmatist in the White House who recognizes that sanctions are achieving nothing and wants to work with, rather than against, somebody who has demonstrated the ability to cause a lot of mischief.

  • FriendlyGoat

    You could probably find 32% of Republicans who would tell you their main reason for supporting Donald Trump was their opposition to same-sex marriage and LGBT rights in general. Those same 32% would no doubt tell you they like Vladimir Putin for the same reason. If you check around, you will find that some people (more than you think) believe Putin is some sort of protector of Christianity by making Russia unfriendly to gays. That is probably all that is driving these poll bumps.

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