At the same time, President Vladimir Putin’s approval rating in an independent Russian poll has reached 80 percent, a grade that would provoke envy in any Western capital.
The new Associated Press-GfK poll gave Obama an overall approval rating of 41 percent and disapproval rating of 59 percent – the highest disapproval the poll has measured for the president in recent years.
The poll found declining approval rates in several areas, including Obama’s handling of the economy (39 percent approval), immigration (38 percent) and education (44 percent).
But approval of Obama’s handling of “relationships with other countries” has dropped the most sharply since the last poll in January, from 49 to 40 points. Over that same period the disapproval rating for his handling of foreign policy has risen by 10 points, to 58 percent.
In response to Russia’s annexation of Ukraine’s Crimea region the U.S. has imposed visa bans and asset freezes on senior Russian figures and sanctions against a key bank, while putting in place authorities for further measures against sectors of the economy, to be put in place should Russian forces move into other parts of Ukraine.
Forty-five percent of respondents said the steps taken thus far were “about right,” 41 percent said they were “not strong enough” and 10 percent said they were “too strong.”
The survey also sought respondents’ views on what further steps the U.S. should take, and found most support – 47 percent in favor, 14 percent opposed – for “expanding sanctions against Russia so that they target the Russian economy, including its energy business.”
The option garnering the least support was “taking military action against Russia to prevent it from annexing other areas” – just 13 percent in favor, 47 percent opposed.
“Providing military support to nations targeted by Russia” drew support from 23 percent and opposition from 34 percent, while “providing financial support to nations targeted by Russia” was supported by 22 percent of respondents, with 34 percent opposed.
The administration has made it clear that a military response to the Russian aggression is not on the table, and there have been no calls from credible quarters for it to change that stance.
Ukraine’s interim government has been asking the U.S. for military aid, but the response so far has been limited to approval to send 25,000 pre-packaged military meals (“meals ready to eat,” or MREs).
Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel told a Pentagon press briefing Wednesday that the MREs were on their way, and that “the president’s national security team is reviewing all of the other requests for assistance, particularly the non-lethal assistance to Ukraine.”
Meanwhile a new poll by the Levada Center, an independent and respected Russian polling firm, put Putin’s support rating at 80 percent, an eight-point rise since the Russian leader addressed both chambers of the Russian parliament on March 18 on the Crimea takeover.
The survey, released Wednesday, also found that 63 percent of respondents said Russia has regained its superpower status – the highest such finding in a Levada poll.
(In Europe in recent days Obama has juxtaposed the U.S. status as a superpower with Russia’s as a regional one. In The Hague on Tuesday he called Russia “a regional power that is threatening some of its immediate neighbors” and in a speech in Brussels on Wednesday he noted that, “Unlike the Soviet Union, Russia leads no bloc of nations.”)
Another Russian poll, by the state-owned VCIOM All-Russian Public Opinion Research Center a week ago, put Putin’s approval rating at 75.7 percent, the highest it said it had recorded in five years.
And in other polling news, a new survey conducted by Russia’s Public Opinion Foundation (FOM), an independent group, found 70 percent of respondents view the U.S. role in world affairs as negative, and 60 percent said Russia’s relations with the U.S. had worsened over the past year.
Sixty-four percent would vote for Putin if presidential elections were held next week.
“Russian citizens appreciated the presidential address [to parliament] and his personal responsibility for current situation in Crimea,” the official ITAR-Tass news agency quoted the president of the Moscow-based Centre of Strategic Communications, Dmitry Abzalov, as saying.
The AP-GfK poll was conducted from March 20-24 and has a margin of sampling error of plus/minus 3.4 percentage points.
Levada’s poll was conducted March 21-24 among 1,600 respondents across 130 cities in Russia, and has a statistical margin of error of 3.4 percent.
The FOM poll surveyed 1,500 people across 43 Russian regions, and has a margin of error of under 3.6 percent.