Poll: Biden not being tough enough on Russia?

Poll: Biden not being tough enough on Russia?
AP Photo/Carolyn Kaster

A new Associated Press/NORC poll came out yesterday that appears to demonstrate the conflicted feelings many Americans have over the question of what the proper U.S. role should be in responding to Vladimir Putin’s invasion of Ukraine. A small majority hold the opinion that Biden is “not tough enough” in responding to Russia’s aggression, while only a tiny fraction think that he’s been “too tough.” But when asked about the various options available to the White House, ranging from the mild to the most extreme, the same respondents who would like to see Biden take a more forceful position don’t seem to have any suggestions of what he should be doing differently. This leaves Biden with a “conundrum,” as the AP puts it, while Russia continues to hold the only solutions available to stop the war.

Many Americans still question whether President Joe Biden is showing enough strength in response to Russia’s war against Ukraine, even as most approve of steps the U.S. is already taking and few want U.S. troops to get involved in the conflict.

A poll by The Associated Press-NORC Center for Public Affairs Research shows 54% of Americans think Biden has been “not tough enough” in his response to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. Thirty-six percent think his approach has been about right, while 8% say he’s been too tough…

The results underscore the conundrum for the White House. As images of Russian attacks on civilians and hospitals are shared around the world, there’s pressure to stop Russian President Vladimir Putin and help millions of Ukrainians under attack in their home country or fleeing for safety. But Biden must also manage the threat of escalation with Putin, who has raised the alert level on using Russia’s nuclear weapons, and prevent the U.S. from getting involved in a much larger conflict.

One way to look at this is to think of the question as yet another “do you approve” poll, and that’s probably what many respondents were hearing when the question was put to them. ‘Do you approve of the way Joe Biden is responding to the Russian invasion?‘ Unfortunately for Joe Biden, things aren’t going well in the United States at the moment and a majority of Americans aren’t going to approve of much of anything he’s doing these days. Perhaps that’s part of the reason for these numbers.

But looking a bit deeper into the results, while a slim majority think Biden should be “doing more,” precisely what additional measures he should be taking (in most people’s opinions) remains a mystery. Only 32% said the United States should play “a major role” in the conflict (whatever that means), while nearly half (49%) say that America should play “a minor role.”

Should Biden be deploying our troops into Ukraine to help fight the Russians? Only 22% think that’s a good idea, while 55% are solidly opposed. Should we be pushing even more sanctions against Russia or do we need to control how much damage the sanctions are doing to our own economy at home? The country seems to be nearly split on that one. 51% favor more sanctions while 45% want to prioritize limiting the economic impacts at home. And pretty much nobody wants to see any nukes going off, either Russia’s or ours.

I kind of have some sympathy for Biden in this situation because he’s definitely facing a “conundrum” as the AP put it. Pretty much everyone wants to see the invasion of Ukraine end and the Russians return home. But our options to apply even more pressure on Putin are rather limited at this point unless we start literally breaking out the big guns. And that could escalate the situation into World War 3. Nobody wants that.

There was plenty to criticize Biden over in the early days of the invasion and I was one of the people doing so here. Biden wound up “leading from behind” by not taking certain economic actions and doing things like closing off airspace to Russian flights until European leaders took the lead and did it first. It definitely felt as if the EU was calling the shots far more than we were. But at this point, all of the western nations seem to be on the same page and are working together to strangle the Russian economy as much as is possible. I suppose we could be more aggressive in sending fighter jets, choppers, and missiles to Zelensky, but that’s really just nibbling around the edges. What else is there really for Biden to do aside from sending in the troops and risking seeing some mushroom clouds on the horizon?

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