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US adults fracture along party lines in support for Ukraine military funding, AP-NORC poll finds

Feb 28, 2024, 9:02 PM

FILE - Firefighters extinguish a fire after a Russian attack on a residential neighborhood in Khark...

FILE - Firefighters extinguish a fire after a Russian attack on a residential neighborhood in Kharkiv, Ukraine Feb. 10, 2024. A new poll from The Associated Press-NORC Center for Public Affairs Research finds that U.S. adults have become fractured along party lines in their support for military aid for Ukraine. (AP Photo/Yevhen Titov, File)
Credit: ASSOCIATED PRESS

(AP Photo/Yevhen Titov, File)

WASHINGTON (AP) — As Russia makes battlefield advances and Ukrainian soldiers run short on ammunition, U.S. adults have become fractured along party lines in their support for sending military aid to Kyiv, according to a new poll from The Associated Press-NORC Center for Public Affairs Research.

Democrats are more likely to say the U.S. government is spending “too little” on funding for Ukraine than they were in November, but most Republicans remain convinced it’s “too much.” That divide is reflected in Congress, where the Democratic-held Senate — with help from 22 GOP senators — passed a $95 billion package of aid for Ukraine, Israel and Taiwan earlier this month. But the bill, which includes roughly $60 billion in military support for Kyiv, has languished in the Republican-held House as Speaker Mike Johnson has so far refused to bring it up for a vote.

President Joe Biden, along with top Democrats and Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell, passionately urged the Republican speaker during a White House meeting this week to take up the foreign aid package, but Johnson responded by saying that Congress “must take care of America’s needs first.”

Most Republicans still share Johnson’s view, and their opinions haven’t changed significantly since the fall: 55% say the U.S. is spending too much on Ukraine aid, compared to 59% in November.

Meanwhile, support for increasing Ukraine aid has grown among Democrats. About 4 in 10 Democrats say the U.S. is spending “too little” on aid to Ukraine in the war against Russia, up from 17% in November. The share of Democrats who say the U.S. is spending “too much” or “about the right amount” has also dropped over the same period.

Chloe Henninger, 24, a Democrat from West Hartford, Connecticut, was among those who said the U.S. is spending too little on aid to Ukraine. She said it was important for the U.S. to show commitment to democracies like Ukraine that are under siege.

“From a humanitarian point of view, there were sovereign borders agreed upon internationally. And then an autocratic power went and invaded a sovereign territory. The U.S., as one of the major military forces in the world, sort of has a duty to respond,” Henninger, who works as a cosmetic chemist, said.

The poll shows that two years after Russia’s initial invasion, the Ukraine war has become a partisan dividing line: Majorities of Democrats think it’s extremely or very important to prevent Russia from seizing more Ukrainian territory, to negotiate a permanent ceasefire between the two countries, help Ukraine regain its land and provide general aid to its military, while less than half of Republicans and Independents agree.

Biden and Democratic leaders in Congress have cast the conflict in Ukraine — the largest land invasion in Europe since World War II — as a potential turning point in history. Failing to repel Russian President Vladimir Putin’s assault, they warn, would have grave consequences, from destabilizing the rest of Europe to emboldening other potential foes such as China and North Korea.

At the same time, Donald Trump, the former president who appears to be marching towards the Republican nomination, has injected serious doubts about America’s involvement in Ukraine and the rest of the world. While McConnell, the top Republican in the Senate, has remained a strong advocate of robust American involvement abroad, Trump has swayed the party towards an isolationist stance, as well as at times heaped admiration on Putin’s strongman style of rule.

“We’re throwing all this taxpayer money to Ukraine and to Israel, and we can’t even take care of our own people,” said Jeffrey Jackson, a 55-year-old Republican from Granbury, Texas. “The U.S. government needs to take care of our own people and then worry about the rest of the world later.”

Jackson also holds deeply unfavorable views of Biden and Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy. And while Jackson said he was not “pro-Putin,” he liked the way Putin has led Russia more than how Biden has led the U.S.

Putin is broadly unpopular among U.S. adults, including Republicans. About 8 in 10 U.S. adults have an unfavorable opinion of Putin, including nearly 9 in 10 Democrats and three-quarters of Republicans. Views of Zelenskyy are more reflective of the divisions over the war itself. About 4 in 10 U.S. adults have a favorable opinion of Zelenskyy, with Democrats having a more positive view than Republicans.

Trump has also cast doubt on whether he would uphold commitments to defend fellow NATO countries if he became president again. Jackson agreed with that sentiment, saying he would like to see NATO dismantled.

However, a majority of U.S. adults – including 52% of Republicans – support the spirit of Article V of the NATO military alliance, that an attack on one NATO country represents an attack on all. Nearly 6 in 10 adults say they would favor the U.S. deploying U.S. troops to defend a U.S. NATO ally if it were attacked by Russian forces.

Still, when it comes to Ukraine, partisan divisions persist even on questions about basic diplomacy. For example, around 4 in 10 Republicans say that negotiating a permanent ceasefire between Russia and Ukraine should be an extremely or very important foreign policy goal for the U.S., compared to about 6 in 10 Democrats. Overall, half of adults say it’s highly important for the U.S. to focus on stopping Russia from gaining more territory in Ukraine.

Six in 10 adults continue to support imposing economic sanctions on Russia. And half favor providing weapons.

Chris Bahr, a 41-year-old from Houston, Texas, who described himself as libertarian politically, said he liked the fact that most of the funding for Ukraine would be spent on U.S.-made weapons. He wanted Congress to approve the aid package “as soon as possible.”

“It helps another allied country defend itself and helps America economically — getting rid of a lot of our older weapons as we’re ordering new stuff,” Bahr said. “I think it would save lives in the long run just to not let Russia become expansionist again.”

___

The poll of 1,161 adults was conducted Feb. 13–18, 2024, using a sample drawn from NORC’s probability-based AmeriSpeak Panel, which is designed to be representative of the U.S. population. The margin of sampling error for all respondents is plus or minus 3.8 percentage points.

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US adults fracture along party lines in support for Ukraine military funding, AP-NORC poll finds