March 10th, 2014
07:36 AM ET
10 months ago

CNN Poll: 59% approve of sanctions against Russia

Washington (CNN) - Slightly more Americans approve than disapprove of how President Barack Obama has so far handled the crisis in Ukraine, but that has not affected the President's overall job approval rating, according to a new national poll.

The CNN/ORC International survey released Monday also indicates that economic sanctions against Russia appears to be the only option that a majority of Americans support that's available to the U.S. to try and end the crisis in the Ukraine.

The poll also suggests that the public is worried about the situation in Ukraine, but not overly concerned. And most say that the U.S. would face only minor problems or no problems at all if Ukraine's autonomous Crimean peninsula becomes a part of Russian territory.

Obama on Ukraine

Forty-eight percent of people questioned in the poll say they approve of how the President has so far handled the Ukraine crisis, with 43% giving Obama a thumbs down and 9% unsure.

According to the poll, 43% of the public approves of how Obama is handling his overall job in the White House and 53% disapproves. Obama's approval/disapproval rating stood at 45%-50% a month ago. The President's current approval rating is slightly higher than where it stood in November and December, when his numbers hovered at or near all-time lows in CNN polling (41%) and many other national surveys.

What should U.S. do?

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Nearly six in 10 of those questioned say they support economic sanctions against Moscow by the U.S. and its allies in an attempt to force Russia to remove its forces from the Crimean peninsula, and try to prevent Russia from sending forces to other parts of Ukraine. Nearly four in 10 oppose economic sanctions. Last week the Obama administration laid the groundwork for sanctions against Russia.

"All demographic groups support economic sanctions except the youngest Americans.  More than six in 10 older Americans support sanctions, but 55% of Americans under the age of 35 oppose them," said CNN Polling Director Keating Holland. "It's possible that generation gap is due to older Americans' memories of the Soviet Union as the chief threat to the U.S.; many younger Americans may have no memory at all of the Cold War and most of those under the age of 25 were not even born when the Soviet Union collapsed."

By a 52%-46% margin, Americans are against economic aid to Ukraine. Nearly six in 10 say no to canceling the G-8 summit meeting between the leaders of Russia, the U.S., and its Western allies. Just over three-quarters oppose sending weapons and other military supplies to Kiev.

"And there's a big 'no' to the U.S. launching either air strikes against Russian troops in the Ukraine or to sending U.S. ground troops to the Ukraine," Holland added. "Only one in eight support sending U.S. ground troops to Ukraine - a pretty good indication that the public would prefer a measured response to a forceful one."

Americans not overly concerned

Philosophically, Americans are not eager to get involved in foreign conflicts.  Only 28% questioned in the poll say that the country's top priority should be making sure that there is peace and stability throughout the world. Nearly seven in ten say the U.S. should emphasize safety and security right here at home.

According to the poll, 42% say they're somewhat concerned about the crisis in Ukraine, but only three in ten say they're very concerned.

"That's roughly the same level of concern that Americans expressed about conflicts in Libya and Syria in past polls," said Holland.

Looking ahead to what may happen next in the region, just 6% say that the U.S. would face a crisis if Crimea becomes part of Russia and only a quarter predict major problems if that happens.  But there is greater concern about Russian escalation, with just over half forecasting a crisis or major problems for the U.S. if Russia sends its forces anywhere else in Ukraine.

The CNN poll was conducted by ORC International from Friday through Sunday, with 801 adults nationwide questioned by telephone. The survey's overall sampling error is plus or minus 3.5 percentage points.

CNN Political Editor Paul Steinhauser contributed to this report

soundoff (142 Responses)
  1. Peach

    Who in their right mind would give a thumbs up to ANYTHING Obama has done from a foreign policy standpoint. The man doesn't even HAVE a foreign policy. He is totally WEAK and that is what PUTIN in depending on.

    March 10, 2014 09:45 am at 9:45 am |
  2. John

    Seems that we would be getting tired of footing the bill so Europeans can yet again skip over any discomfort, but apparently not. Or maybe we've been doing this for so long now that the Europeans and us think it's normal or just the way it's done – a country on the other side of an ocean footing the bill by sanctioning their bully while they continue pat him on the back by continuing to trade with him without so much as hick-up or spending a dime from their own GDP.

    March 10, 2014 09:45 am at 9:45 am |
  3. Andrew

    59% of people haven't thought this thing through. That's what happens when the entirety of our knowledge comes from talking points.

    March 10, 2014 09:46 am at 9:46 am |
  4. Rob

    Yea, maybe they should make it an even match republicans vs democrats when doing these polls.

    March 10, 2014 09:48 am at 9:48 am |
  5. Jay

    Until Russia says, "Hey how ARE you going to get to the International Space Station this month?"
    Until Russia says, "How is that Natural Gas shortage across Europe working out for you?"
    Until Russia says, "Thanks for all the free companies we're going to seize."

    I lived in Sevastopol, Crimea, Ukraine for 5 1/2 years from 2005 to 2010. My wife and I still own our 4 bedroom Apartment there. Ask yourself this, if I lived in Ukraine for 5 1/2 years why is it I learned to speak Russian? Crimea is Russian. In the time I spent in Crimea I met 1 man who spoke only Ukrainian and called himself Ukrainian. Just 1. The currency in Ukraine is Hrivna yet in Crimea they still call it Rubles. The world has no idea what's going on there. The Russians there have prayed for this day and now that it's arrived, they're dancing in the streets. Most are worried about the fact that tourist season is up and coming and how much money they're going to lose but they all know in the next couple of years or so, a Russian owned Crimea will flourish 10 fold than under Kiev's iron thumb. They didn't even teach Russian in my son's school, he was forced to learn Ukrainian and English. Yet he was Russian. The Tatars there are great people. Great food, great Vodka drinkers. Their plight with the Russians is their own long story. They perhaps will lose the most in this. Sevastopol is a great city but it's a Russian city make no mistake about that. 100 years of sanctions won't tear it from Moscow's grip now. Publicly the White House will denounce this event but behind closed doors will still be begging Moscow for support with Iran. That is their biggest mistake in dealing with the Russians. You don't ask for their permission. Ever! You just do it or you look weak to them! I have sat back and laughed at the mistakes Obama's team has made in dealing with Russia. It's comical in ways I can't even put into words.

    March 10, 2014 09:49 am at 9:49 am |
  6. Matt

    Funny how this article name changed from "Most give Obama thumbs up on the way he's handled the Ukraine" to "most approve of sanctions". BTW 59% is not "slightly" more, it's a pretty wide margin in a poll.

    March 10, 2014 09:52 am at 9:52 am |
  7. geno marcello

    Are you kidding????? Who have you polled in this Ukraine story? I live in SpringfieldObam, MO., the heartland of America. Nobody in my neighborhood has been polled on this question of sanctions against Russia because of its troop movement in the Ukraine. NOBODY! So where, please, is CNN getting its information that 48 0ercent of all Americans approve of the way Barack Obama and his Administration are handling the ukraine crisis? This poll sounds false and you are doing America a disservice by publishing it.

    March 10, 2014 09:53 am at 9:53 am |
  8. DC Johnny

    Funny how the polling is about whether or not we approve of the options Obama is employing to handle this crisis, but no questions about whether or not we approve of the weak position Obama put us in to land us in said debacle.

    Our diplomatic and geopolitical demise is one of the most predictable historical phenomena of all time, and you barely see a blip about it in the mainstream media.

    You'll see clips played 24/7 with George Bush saying "read my lips", or Dan Quayle's infamous "potatoe" incident, but almost no funny montages with Obama deriding Romney about his ludicrous Russia theories, or Obama misspelling "respect".

    March 10, 2014 09:58 am at 9:58 am |
  9. john rosen

    Sanctions should be imposed on Obama and his administration

    March 10, 2014 09:58 am at 9:58 am |
  10. The other guy

    Rah Barak! Rah Obama! Rah Rah Barak Obama!

    March 10, 2014 10:02 am at 10:02 am |
  11. emskadittle

    so nobody wants the republican war option?

    March 10, 2014 10:02 am at 10:02 am |
  12. Ctrygrl

    This is interesting and indicative of a very war weary populace. It is disturbing that you have more than 40% of the people who don't particularly care that Russia is trying to annex Ukraine. They do not appear to think the US has any business doing anything about it. It is amazing that young people in particular don't seem to think it is a big deal. This is disturbing.

    March 10, 2014 10:04 am at 10:04 am |
  13. jb1963

    Another poll the right will ignore.

    March 10, 2014 10:04 am at 10:04 am |
  14. Alex McDonald

    Younger Americans don't support sanctions because we know how to use the internet to find out what's really happening around the world, instead of relying on traditional media (which has more spin than news). Fact is, the russian speaking "Ukrainians" of Crimea have faced years of persecution and are fed up.

    March 10, 2014 10:08 am at 10:08 am |
  15. Skeptimist

    Putin thinks the fall of the Soviet Empire is a temporary setback.
    Ethnic Ukrainians remember the Holodomor.
    The happiest Ukrainians probably live in Canada.
    Few, mostly eccentric, Americans know what or where the Ukraine is.
    Among those that do, most think it is emotionally comparable to Texas – everybody is pissed about something.
    The GOP responds with their usual preference for loud noises.
    Democrats like to think they are different but the proof is elusive.

    March 10, 2014 10:17 am at 10:17 am |
  16. JackBriss

    The thumb is up all right. Now who will remove it?
    Talk talk Talk , I am SURE Putin is shaking ( NOT )
    He will continue to take Crimea and NO one will stop him.

    March 10, 2014 10:20 am at 10:20 am |
  17. Neez

    I don't think the people that approved of his response watched the 2012 presidential election debate where Obama mocked Romney for saying Russia was a real threat. Instead insisted the cold war was over, nothing to see here, and terrorists remain our only threat in the world. He was super wrong. The Ukraine incident has been brewing for a while, i've been following it on alternative news sources that focus on lesser than mainstream news. It didn't hit mainstream until clashes ended in loss of life. So the whitehouse was aware of the situation for a while and should have talked about negotiations much sooner before all this, especially because of russia.

    March 10, 2014 10:21 am at 10:21 am |
  18. Moe

    "Slightly more Americans approve than disapprove of how President Barack Obama has so far handled the crisis in Ukraine"
    "Forty-eight percent of people questioned in the poll say they approve of how the President has so far handled the Ukraine crisis"

    WHAT? lol

    March 10, 2014 10:23 am at 10:23 am |
  19. Mark

    All television and radio conservatives: "This president is awful on foreign affairs. That's twice within the last year – Syria and Ukraine – that we had an opportunity to go to war and this president didn't take it. That's why we need to impeach him!"

    March 10, 2014 10:24 am at 10:24 am |
  20. littljohnny

    Obama is doing a great job. I feel comfort in knowing he is at the helm.

    March 10, 2014 10:26 am at 10:26 am |
  21. Grampa

    The President is correct in his response to Putin. I shudder to think where we'd be right now if McCain was in the Oval Office.

    March 10, 2014 10:29 am at 10:29 am |
  22. Eardley Ham Woodbury, MN

    I am not among the 59%. Putin has all the cards and he will do what ever he wants. It may end up in yet another sectarian bloodbath which we nor anyone else can do anything about.

    Our foreign policy has been in the dumper for some time now as has been our credibility with the rest of the world. This administration chose to hand over the State Department to a inexperienced patsy as a sop. The results of that bad decision will be with us for some time.

    March 10, 2014 10:30 am at 10:30 am |
  23. Gurgyl

    Does any one care this Ukraine? I don't think so, first fix LaGuardia airport, JFK, AND POTHOLES etc.

    March 10, 2014 10:31 am at 10:31 am |
  24. hitman

    Obama could not sell girl scout cookies in front of a supermarket!

    March 10, 2014 10:33 am at 10:33 am |
  25. Joe M.

    In other news...73% of Americans didn't know there was a country named Ukraine prior to this episode and 92% couldn't point it out on a map.

    March 10, 2014 10:34 am at 10:34 am |
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