One of the many surprises of President Elect Donald Trump’s campaign promises occurred early on: an endorsement of friendlier relations with Russia. On this issue, he remained consistent over time, and resulted this morning with an invitation from Russian President Vladimir Putin to restore US-Russia ties. And yet, the Council’s 2016 survey found little difference between core Trump supporters’ dismal views on Russia and those of more traditional Republicans.
In an effort to grasp the public basis for US-Russian disillusionment the 2016 Chicago Council Survey partnered with the Levada Analytical Center in Moscow to ask Americans and Russians how they feel about each other and—more importantly—each other’s government. Unsurprisingly, the Council and Levada found that Americans don’t view Russia favorably and Russians don’t view the US favorably. In both countries, the crisis in Ukraine brought public favorability to lows not seen in the post-Cold War world.
Distrust is a driving force behind these sentiments. Russians believe the real reason the US placed sanctions on Russia was to curtail Russian might. They also fear a disagreement over Syria will result in an armed conflict between the two countries and recognize that the Russian government fears NATO enlargement. Americans similarly suspect Russia is trying to constrain it and that it is working against US interests in the conflict in Syria, the Iran deal, and wider nonproliferation efforts. And yet, like Trump, majorities of all Americans want more cooperation with Russia.
To read more about the chilled American and Russian perceptions, and a few sprinkles of hope for future improved relations, see the Council’s brief here (по-русски здесь) and The Washington Post’s take on the data here.