In the Thick of ItA blog on the U.S.-Russia relationship
Poll: Anti-Western Attitudes Were on Rise in Russia Before Ukraine War
Polling by the independent Moscow-based Levada Center shows that Russians had soured on Western countries by mid-February, prior to the Kremlin’s invasion of Ukraine. Over the preceding three months, as Russian officials’ denunciations of the West continued apace, the share of respondents believing “the U.S. and other NATO countries” to be responsible for heightened tensions in eastern Ukraine had risen to 60%. Anti-Western attitudes track with age: the older the respondents, the more widespread the negative attitudes toward the U.S., EU, Great Britain and Germany; conversely, the highest share of positive attitudes were found among respondents aged 18-24.
The spike in anti-U.S. feelings among Russians came after a gradual improvement in the second half of 2021, according to the Feb. 17-21 Levada poll. In the week before the war, only 31% of respondents held positive views of the U.S., compared to 45% in November; negative views had climbed by 13 percentage points from 42% in November to 55% last month.
A similar reversal took place in Russian attitudes toward the EU, with the distribution of positive and negative views switching from 48% and 38%, respectively, in November to 37% and 48%, respectively, in February.
Attitudes toward Great Britain have fallen precipitously since Levada’s second-to-last poll measuring them in January 2008, but have improved since the last one, in March 2018, when Moscow and London were embroiled in a bitter confrontation over the poisoning of a former Russian double agent and his daughter on British soil. In mid-February, 45% of respondents viewed Great Britain negatively and 37% positively.
Attitudes toward Germany have grown steadily worse since February 2011, when 84% of Russians held positive views of the country. In the most recent poll, only 53% held such attitudes, while 30% said they viewed Germany negatively.