The majority of countries polled in a recent 53-nation study hold negative views of Russia following its invasion of Ukraine.
Russia’s invasion of Ukraine has provoked a strong backlash from the United States and countries across Europe, resulting in broad financial sanctions on Russia and extensive support for the Ukrainian military. Key US allies in Asia, including Japan, have also joined that effort. But some commentators have pointed to the large number of nations that, while signing on to UN resolutions, have done little else to punish Russia for its invasion.
The 2022 Democracy Perception Index
So just how widespread is the anti-Russia sentiment around the world? One way to explore this question is through a large, multinational poll—and fortunately, one was conducted this spring. The 2022 Democracy Perception Index (DPI) is the flagship study of the Alliance of Democracies Foundation, a nonprofit founded in 2017 by former NATO head Anders Fogh Rasmussen. Conducted between March 30 and May 10, the DPI survey covered an ambitious 53 countries, with sample sizes mostly around 1,000 respondents per country (Iran is a notable exception here with a sample size of 517). The results were weighted by age, gender, and education.
This survey was conducted online, and like so many online surveys, there are accompanying caveats to the survey sampling and data. The DPI poll was conducted online, with respondents selected through a recruitment process somewhat vaguely described in the report as “open” and “leveraging the reach of over 40,000 third-party apps and mobile websites”—suggesting there may not have been a traditional sampling process involved in all of the countries included in the poll. Moreover, while the DPI’s results in Europe look broadly similar to results of the more standardly conducted European Council on Foreign Relations poll, that’s not the case for Iran. There, DPI results diverge sharply from the findings of the highly respected IranPoll, suggesting the DPI may have trouble conducting research in hard-to-poll countries.
Widespread Negative Views of Russia in Europe, the Americas, and Africa
With those caveats, what does the DPI survey suggest about global views of Russia? The results vary somewhat across the different regions, but overall, negative views of Russia predominate in the countries included in the DPI.
Russia is deeply unpopular across Europe and North America, with no nation’s public in these regions giving Russia a net favorable rating—aside, that is, from Russians themselves. In every other European nation polled, majorities (or pluralities in the case of Hungary and Greece) say they have negative views of Russia. This similarity of opinion across Europe matches the strong and fairly unified European response to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, and their sustained support of Ukraine as the war continues. Americans and Canadians, too, hold deeply negative views of Russia, with less than 10 percent of either public saying they view Russia in a positive light.
Publics in the three sub-Saharan African nations included in the survey also tend to express negative views of Russia. Majorities or pluralities of Kenyans (55%), South Africans (49%), and Nigerians (39%) all say they have an overall negative perception of Russia, with Kenyans the most negative and Nigerians somewhat closer to an even split (39% negative, 30% positive).
In Latin America, too, Russia is widely unpopular. Across the seven nations polled as part of the DPI survey, no country’s public views Russia favorably, with scores ranging from poor (a plurality of 43% negative among Mexicans) to even worse (71% of Brazilians).
No Consensus on Russia in Asia, Middle East, and North Africa
Asian publics, however, express less-uniform opinions than Europeans and both northern and southern Americans. Indeed, some Asian publics hold favorable opinions of Russia. Majorities of Chinese (59%) and Indians (56%), and pluralities of Pakistanis (48%) and Vietnamese (46%), all have largely favorable views of Russia. More narrow pluralities of Malaysians (32%) and Indonesians (28%) also have net-favorable opinions of Moscow.
By contrast, pluralities of Hong Kongers (35%), Filipinos (32%), and Thais (30%) are narrowly on the negative side of the ledger. A plurality of Singaporeans (48%) also view Russia unfavorably today, matching their government’s strong response to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. As a very small nation in the region, Singaporean officials have been clear that they view violations of another country’s territorial integrity as a threat to their own existence.
Those fears may also be on the minds of others around the region, particularly among the publics of key US allies and partners in Asia. In these countries, many of whom have their own concerns about potential territorial revanchism in the region, views are more aligned with the American and European views. Russia is deeply unpopular in Taiwan (57% negative), Australia (67%), Japan (72%), and South Korea (73%).
Opinion among countries in the Middle East and North Africa is also quite divided. The DPI survey finds that a majority of Israelis (52%), half of Iranians (50%), and a plurality of Turks (46%) view Russia in a negative light. At the same time, pluralities of Algerians (42%), Saudis (36%), Egyptians (36%), and Moroccans (30%) all hold narrowly net-positive views of Russia.
A Global Backlash among Publics, Too
As the DPI data demonstrate, the global backlash to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine hasn’t just been a phenomenon of political leaders. Publics around the world, too, view Russia in a negative light, making it less costly politically for leaders in these countries to take part in various mechanisms of disapproval—whether through the United Nations, the European Union, NATO, or other regional arrangements. However, simply holding negative views of Russia does not necessarily mean that the world’s population is ready to sign up to the full range of sanctions imposed by the United States and its G7 allies. Whether publics in these nations are prepared to pay costs themselves in order to impose them on Russia is the task for future surveys to explore.