The American people’s message to President Biden about Ukraine—get tougher but don’t risk war with Russia (follow-up)

April 3, 2022 - Washington, DC, United States: Woman with a sign saying "President Biden take action now!" at a rally in front of the White House in support of Ukraine. (Photo by Michael Brochstein/Sipa USA)No Use Germany.
Editor's note:

This piece updates a previous post by Bill Galston from April 1st entitled, “The American people’s message to President Biden about Ukraine—get tougher but don’t risk war with Russia.”

Since April 1, two new surveys have come to my attention that focus on Americans’ opinion on Ukraine Policy. While they largely confirm the account of public attitudes that I had previously summarized, they add some important nuance.

Consistent with prior surveys, the Harvard CAPS-Harris poll found that a majority of Americans (52%) think the administration’s response to the Russian invasion has been “too lenient” rather than too harsh (15%) or just about right (33%). By contrast, the poll conducted by Brookings’ Shibley Telhami found a majority saying that the administration has not “underreacted” but rather has responded “at the appropriate level” (51%). As all pollsters know, the public is responsive to even subtle changes of wording, and public opinion remains somewhat unsettled.

Consistent with prior surveys, Telhami’s poll finds a substantial majority of Americans (65%) are opposed to sending U.S. troops into the fight. Harvard CAPS-Harris finds a nearly even split, with 47% prepared to use U.S. troops and 53% opposed. It is possible that public reaction to apparent Russian war crimes will push this balance further. In a shift from prior surveys, both Telhami and Harvard CAPS-Harris find a solid majority favoring US/NATO enforcement of a no-fly zone over portions of Ukraine, despite fears of igniting a direct confrontation with Russia.

Finally, Harvard CAPS-Harris provides information about an option that the sources for my initial blogpost had not investigated—sending military aircraft to Ukraine. An overwhelming 71% favor this step, which may partly explain why so many Americans think the administration can and should do more than it has so far.