Plurality backs Obama’s handling of Ukraine

A plurality of people in the United States approve of President Obama's handling of the crisis in Ukraine, according to a new poll released Monday.

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Of those surveyed by CNN and ORC, 48 percent say they approve of Obama's handling of the Russian incursion into the former Soviet republic, while 43 percent disapprove. Nine percent of voters surveyed said they were unsure of how to judge the president's handling of the crisis.

Those numbers surpass the president's overall approval rating, where a majority — 53 percent — disapprove of the president's performance. Only 43 percent say they approve of the president overall, down two points from last month.

The survey also found that people broadly support sanctions against Russia in response to their incursion into Crimea, with nearly 6-in-10 voters supporting economic penalties. Last week, Obama announced a framework enabling him to freeze the assets of specific Russians and Ukrainians the administration identifies as working to undermine the sovereignty of Ukraine, although the White House stopped short of naming names.

"All demographic groups support economic sanctions except the youngest Americans. More than six in 10 older Americans support sanctions, but 55% of Americans under the age of 35 oppose them," said CNN Polling Director Keating Holland in a statement.

"It's possible that generation gap is due to older Americans' memories of the Soviet Union as the chief threat to the U.S.; many younger Americans may have no memory at all of the Cold War and most of those under the age of 25 were not even born when the Soviet Union collapsed."

Other potential responses to the Ukraine crisis proved less popular with the electorate. Just 46 percent of voters backed an economic aid package to Ukraine, despite bipartisan support in Congress for offering Kiev $1 billion in loan guarantees.

Only 4 in 10 respondents support canceling the upcoming G-8 summit in Sochi, Russia, — the United States and other Western powers have already suspended preparations — while under a quarter said the U.S. should send military aid to Ukraine. Only small numbers supported U.S. air strikes (17 percent) or sending ground troops (12 percent) to combat the Russian incursion.

"And there's a big 'no' to the U.S. launching either air strikes against Russian troops in the Ukraine or to sending U.S. ground troops to the Ukraine," Holland said. "Only one in eight support sending U.S. ground troops to Ukraine — a pretty good indication that the public would prefer a measured response to a forceful one."

Ukraine's interim Prime Minister Arseniy Yatsenyuk will visit Washington on Wednesday for a meeting with Obama to discuss the crisis. Local officials in the ethnically Russian Crimea province are pushing ahead with a March 16 secession referendum, despite a condemnation from Kiev and the United States.