Many Republicans personally trust or admire Putin. Seventy-five percent of Democrats agree that he “poses a threat to the United States,” but only 60 percent of Republicans do. Twenty percent of Republicans and Republican leaners, compared to 12 percent of Democrats and Democratic leaners, are confident that he’ll “do the right thing regarding world affairs.” More than 60 percent of Democrats view Putin very unfavorably, but only 30 percent to 40 percent of Republicans do. In two polls taken this week—one by Morning Consult for Politico, the other by YouGov for the Economist—Putin has a better net favorable rating among Republicans than Biden does, by margins of 16 and 22 points, respectively.
These soft attitudes weaken Biden’s hand. They indicate to the Kremlin that when Biden threatens to use force or impose sanctions, Republicans won’t back him. Last year, in a Chicago Council poll, most Democrats endorsed the use of American troops to defend our Baltic allies from Russian invasion, but most Republicans didn’t. In April, when an Economist/YouGov survey asked about new sanctions the U.S. imposed on Russia over hacking allegations, three-quarters of Democrats supported the sanctions, but fewer than half of Republicans did.
Trump has also turned Republicans against NATO. At the outset of his presidency, Republicans viewed NATO more favorably than unfavorably. Within a year, his propaganda against the alliance and its member states had reversed that. In 2017, Republicans opposed withdrawal from NATO by a ratio of more than two to one; a year later, on the same question, they were evenly divided.