Levada: Russians Continue to View U.S. as Most Hostile, Belarus and China as Friendliest Allies

Vladirmir Putin and Donald Trump Sitting in Chairs with Flags Behind, adapted from image at whitehouse.gov

(Russia Matters – russiamatters.org – RM Staff – Sept. 17, 2020)

The share of Russians with a good or very good attitude toward the U.S. remained steady at 42 percent from January to August 2020, as did the share of Russians who have a bad or very bad attitude toward the U.S. (46 percent), according to the Levada Center’s latest report on the results of its recent opinion polls asking Russians about their attitudes toward other countries. At the same time, the share of Russians who view the U.S. as the most hostile country to Russia declined from 67 percent in 2019 to 60 percent in 2020. Ukraine has consistently polled as the second most hostile country to Russia, with 40 percent of Russians holding that view in 2019 and 35 percent in 2020, according to Russia’s leading independent pollster.

While Russians’ attitudes toward the U.S. have remained largely unchanged since 2019, their attitudes toward the EU worsened somewhat. The shares of Russians who have a good or very good attitude toward the EU decreased from 49 percent in January 2020 to 48 percent in August 2020, while the share of Russians who have a bad or very bad attitude toward the EU increased from 37 percent to 39 percent over the same period. Perhaps the Russia-EU standoff over the protests in Belarus in the wake of Belarus’s presidential elections, which Europeans dismiss as fraudulent, may have played a role. The elections were held Aug. 4-9, while this latest poll was conducted by Levada on Aug. 20-26. Still, in contrast to their attitudes toward the U.S., more Russians like the EU than dislike it. Going forward, however, one could expect that the suspected poisoning of Alexei Navalny on Aug. 20, 2020, could further impact Russians’ attitudes toward the EU and U.S. if these actors do impose sanctions on Russia for the incident.

Belarus has remained Russia’s closest ally in the eyes of Russians since 2006. Interestingly, though, the share of Russians who view this neighboring Slavic republic as the country most friendly to their own declined in 2020 to 58 percent, after peaking at 62 percent in 2019, according to Levada. Belarusian leader Alexander Lukashenko’s pre-election criticism of Russia over oil and mercenaries may have played a role in that decline. At the same time, the share of Russians who think Russia and Belarus should either form a closer alliance or Belarus should become part of Russia increased from 23 percent in December 2019 to 24 percent in August 2020. The majority of Russians, however, continue to believe that Russia and Belarus should more actively develop economic cooperation or keep relations at the current level, according to the poll.

In addition to Belarus, China continues to be favored by Russians. Russians continue to view China as the second most friendly country to Russia, though the share of those who think so declined from 42 percent in 2019 to 40 percent in 2020. The share of Russians who view China as the most hostile country held steady at 3 percent in that period.

Perceptions of Russia, or more specifically its leader, in the U.S. and other Western countries are not very favorable. Ratings for Russian President Vladimir Putin and Chinese President Xi Jinping are negative in more than a dozen Western and Asian countries polled by the Pew Research Center (a median confidence rating of 23 percent and 19 percent respectively), although they are not as negative as those of U.S. President Donald Trump (a median of 16 percent), according to Pew’s latest report. Neither is the U.S. as a whole viewed favorably in these countries. The share of individuals with favorable views of the U.S. declined to 41 percent in the U.K., to 31 percent in France and to 26 percent in Germany this year, according to the report.


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