In the Thick of It

A blog on the U.S.-Russia relationship

Russians Expect US-Russian Relations to Worsen Under Biden

December 01, 2020
RM Staff

The share of Russians who expect their country’s relations with America to improve under the newly-elected U.S. president declined threefold from 46 percent in 2016 after Donald Trump’s election to 12 percent in 2020 after Joe Biden’s election, according to Russia’s leading independent pollster, the Levada Center. At the same time, while only 10 percent of Russians expected in 2016 that U.S.-Russian relations would deteriorate under Trump, 30 percent of Russians now expect such deterioration during Biden’s presidency. The share of Russians who expect the bilateral relationship to remain the same increased from 29 percent in 2016 to 45 percent in 2020 (table 1).

As for Russians’ current views of the U.S., these views have also become less optimistic since last year. Almost half of Russians had either a very good or mostly good view of America in November 2019 (47 percent). In contrast, about one-third of Russians held such views in November 2020 (35 percent). The same period also saw the share of Russians with a mostly bad or very bad view of the U.S. increase from 41 percent to 51 percent (table 2).

Russians’ lower expectations vis-à-vis Biden in 2020 than vis-à-vis Trump in 2016 are likely partially a function of the negative coverage of the U.S. president-elect by state-controlled TV channels, which almost 50 percent of Russians continue to rely on for news. That the Kremlin’s resident-in-chief Vladimir Putin has no love lost for Biden is clear from the fact that he remains the only leader of a great power who has not yet congratulated the Democratic leader on winning the election. Even China’s Xi Jinping has already done so. In contrast to Biden, both Putin and the TV channels that the Russian state controls directly and indirectly propagated far more benign views of Trump back in 2016.