As host nation Russia dominates the world stage at the Winter Olympics in Sochi, Americans clearly do not think highly of the country or its president, Vladimir Putin. Putin and Russia score the highest unfavorable ratings — 63% and 60%, respectively — that Gallup has recorded for them in the past two decades.
These sentiments, based on a survey conducted Feb. 6-9, continue the downward trajectory in Americans’ opinions since Putin returned to Russia’s presidency in 2012. These results align with Gallup’s findings last fall when Americans, for the first time in 14 years of Gallup polling on the topic, said they consider Russia an enemy, not an ally. In the past year, Russia has faced scrutiny for granting former National Security Agency contractor Edward Snowden asylum, involving itself in the Syrian civil war, and restricting gay and lesbian civil rights. The threat of terrorism at the Olympics and the allegedly substandard conditions at the Winter Games have also been big media stories in the past several months.
Not surprisingly, Americans’ views of Russia and Putin are parallel, perhaps because Putin and Russia have become synonymous. More than six in 10 Americans currently have an unfavorable opinion of Putin, the highest negative rating in the four times Gallup has asked about him since he became president for the first time in 1999.
Gallup first asked Americans about Russia in 1994, more than two years after the Soviet Union’s collapse. Since then, Americans have expressed the most positive views in 2002, with 66% rating the country favorably.