Thursday, March 13, 2014

Russia, Putin Lowest Favorability Rating in 20 Years

Written by Korbel student Brittany

Russia will not be winning any congeniality awards from the American public at this year’s Winter Olympic Games. American favorability ratings for the Olympic host-country (60% unfavorable) and its president, Vladimir Putin (63% unfavorable), are the lowest that they have been in twenty years, according to a Gallup survey from Feburary 2-9, 2014.

Not only is overall country favorability way down, but more Americans say it was a bad decision (44%) than a good decision (32%) to host the Olympic games in Russia, according to a Pew Research poll held on Jan. 30-Feb. 2, 2014. A clear majority cites security concerns, including worries about terrorist attacks, as reasons for why it was a bad decision as a host country.

It’s uncommon for countries to see such a reduction in favorability and approval leading up to the Olympic Games. For example, when China hosted the Summer Olympics in 2008, favorability ratings of the country remained relatively stagnant at 39%. Approval of China as an Olympic host surged during the first weekend as the games began, and more Americans viewed the decision to hold the games in China as good rather than bad (52% good, 31% bad). This was significantly higher than the polls four months prior to the games (41% good, 43% bad). 
So why are Americans so disapproving of Russia and its ability to keep the games safe? Perhaps some Americans may still have a lingering skepticism and mistrust of Russia from the Cold War era — there is a generational gap to the findings, with more than 55% of adults over aged 50 who believe hosting the games in Russia is a bad idea, compared to only 25% of those aged 18-29. 
Nevertheless, when it comes to overall favorability, Americans have reacted drastically because of current conflicted interests between Russia and the U.S. Most likely several recent clashes – Russia’s reaction to the US-Iraq war, the Snowden asylum case, Putin’s NY Times Op-ed article and Russian anti-gay policies – are ultimately the factors that have cultivated negative sentiments and security suspicions about Russia and President Putin.

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