One year into the war between Ukraine and Russia, most Donald Trump voters now say the United States has given “too much” military aid to Ukraine (51%) and that such aid should “decrease” going forward (54%), according to a new Yahoo News/YouGov poll.
These findings suggest that the broad, bipartisan consensus that has so far defined the U.S. response to the war — that Russian President Vladimir Putin invaded Ukraine without just cause, and that America should do whatever it can to help the Ukrainians fight back — may be eroding ahead of next year’s presidential election.
The survey of 1,516 U.S. adults, which was conducted from Feb. 23 to 27 to coincide with the one-year anniversary of Putin’s invasion, does show that Americans continue to favor the Biden administration’s aggressive pro-Ukraine posture, which has entailed more than $75 billion in humanitarian, financial and military assistance to date.
Currently, just 29% of all Americans, for instance, say the U.S. has given Ukraine too much military aid; far more characterize the level of aid as “not enough” (19%) or “about right” (29%). Likewise, only 30% of Americans think military aid for Ukraine should decrease going forward, while far more say it should either increase (24%) or continue as it is now (25%).
“There should be no doubt: Our support for Ukraine will not waver,” President Biden said after visiting Kyiv last week. “NATO will not be divided. And we will not tire.”
Yet on question after question, the new Yahoo News/YouGov poll also shows that overall public support for Ukraine has declined since last March. For instance:
Last March 75% of Americans said Putin was not justified in sending Russian troops to invade Ukraine; today that number is 70%.
Last March 61% of Americans said the U.S. should be taking Ukraine’s side in the conflict; today that number is 51%. Meanwhile, the share of Americans who say the U.S. should not take a side in the conflict has risen from 23% to 33%.
Finally, less than half of Americans (48%) now say “it’s in America’s best interest to stop Russia and help Ukraine” (down from 54% in March 2022), while 33% choose the alternative, “the conflict is none of America’s business” (up from 22%).
These shifts, however, are being driven primarily by people who voted for Trump in 2020. One year ago a full 60% of Trump voters said the U.S. should side with Ukraine; now just 42% say that. And while most Trump voters (51%) said in March 2022 that it was in America’s best interest to stop Russia and help Ukraine, roughly the same number now say that the conflict is none of America’s business (52%).
Trump himself has been intensifying his criticism of the administration’s approach, most recently surrounding his visit last week to East Palestine, Ohio — the site of the toxic Feb. 3 train derailment. “You have a president going to Ukraine and you have people in Ohio that are in desperate need of help,” Trump said Monday, later adding that he hoped Biden would have “some money left over” for Ohio. Top Fox News host Tucker Carlson has long disparaged Biden’s commitment to Ukraine as well.
It remains to be seen whether growing opposition on the far right will stifle the administration’s efforts to continue aiding Ukraine; the House is now controlled by the GOP, and new Speaker Kevin McCarthy has repeatedly accused Biden (and, by extension, the previous Congress) of writing a “blank check” to Kyiv. Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell is a stalwart backer of the Ukrainian war effort, but that stance has been criticized by some on the right flank of the GOP.
Either way, the Republican Party’s widening internal rift over Ukraine is likely to foster new tensions in the months ahead — tensions that could, in turn, help shape the 2024 GOP presidential primary.
Some of those contradictions are evident in the responses to a series of recent quotations about the war that were presented to poll participants without attribution.
Among Trump voters, the most popular statement, unsurprisingly, was this: “Putin never, ever would have gone into Ukraine if [Trump] were president” (77% mostly agree). The unidentified speaker was Trump himself.
The second most popular statement among Trump voters (53% mostly agree) was this: “It’s not a war about Ukraine; this is about a war on freedom. Because if Russia takes Ukraine, they said Poland and the Baltics are next, and we’re looking at a world war. And if Russia wins, you can bet China’s gonna take Taiwan, Iran’s gonna get the bomb.” The unidentified speaker was former South Carolina Gov. and United Nations Ambassador Nikki Haley, the only major GOP candidate to officially announce that she’s running against Trump in 2024.
The third most popular statement among Trump voters (45% mostly agree) was this: “The fear of Russia going into NATO countries... that has not even come close to happening. I think [Russia has] shown themselves to be a third-rate military power.” The unidentified speaker was Florida’s Republican Gov. Ron DeSantis, who is expected to enter the race later this year.
And the least popular statement among Trump voters (40% mostly agree) was this: “[Ukraine] remind[s] us that freedom is priceless; it’s worth fighting for as long as it takes. And that’s how long [America is] going to be with [Ukraine]: for as long as it takes.” The unidentified speaker was Biden.
In contrast, the only two remarks to elicit majority agreement from Americans overall were the two advocating for continued commitment to Ukraine: Biden’s (53%) and Haley’s (56%).
The Yahoo News survey was conducted by YouGov using a nationally representative sample of 1,516 U.S. adults interviewed online from Feb. 23 to 27, 2023. The sample was weighted according to gender, age, race, education, 2020 election turnout and presidential vote, baseline party identification and current voter registration status. Demographic weighting targets come from the 2019 American Community Survey. Baseline party identification is the respondent’s most recent answer given prior to March 15, 2022, and is weighted to the estimated distribution at that time (32% Democratic, 27% Republican). Respondents were selected from YouGov’s opt-in panel to be representative of all U.S. adults. The margin of error is approximately 2.7%.