Publics Worldwide Unfavorable Toward Putin, Russia

Few people around the world trust Russian President Vladimir Putin to do the right thing when it comes to international affairs, according to a new Pew Research Center report examining survey data from 37 countries. Doubts about Putin’s handling of foreign policy, however, do not necessarily coincide with perceptions of Russia as a security risk.

Across the countries surveyed, a median of 31% describe Russia’s power and influence as a major threat to their country – identical to the median percentage who say the same about China, and similar to the median share (35%) that sees America’s power and influence as a large threat.

On balance, Russia’s international image is more negative than positive. Critical opinions of Russia are particularly widespread in the United States and Europe, while views are more mixed in the Asia-Pacific region, the Middle East, sub-Saharan Africa and Latin America. In only three countries surveyed do majorities express a favorable opinion of Russia: Vietnam (83%), Greece (64%) and the Philippines (55%).

A global median of roughly one-in-four (26%), meanwhile, say they have confidence in the Russian president. (For data comparing Putin’s image with that of U.S. President Donald Trump, German Chancellor Angela Merkel and Chinese President Xi Jinping, see “U.S. Image Suffers as Publics Around World Question Trump’s Leadership.”)

Many people doubt the Russian government’s commitment to civil liberties. Globally, a median of 30% say Russia respects the rights of its citizens, compared with 46% who disagree and 17% who do not offer an opinion. Skepticism about the protection of personal freedoms in Russia is widespread in the U.S. and Europe. Views are mixed across the Asia-Pacific region, the Middle East and Latin America, while publics in sub-Saharan Africa are more convinced than not that the Russian government safeguards individual liberties at home.

These are among the major findings from a Pew Research Center survey conducted among 40,951 respondents in 37 countries outside of Russia from Feb. 16 to May 8, 2017. (For data on views within Russia, see “Russians Remain Confident in Putin’s Global Leadership.”) Additional key findings in the report include:

Russia’s public image: Opinions of Russia are more unfavorable than favorable in 19 of the 37 nations outside Russia that were surveyed. A median of just 34% view Russia in a positive light overall, while 40% view the country negatively. This reflects a slight improvement of Russia’s global image: In 2015, a global median of 51% viewed Russia negatively.

Partisan divides in the U.S.: Today, only 13% of Democrats express confidence in Putin, compared with about a third (34%) of Republicans. In 2015, there was almost no partisan gap: 20% of self-identified Democrats were confident in the Russian leader, compared with 17% of Republicans.

Russian and American opinions of each other: American and Russian views of one another have become less harsh since turning intensely negative in the wake of Russia’s annexation of Crimea and the imposition of Western sanctions on Russia. Today, roughly four-in-ten Russians (41%) feel favorably toward the United States, compared with just 15% in 2015. Views in the U.S. toward Russia have eased less: 22% of Americans felt favorably toward Russia in 2015, compared with 29% today.

The findings are for immediate release and available at http://www.pewglobal.org/2017/08/16/publics-worldwide-unfavorable-toward-putin-russia

In addition to the report, the Center has updated its Global Indicators database with results from its 2017 survey, which enables users to examine data trends on the public image of Russia, China, the United States and other topics. The database is available at http://www.pewglobal.org/database/

For more information, to request graphics from the report, or to arrange an interview with this study’s lead author, Senior Researcher Margaret Vice, please contact Stefan Cornibert at 202.419.4372 or scornibert@pewresearch.org.

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