Tensions have been high between Ukraine and Russia since the latter annexed Crimea and has been flexing military muscle along the countries' shared border. The U.S. has asserted itself in the crisis, and a new Reason-Rupe poll finds that a 40 percent plurality of Americans do not approve of the way President Obama is handling the situation. Thirty-seven percent do approve of his handling. A large number of Americans, 21 percent said they did not know.
Libertarians may take heart that 58 percent of the 1,003 respondents said they do not want America to be involved in the crisis whatsoever–not economic sanctions, not military action. This may be indicative of wariness about adding a new chapter to America's legacy of international entanglements.
Thirty-one percent think the U.S. should continue imposing economic sanctions on Russia, which has been the Obama administration's preferred tactic thus far. There has been debate about the effectiveness of sanctions. The BBC has noted that "sanctions are only partially successful about one-third of the time." Either way, Russia is causing its own economy some suffering: The high price tag of staging an invasion did no favors for the already weak rouble.
Only eight percent of respondents considered sending military troops and assets to be the right course of action for America., seems particularly significant given recent developments. The Navy has already sent one destroyer ship to the Black Sea and Vice President Joe Biden has suggested further military exercises may take place in the Baltic. NATO, of which the U.S. is the largest supplier of both military personnel and funding, sounded the alarm this week that the build-up of 40,000 Russian troops along Ukraine's border could mean an invasion in as little as three days.
Some Republicans have criticized Obama, suggesting that America has to take a harder line lest Vladmir Putin take further action. But, when asked, "If Russia attempts to invade additional parts of Ukraine, would you favor or oppose [sending US troops to Ukraine]?" non-interventionist sentiments remained high. Sixty-two percent of people polled would still be opposed to sending military aid and weapons. Though, when asked a similar question about stricter sanctions, 61 percent said they would approve.
Reason-Rupe also asked people to compare Obama's ability to manage foreign policy to former President George W. Bush's, and responses were mixed. Thirty-five percent believe that Obama is better, 32 percent believe he's worse, and 31 percent say the two presidents are about the same. These numbers reinforce an image that Obama has tried to fight against–that his administration's doctrine is, if not merely extension of his predecessor's, still equally ineffective. However, President Obama fared slightly better in his comparison with President Bush than he did when Reason-Rupe asked the question in September 2013 during the Syria crisis.
Nationwide telephone poll conducted March 26-30 2014 interviewed 1003 adults on both mobile (503) and landline (500) phones, with a margin of error +/- 3.6%. Princeton Survey Research Associates International executed the nationwide Reason-Rupe survey. Columns may not add up to 100% due to rounding. Full poll results, detailed tables, and methodology found here. Sign up for notifications of new releases of the Reason-Rupe poll here.