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Does Praise from Putin Help or Hurt Trump?

Tuesday, December 22, 2015

Most U.S. voters still don’t care too much for Russian President Vladimir Putin but don’t think his recent praise of Donald Trump will hurt the latter’s bid for the presidency. At the same time, voters agree with Trump that the deteriorating relationship between the United States and Russia is not good for America.

The latest Rasmussen Reports national telephone survey finds that only 24% of Likely U.S. Voters believe Putin’s praise for Trump will hurt the billionaire developer’s candidacy, while 13% think it will help Trump instead. Most voters (53%) say the Russian leader’s positive comments about the Republican presidential hopeful will have no impact. Ten percent (10%) are undecided. (To see survey question wording, click here.)

Among Republican voters, 60% say Putin’s praise of Trump will have no impact. Eighteen percent (18%) think it will hurt his candidacy, but nearly as many (14%) believe it will help.

Just 13% of all voters feel that the United States’ worsening relationship with Russia is good for this country. Fifty-five percent (55%) believe the worsening of relations between the United States and Russia is bad for America. Twenty-one percent (21%) think it will have no impact, while 11% are not sure.

These attitudes are virtually unchanged from early June when President Obama and then-leading GOP presidential contender Jeb Bush were pushing for tougher sanctions against Russia over the continuing political unrest in Ukraine.

However, voters here have long shared a negative view of Putin. Only 15% view Russia’s authoritarian leader even somewhat favorably, with four percent (4%) who regard him Very Favorably. Seventy-two percent (72%) have an unfavorable opinion of Putin, including 41% with a Very Unfavorable one. Fourteen percent (14%) are undecided.

This is actually a slightly more favorable view of Putin than voters had in May when 53% viewed him Very Unfavorably. Overall negative opinions of Putin were at 52% in September 2011  when he announced he would seek the Russian presidency a third time. That finding rose to 61% in 2012 and climbed to 72% in August 2013 in the midst of tensions over the Syrian crisis.

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The national survey of 1,000 Likely Voters was conducted on December 20-21, 2015 by Rasmussen Reports. The margin of sampling error is +/- 3 percentage points with a 95% level of confidence. Field work for all Rasmussen Reports surveys is conducted by Pulse Opinion Research, LLC. See methodology.

Trump still holds the lead in Rasmussen Reports’ latest look at the race for the Republican presidential nomination following last week’s debate. His voters also are by far the least likely to say they’re going to change their minds.

Putin’s comments prompted the latest media controversy that would have hurt major candidates in the past but doesn’t seem to bother Trump or his supporters. Following the terrorist mass shooting in San Bernardino, California, Trump was strongly criticized by Obama, Hillary Clinton and most of his GOP opponents for calling for a temporary ban on Muslim immigration until the federal government improves its ability to screen out potential terrorists from coming here. But 66% of Republicans – and a plurality of all voters – think Trump’s ban is a good idea

Women are more likely than men to think Putin’s praise will hurt Trump’s White House bid, but voters of all ages tend to think it will have no impact.

Fifty-six percent (56%) of voters not affiliated with either of the major political parties see Putin’s comments as having no impact on Trump’s candidacy, and even a plurality (45%) of Democrats agrees.

Most voters across the partisan spectrum don’t like Putin, but they also are in general agreement that the worsening of U.S.-Russian relations is not good for America.

This perhaps helps explain why even most voters who view Putin unfavorably agree that his praise of Trump will have no impact on the latter’s candidacy.

Voters have been cool to U.S. involvement in Ukraine since the political crisis there escalated two years ago and have consistently questioned the effectiveness of the economic sanctions by the United States and Europe aimed at stopping Russia from aiding separatists in Ukraine. 

As the international effort to eliminate the radical Islamic State group (ISIS) intensifies, voters here are less skeptical of Russia’s involvement in that coalition despite the Obama administration’s criticism of the Russian efforts. 

Some lawmakers and several of the Republican presidential contenders have proposed that the U.S. military establish a no-fly zone in Syria to protect civilians in that civil war-torn country, and voters tend to think that’s a good idea. But 67% are concerned that a U.S.-imposed no fly zone will bring the United States into direct military conflict with Russia

U.S. relations with Russia have been tense over the past few years, and voters are concerned that we may be returning to a 1950s-like Cold War relationship with the former Soviet Union.  Trump has said that he wants to lessen those tensions and believes Putin is a world leader that he can work with.

Additional information from this survey and a full demographic breakdown are available to Platinum Members only.

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