A follow-up to last night’s post on Gallup’s new data, which found Putin’s favorability among Republicans had risen 20 points in just two years. Even so, he remains unpopular — just 32 percent of GOPers gave him a thumbs up (versus 10 percent of Democrats) while Russia’s favorability among the wider American public topped out at 28 percent, below even Saudi Arabia.
What Gallup didn’t show us, though, were differences in how the two parties view Russia. Twenty-eight percent is dismal, but is that because Republicans and Democrats view Russia equally dismally or is it because Democrats strongly disapprove of Moscow after the hacking operations last year while Republicans are lukewarm? The new NBC/SurveyMonkey poll answers that question. At 35/61, NBC’s overall numbers on Russia’s favorability are a bit higher than Gallup’s, but man oh man that partisan divide…
Views of Russia are net positive within the Republican Party. But that’s not the true bombshell result here. This is:
You’ve got net favorability swings of 20+ points steadily across four different Republican generations. Gadzooks. One partial explanation for that is easy: The oldies grew up during the Cold War and learned to hate and fear Russia because of it. As each successive age group grew further removed from it, their opposition to Russia got softer and softer. Still, though — 73/25 among Republicans under the age of 30? There’s got to be more to this than the Cold War. I think there’s much truth here:
I guarantee these results are skewed since people are wise to the fact that questions about Russia are meant to make Trump look bad. https://t.co/XDpW7dKRFj
— neontaster (@neontaster) February 22, 2017
The most depressing view of the polling showing Republican esteem for Russia rising is that GOPers are expressing gratitude to Moscow for having committed a crime against the DNC and John Podesta that benefited their side electorally. And that is, surely, a component of this for some people, sad to say. But for others, questions about Russia may have little to do with hacking or policy and nearly everything to do with perceptions of Trump. The average Trumper, asked how he feels about Russia, might not immediately think of Ukraine or Syria or cyberspying; what he might think is “Trump likes Russia and wants a friendlier relationship with them, and I trust Trump.” Or better still, “The media hates Trump because he’s soft on Russia and I hate the media.” The “Russia” question becomes a “Trump” question. Go figure that the youngest Republicans, who’ve either only known Barack Obama as president or who are just old enough to remember how deeply unpopular George Bush was, are enthusiastic about Trump for having defeated the Democratic juggernaut and are willing to show it even if it means giving a thumbs up to Moscow in polling.
You can see the same thing in reverse in this new Gallup poll on how Americans feel about Mexico:
Republican opinion on Mexico is flat since last year. Among independents it’s up a modest four points. Among Democrats? Up 11 points to 83 percent, easily the highest rating for Mexico within the party in the 15 years that Gallup has been polling on it. Is that because of some major policy shift in Mexico vis-a-vis the United States? Of course not. Just as Republicans are treating questions about Russia as de facto questions about Trump, Democrats are doing the same thing with questions about Mexico. After 18 months of hearing about the wall and mass deportations and Mexico stealing jobs, the left is employing “the enemy of my enemy is my friend” logic in embracing Mexico as a leading Trump enemy. And enemies, as we know, matter a lot in politics.
Whatever the motives here, though, the Republican data is good news for Trump as he reaches out to Moscow. Detente will antagonize Democrats, but if Russia’s already at 50 percent favorability within his own party before any deal has been struck, he’s got something substantial to build on.