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Airliner Shootdown? U.S. Voters Think Russia Did It

Monday, July 21, 2014

U.S. voters are overwhelmingly convinced that Russia had a hand in the shootdown of a Malaysia Airlines passenger jet over Ukraine, but they also strongly believe any punishment should be a multinational one and not come from just the United States alone.

The latest Rasmussen Reports national telephone survey finds that 81% of Likely U.S. Voters believe it is at least somewhat likely that Russia was involved in some way in the shooting down of Malaysia Airlines Flight 17 last Thursday, with 57% who consider it Very Likely. Just seven percent (7%) think it’s not very or Not At All Likely that Russia was involved, but another 13% are not sure. (To see survey question wording, click here.)

Perhaps even more disturbing is that 50% believe the shootdown of the airliner and the death of all 298 people aboard was deliberate. Only 22% think it was an accident. Slightly more (28%) are not sure.

But just 18% of voters believe the better course to follow is further punitive action against Russia by the United States alone. Seventy-three percent (73%) think a multinational response through the United Nations or NATO would be the better course of action if it is determined that Russia was involved.

Sixty-four percent (64%) think it is likely that we will find out who shot down the airliner with a surface-to-air missile, including 28% say it is Very Likely. Thirty percent (30%) feel we are unlikely to ever know who fired the surface-to-air missile, but that includes only eight percent (8%) who say it is Not At All Likely.

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The survey of 1,000 Likely Voters was conducted on July 19-20, 2014 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.

Most voters have resisted U.S. involvement in Ukraine’s civil war right from the start and have viewed Russia as the real national security concern for the United States in that region.

But few voters believe that U.S.-led economic sanctions against Russia will cause it to change its aggressive behavior in Ukraine. 

Most voters across all demographic categories strongly suspect that Russia was involved in the airliner shootdown. This survey was taken the night before and the night after Secretary of State John Kerry on television detailed evidence obtained by the United States that indicates Russia supplied anti-Ukraine rebels with the missile that shot down the plane and have since tried to hide the missile launcher.

Republicans (28%) are stronger advocates of the United States going it alone to punish Russia than Democrats (9%) and voters not affiliated with either major party (18%) are. Democrats believe more strongly than the others that the shootdown was an accident.

However, even voters who believe the shootdown was a deliberate act feel strongly that an international response against Russia is the better course to follow.

There’s a lot of interest in the shootdown story. Eighty-six percent (86%) of voters say they have been following recent news reports about the airliner crash in Ukraine, with 51% who have been following Very Closely.

Voters have a more favorable opinion of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization these days, and most support continued U.S. participation in NATO

Following the disappearance of another Malaysia Airlines passenger jet earlier this year, 60% of Americans said air travel can never be made completely safe against terrorist incidents.

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

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