U.S. Voter Unity on Ukraine Recedes as Invasion Hits Half-Year Mark
39% of the electorate is “very” concerned about Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, down 20 percentage points since March, with voters now more likely to say they are “somewhat” concerned.
In recent months, voters have become increasingly divided over whether the U.S. government has a responsibility to defend and protect Ukraine from Russia.
Republican voters are now more likely to say that “too much” is being done to halt Russia’s invasion of Ukraine than they are to say that “not enough” is being done.
As Russia’s invasion of Ukraine reaches the six-month mark today, Morning Consult tracking shows that the early widespread and bipartisan backing in the United States for supporting Ukraine is cracking, with voters growing less concerned about the war and also more divided over whether their government has a responsibility to defend Kyiv from Moscow.
The shift has largely been driven by attrition among Republicans and independents, the data shows, but support on crucial issues has also waned among Democrats. However, it’s the faltering support for Kyiv among GOP voters that may prove the most significant development as midterm elections approach.
Voter concern about Ukraine’s situation weakens
Overall, American voters of all stripes have become less concerned about Russia’s invasion of Ukraine since the first tanks rolled across the border on Feb. 24, with Morning Consult’s Russia-Ukraine Crisis Tracker showing a record 90% of the American electorate said they were concerned about the conflict in mid-March.
That number has since fallen 9 points to 81% in the latest survey. While that’s still a relatively high level of concern, it’s the changing intensity of that concern that has been more telling.
Declining Share of Americans Say They’re “Very” Concerned About Russia’s War
A majority of American voters consistently said they were “very” concerned about the conflict until late May — peaking at 59% in March — but that number has been slipping for months. Early last month, it was overtaken by the share who are only “somewhat” concerned about the conflict, which has been the most commonly held sentiment since. In the latest survey, 39% of all voters were very concerned about the invasion.
Among Republican voters, the change has been even more stark: 30% in the Aug. 19-21 survey were very concerned by Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, compared to 45% who reported being somewhat concerned — a dramatic turnaround from the weeks following the invasion, when a slim majority were very concerned. Still, the share of Democrats expressing the highest level of concern has also softened, falling from a high of 67% in mid-March to 51% in the latest survey.
Fewer Americans see Ukraine’s defense as Washington’s responsibility
The dampening concern has been matched by an uptick in disagreement over the United States’ obligation to Ukraine.
Until recently, the lion’s share of voters said the U.S. government had a responsibility to defend and protect Ukraine from Russia. Across 25 separate weekly surveys, that position held the top spot, even as the share who said no such responsibility exists gained ground. In the Aug. 13-14 survey, the two positions hit parity among U.S. voters at 41% each.
Voters Evenly Split on Whether U.S. Is Responsible for Protecting Ukraine
The trend was again driven by shifting sentiment among Republicans, with at least 50% of Democrats holding that such a responsibility exists in all 27 surveys since the invasion began.
Although 44% of GOP voters saw such a responsibility toward Ukraine in early May, the figure fell to as low as 31% earlier this month before ticking back up to 35%. Meanwhile, 49% of Republicans in the latest survey said the U.S. has no such responsibility, up from 36% in March. Independent voters are 7 points more likely to see no responsibility to Ukraine; in April, they were 15 points more likely to say the opposite.
Shifting GOP sentiment is translating into policy views
When asked about U.S. commitments to Ukraine since the Feb. 24 invasion, the trend has been mostly stable among Democrats and independents, who are far more likely to contend that the U.S. government is doing either “the right amount” or “not enough” to help than to say Washington is doing “too much.”
But among Republicans, response to the issue has proven a bit more muddled.
More Republicans Have Become Resistant to Sending Aid to Ukraine
As prominent Republican leaders such as Sen. Josh Hawley of Missouri and Senate candidate J.D. Vance of Ohio have repeatedly questioned the U.S. role in Ukraine — and as Fox News host Tucker Carlson has alternated between saying he doesn’t care about what happens in Ukraine and arguing that it’s linked to a Democratic Party vendetta over the 2016 presidential election — GOP voters have wrestled with their views on the war.
After a tussle between May and July — with the “too much,” “the right amount” and “not enough” shares almost hitting parity in mid-June — Republican voters who are skeptical of more support for Ukraine have hit their strides: The share of GOP voters who said the United States is doing “too much” has more than doubled from 13% to 29% since March, while the share who said “not enough” dropped from 36% to 22%.
That does not bode well for continued U.S. support for Ukraine if November’s midterm elections live up to historical precedent.
Future American support for Ukraine
The U.S. president’s party typically takes a beating in midterm elections, and with Democrats holding onto threadbare majorities in both chambers, Republicans have a fighting chance of retaking Congress this year. Looking to 2023, the changing sands within the GOP could unwind bipartisan U.S. support for Ukraine in its fight against the Russian invasion.
Already, a sizable — and growing — chunk of the Republican Party’s congressional delegation has opposed sending aid to Ukraine, including 57 House members and 11 senators who voted against the $40 billion package passed by Congress on May 10. By comparison, just 15 House GOP members voted against a March bill banning imports of Russian oil.
Some Republicans, such as Rep. Matt Gaetz of Florida, have called for an end to monetary aid for Ukraine, and the once-bipartisan U.S. support for Ukraine could suddenly turn divisive ahead of the 2024 election cycle if the GOP takes the House, with pressure mounting within the party to stop helping Kyiv.
Some party leaders, such as Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky, have publicly pledged continued U.S. support for Ukraine — and even visited the country. But that has also put a target on their backs: Fox’s Carlson, for instance, used his prime-time monologue in May to call for a “sincere billionaire” in the Republican Party to bankroll a campaign of primary challenges against “every single of those Republican senators standing by Mitch McConnell” in backing the $40 billion package.