By Justin Sink
A majority of Americans favors increasing economic sanctions against Russia over the crisis in Ukraine, while just 3 in 10 say they support shipping weapons to Kiev, according to a new survey.
The poll, conducted by the Pew Research Center and USA TODAY, offers encouraging signs for President Obama, who has come under fire from congressional Republicans for his handling of the foreign policy crisis.
Some 53 percent of those surveyed between April 23-27 said they back increasing economic and diplomatic sanctions on Russia, while 36 percent said they oppose such a plan. Equal numbers of Republicans (55 percent) and Democrats (58 percent) said they supported moving forward with additional penalties.
On Monday, the president announced a third round of economic sanctions, targeting an additional seven Russian government officials and 17 companies.
But support for sending arms or military supplies to the Ukrainian government, as has been advocated by Republican lawmakers including Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.), was only supported by 3 in 10 respondents. A significant majority, 62 percent, said they oppose the plan.
More than half of Republicans, 55 percent, opposed providing lethal aid, while 63 percent of independents and two-thirds of Democrats also opposed the notion.
During a press conference on Monday, the president defended his decision not to provide additional weaponry to the Ukrainian government, despite criticism from some opponents.
“Do people actually think that somehow us sending some additional arms into Ukraine could potentially deter the Russian army?” Obama said. “Or are we more likely to deter them by applying the sort of international pressure, diplomatic pressure and economic pressure that we’re applying?”
Still, the country remains largely split about how they think the president has been handling the crisis. While 56 percent of Democrats described the president’s response as “about right,” 55 percent of Republicans said he hasn’t been tough enough. Independents narrowly favored the president’s approach, with 4 in 10 calling it “about right” and 35 percent saying Obama should do more.
Americans are also split on how important they view the ongoing crisis in Ukraine. While 31 percent of survey respondents described the events as “very important,” 36 percent said the situation is only “somewhat important,” and 29 percent said “not at all.”
Republicans and elderly respondents were the most likely to say the events are very important to American interests, while just 2 in 10 aged 18-29 said that.
The survey sampled 1,501 adults via phone and carried a margin of error of 2.9 percentage points.