Americans Overwhelmingly Endorse U.S.-Russia Nuclear Agreement

by Frank Newport

Half call it a major accomplishment

GALLUP NEWS SERVICE

PRINCETON, NJ -- Americans overwhelmingly approve of the arms agreement signed Friday by American President George W. Bush and Russian President Vladimir Putin. The agreement is intended to significantly reduce the nuclear arsenal of both countries over the next 10 years.

A Gallup poll conducted May 20-22, just before the signing of the agreement, shows that more than eight in 10 Americans approve. Only one in 10 Americans disapprove of the plan.

Do you approve or disapprove of the agreement between the United States and Russia to substantially reduce the number of nuclear weapons in each of these countries?

 

Approve

Disapprove

No opinion

2002 May 20-22

82%

11

7



Support for the agreement is generally high among all subgroups of the U.S. population. Conservatives are no less supportive than are moderates and liberals, and Republicans' support is very similar to that of independents and Democrats. Women are slightly less likely to approve of the agreement than are men.

A Major Accomplishment?

How significant does the American public find the agreement? The poll asked the public to indicate whether they felt the pact was a major accomplishment, a minor accomplishment, or not an accomplishment at all. Despite the fact that the arms agreement could significantly lower the potential for the mass destruction of human lives by reducing the number of operational nuclear weapons held by the United States and Russia, just a little over half of Americans say that it constitutes a major accomplishment, while a little more than a third say it is a minor accomplishment. But only nine percent say it is not an accomplishment at all.

If the U.S. and Russia sign the treaty, would you consider this to be a major accomplishment, a minor accomplishment, or not an accomplishment at all?

 


Major accomplishment


Minor accomplishment

Not an accomplishment at all


No
opinion

2002 May 20-22

52%

36

9

3



The achievements of presidential administrations are often viewed less favorably by Americans who identify with the opposite political party. But in this situation, the political or ideological leanings of the respondents in the poll do not significantly affect perceptions of the significance of the nuclear pact. Fifty-five percent of Republicans say it is a major accomplishment, as do 53% of Democrats and 49% of independents.

Putin's Image

Russian President Vladimir Putin has a reasonably positive image among Americans. About four out of 10 Americans do not know enough about Putin to rate him, but of those who do, his favorable to unfavorable ratio is 41% to 18%.

Russian President, Vladimir Putin

 


Favorable


Unfavorable

Never
heard of

No
opinion

2002 May 20-22

41%

18

13

28



We can compare Putin's ratings to those given to previous Russian leaders:

Opinions of Russian/Soviet Leaders

Source: Gallup Polls

Russian/Soviet Leader

Year of Survey

Favorable Opinion

Unfavorable Opinion

Never Heard of/No Opinion

Vladimir Putin

2002

41

18

41

Boris Yeltsin

1998

47

35

18

Boris Yeltsin

1995

31

44

24

Boris Yeltsin

1994

68

18

15

Mikhail Gorbachev

1990

68

21

11

Mikhail Gorbachev

1989

67

15

8

Mikhail Gorbachev

1988

56

30

14

Mikhail Gorbachev

1987

40

38

22

Nikita Khrushchev

1960

2*

91

7

* Krushchev's ratings based on a +5 to –5 scale. In this table, the percent favorable represents the percent scoring Krushchev with a +1 through a +5, and the percent unfavorable represents the percent scoring Krushchev with a –1 through a –5.

As can be seen, other Russian leaders have received favorable ratings at points in the past. Americans were highly favorable in their rating of Boris Yeltsin at one point in 1994, and in their rating of Mikhail Gorbachev in the late 1980s as the Cold War was coming to an end. Putin's ratings are, of course, much different than the almost universally negative ratings given Nikita Khrushchev at the height of the Cold War in October 1960.

Survey Methods

These results are based on telephone interviews with a randomly selected national sample of 1,002 adults, 18 years and older, conducted May 20-22, 2002. For results based on this sample, one can say with 95 percent confidence that the maximum error attributable to sampling and other random effects is plus or minus 3 percentage points. In addition to sampling error, question wording and practical difficulties in conducting surveys can introduce error or bias into the findings of public opinion polls.

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