Transatlantic Trends 2014 polled in Russia for the second time (the first was in 2012). This year’s data portray a Russia that is very much in support of its own government’s international policies, and increasingly highly critical of the United States and Europe.
But Russians were also concerned about the state of their economy and about corruption.
Russians strongly opposed U.S. leadership: 81% described it as undesirable, an increase of 17 percentage points since 2012. When asked about the desirability of European leadership in the world, only 25% of Russians (down 12 percentage points from 2012) said they considered it desirable; 62% (up 18 percentage points from 2012) said it was undesirable. There was also a sharp decrease in the number of Russians with a favorable view of the United States. While in 2012, 50% said they had a favorable view, in 2014, only 23% felt this way — and the percentage of Russian respondents with an unfavorable view increased from 41% in 2012 to 72% in 2014.
Although Russian views of the European Union did not decline as much, there was still a steep drop: 64% held a positive view in 2012, while in 2014, only 41% said the same and 52% expressed a negative opinion (a 28 percentage point increase since 2012). Less than one-third considered strong Chinese leadership desirable (28%), while 53% described it as undesirable. However, Russians’ views on China have become more favorable, with 77% reporting a positive opinion — an increase of 14 percentage points since 2012.
When asked about their opinion of U.S. President Barack Obama’s foreign policy, 86% of Russian respondents disapproved — an increase of 38 percentage points since 2012 — while only 7% approved. Russians’ approval of their own government’s handling of international policies rose to an overwhelming 83%, up 12 percentage points from 2012; 12% disapproved, down nine percentage points from 2012.
Russian leadership was seen as strongly undesirable in Europe (68%), and most Americans felt similarly (53%). On both sides of the Atlantic, favorability of Russia continued to deteriorate as well: 68% in Europe said they have an unfavorable opinion — an increase of six percentage points since 2013 — while in the United States, the percentage of respondents expressing a negative view of Russia rose from 59% in 2013 to 71% this year.
THE ECONOMY, THE EU, AND IMMIGRATION
Russians named the economy (29%) and international instability (22%) as the most important problems facing their country at the moment. Fifty percent — down eight percentage points since 2012 — said that they or their families had been affected by the economic crisis; 46%reported that they had not been affected (up eight points since 2012).
Sixty-seven percent of Russian respondents, when asked for the first time about their own government’s handling of immigration, said they approved; 26% disapproved. A plurality of Russian respondents said that there are “a lot but not too many” immigrants (40%), 29% felt that there are “too many,” and 23% answered that there are “not many.” Forty-eight percent said they are worried about immigration from former Soviet states (44% said they were not worried), while only 38% were worried about immigration from outside the former Soviet region.
TRANSATLANTIC SECURITY COOPERATION
Transatlantic Trends asked Russian respondents about their preference for the future of Russia’s relationship with NATO. Forty-seven percent — an increase of 11 percentage points since 2012 — stated that Russia should take a more independent approach, 31% said it should remain about the same, and 15% wanted closer cooperation.
When asked with whom they would prefer to cooperate internationally, Russians expressed varied opinions: 36% would like to work with emerging powers like India and China, 29% would like to work with former Soviet states, 14% would like to work with the European Union, and 10% would like Russia to operate alone. On a few key issues, however, Russians were more open to cooperate with the EU and the United States. Twenty-eight percent preferred to work with the EU and the United States and 15% wanted to cooperate with the EU alone on stability in Syria, while 30% wanted Russia to take an independent approach. Concerning negotiations with Iran regarding its nuclear program, 30% said they wanted to work with the United States and the EU, 29% said Russia should work alone, and 13% wanted to work with the EU alone. However, on the future of Europe’s eastern neighborhood, 19% want to cooperate with the EU and 22% want to work with the EU and the United States —and 36% said Russia should work alone.
Russians held mixed views of their neighbors. Fifty-six percent saw Moldova favorably, 80% felt the same way about Belarus, and 42% said they have a favorable opinion of Georgia, while 46% reported a negative opinion. Sixty-four percent said they held a negative opinion of Ukraine.
Fifty-three percent of Russians wanted to maintain Russia’s influence over Ukraine, even at the risk of increasing conflict with the European Union, while 29% of respondents disagreed.