Most Americans don't like Biden's Ukraine response and worry about inflation
Americans are watching the war in Ukraine closely, and most do not like how the U.S. is responding.
A new NPR/Ipsos poll finds that a majority of Americans think President Biden has not done a good job in his handling of the war. Many say the president has been too cautious, even as a majority say they're wary of sparking a broader conflict.
"The American people are supportive of Ukraine, up to a point," said Chris Jackson, a senior vice president at Ipsos, which conducted the poll.
More than 6 in 10 Americans want the U.S. to give Ukraine some of the support it wants, while still trying to avoid a larger military conflict with Russia. Fewer than 2 in 10 say the U.S. should give Ukraine everything it wants, even if it risks a wider war.
Those responses were remarkably consistent across the political spectrum with strong majorities of Republicans, Democrats and independents all in agreement. But when Americans are asked to assess President Biden's performance, that bipartisan consensus breaks down.
"What he's doing is fundamentally what the American people want," Jackson said. "But even if Biden is doing everything that people want to do, he's not going to get a lot of credit for it."
Disapproval is highest among Republicans
Overall, only 36% of Americans say Biden is doing a good job in response to the war in Ukraine, while 52% say he's not. That disapproval is driven largely by the GOP: 81% of Republicans rated Biden's response as fair or poor. On the other hand, 62% of Democrats described the president's response as good or excellent.
And 45% of respondents say President Biden has been too cautious in supporting Ukraine. Only 7% think the U.S. should be doing less in Ukraine, compared with 39% who think it should be doing more.
The poll was conducted from March 18-21, before Biden traveled to Europe to meet with NATO allies in an emergency session on the Ukraine war.
Most Americans say they're paying close attention to Ukraine. More than 90% of respondents answered correctly that Russia invaded Ukraine, not the other way around. And more than 80% know that the U.S. has imposed economic sanctions in response.
It appears that Russian disinformation campaigns have mostly failed to sway large numbers of Americans. For example, only 2% of poll respondents believe the false claim that Ukraine is governed by Nazis.
However, another Russian conspiracy theory has gotten some traction. One in 10 poll respondents believe that the U.S. operates biological weapons labs in Ukraine. Only 33% of respondents correctly identified that statement as false, while more than half say they don't know.
There's broad support for Ukrainian refugees
The poll found bipartisan support for accepting Ukrainian refugees.
Nearly 3 in 4 Americans say the U.S. should take in Ukrainian civilians fleeing the war in their country. That includes two-thirds of Republicans, who tend to be more skeptical of refugees and asylum-seekers.
The poll was conducted before the Biden administration announced that the U.S. will welcome up to 100,000 Ukrainians and other displaced people fleeing the conflict in Ukraine.
Support for Ukrainian refugees did not necessarily extend to other groups seeking protection in the U.S. When asked if the U.S. should admit Russians who voice opposition to their government, only 62% of Americans agreed. That was similar to the number who support admitting people fleeing violence in other parts of the world, including Afghanistan, Syria and Central America.
Inflation tops the list of concerns
For all the attention on Ukraine, the crisis there is not a top concern for most Americans.
Their biggest worry by far is inflation. In our poll, 40% of Americans — including 60% of Republicans — rate "inflation or increasing costs" as their top concern. Political extremism, crime and climate change were also high on the list.
The poll suggests that inflation is overshadowing more positive news about the economy. Fewer than half of Americans think the unemployment rate is lower than it was a year ago ( it is), and only 40% say wages are rising faster than they have in more than a decade ( they are).
But Americans are extremely aware of rising costs: 94% say the cost of food, gas and housing has gone up in the past year.
Nearly half of poll respondents say they've stopped driving long distances or made other changes because of rising costs.
That includes Linda Kelly, a Republican from Topeka, Kansas, who participated in the poll. Kelly says she has limited her trips to Kansas City, about a 45 minute drive away, and is buying less beef because prices are up.
"I didn't get any pay raise or anything like that," Kelly said in a follow-up interview. "My employer didn't offer us any bonus benefits to stay. And yet all these other things are going up, up, up. So I actually took a pay cut in the long run. So I think the economy right now sucks."
The blame for inflation breaks along party lines
When it comes to assigning blame for inflation, the responses tend to break along partisan lines. Democrats point to a wide range of factors, including the war in Ukraine and lingering effects of the coronavirus pandemic.
"International and national events happened that just collided," Colleen Holland, a Democratic voter from Arlington, Va., said in a follow-up interview. "You know, with Ukraine and Russia and, you know, the pandemic. But I don't blame the current administration."
For Republicans, the calculus is simpler: 2 out of 3 say President Biden is most responsible for rising food and gas costs. Copyright 2022 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.
ARI SHAPIRO, HOST:
Americans are watching the war in Ukraine closely, and most do not like how the U.S. is responding. A new NPR/Ipsos poll finds that a majority of Americans think President Biden has not done a good job of handling the crisis. NPR's Joel Rose is covering this poll. And, Joel, tell us about what else it found.
JOEL ROSE, BYLINE: Hi, Ari. Well, first off, Americans are paying close attention to Ukraine, as you say. Big majorities of Americans know that Russia invaded Ukraine, not the other way around, and that the U.S. has imposed economic sanctions in response. More than 60% of Americans say the U.S. should give Ukraine some of the support it wants while still trying to avoid a larger military conflict with Russia. That was fairly consistent across the board from Republicans, Democrats and independents.
SHAPIRO: That sounds like a lot of what the Biden administration has been trying to do. But I take it Americans are not impressed with what they've seen.
ROSE: They are not. Overall, only 36% of Americans say President Biden is doing a good job in response to the Ukraine war - 52% say he's not. That last number is driven largely by Republicans - 81% say the president is doing a fair or poor job. On the other hand, 62% of Democrats say he's doing a good job. Chris Jackson is a pollster at Ipsos, which conducted the poll. What he found striking was this disconnect between what most people say they want and how they rate the president's performance.
CHRIS JACKSON: The American people are supportive of Ukraine up to a point. But even if Biden's doing everything that people want to do, he's not going to get a lot of credit for it.
SHAPIRO: Today the Biden administration pledged that the U.S. would take in 100,000 refugees from Ukraine. Does the poll show anything about how Americans feel about admitting Ukrainian refugees?
ROSE: Yeah, our poll was conducted before that announcement, but we found broad support for admitting Ukrainian civilians who are fleeing the war. Almost 3 in 4 Americans say, yes, we should take them in. Even among Republicans who tend to be more skeptical of refugees, two-thirds say we should admit Ukrainians, which is a lot higher than support for other groups who are trying to flee from violence in places like Afghanistan, Central America and Africa, or for that matter, even support for Russian citizens who are fleeing from their own government.
SHAPIRO: Is the war in Ukraine top of mind for many Americans?
ROSE: Actually, it is not the top concern in this poll. By far, the biggest worry right now is inflation. More than 40% of Americans overall and 60% of Republicans rated that as their top - as a top concern. Our poll shows that inflation is really overshadowing all other economic news - low unemployment, strong wage growth. The majority of Americans are not aware that those things are happening, but they are hyper-aware of rising costs for gas and food. And I talked to one poll respondent named Linda Kelly. She is a Republican from Topeka, Kan.
LINDA KELLY: I didn't get any pay raise or anything like that. My employer didn't offer us any bonus benefit to stay. And yet all these other things are going up, up, up, so I actually took a pay cut in the long run. So I think the economy (laughter) right now sucks.
ROSE: Kelly says she's buying less meat and trying to drive less. And she's not alone. Nearly half of poll respondents say they are driving less or changing their behavior because of rising costs.
SHAPIRO: And who do they blame for inflation?
ROSE: Again, there's a pretty stark partisan divide here. Democrats blame a range of factors, including the coronavirus pandemic and the war in Ukraine. I talked to Colleen Holland. She is a poll respondent from Arlington, Va.
COLLEEN HOLLAND: International and national events happened that just collided, you know, with Ukraine and Russia and the pandemic. But I don't blame the current administration.
ROSE: For Republicans, it's a lot simpler. Two out of three say President Biden is most responsible for rising food and gas prices.
SHAPIRO: NPR's Joel Rose. Thanks a lot.
ROSE: You bet. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.