Many say Biden not tough enough on Russia: AP-NORC poll

Apr 20, 2022, 9:19 PM | Updated: Apr 21, 2022, 3:49 pm

WASHINGTON (AP) — Many people in the U.S. still question whether President Joe Biden is showing enough strength in response to Russia’s war against Ukraine, even as most approve of steps Biden is already taking and few want U.S. troops to get involved in the conflict.

A poll by The Associated Press-NORC Center for Public Affairs Research shows 54% of Americans think Biden has been “not tough enough” in his response to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. Thirty-six percent think his approach has been about right, while 8% say he’s been too tough.

But as the war has dragged on, Americans’ desire to get involved has waned somewhat. Thirty-two percent of Americans say the U.S. should have a major role in the conflict. That’s ticked back down from 40% last month, though that remains slightly higher than the 26% who said so in February. An additional 49% say the U.S. should have a minor role.

The results underscore the conundrum for the White House. As images of Russian attacks on civilians and hospitals are shared around the world, there’s pressure to stop Russian President Vladimir Putin and help millions of Ukrainians under attack in their home country or fleeing for safety. But Biden must also manage the threat of escalation with Putin, who has raised the alert level on using Russia’s nuclear weapons, and prevent the U.S. from getting involved in a much larger conflict.

“Given the potential desperation of President Putin and the Russian leadership, given the setbacks that they’ve faced so far militarily, none of us can take lightly the threat posed by a potential resort to tactical nuclear weapons or low-yield nuclear weapons,” CIA Director William Burns said in a recent speech at the Georgia Institute of Technology.

Burns added that “so far we haven’t seen a lot of practical evidence” of Russian nuclear escalation.

The White House has authorized more than $2 billion in weapons and led Western sanctions that have crushed the Russian economy. Biden announced Thursday an additional $800 million in military aid for Ukraine. Biden has ruled out sending U.S. troops — a decision supported by a majority of Americans.

The U.S. has also held back some weapons and defensive systems sought by Ukraine and placed early limits on intelligence sharing that have been loosened throughout the conflict.

The poll and follow-up interviews with respondents indicate many Americans, responding to images of Ukrainians being killed and Russian forces allegedly committing war crimes, want to see more action to stop Putin. A majority — 57% — say they believe Putin has directed his troops to commit war crimes. Just 6% say he has not, while 36% say they aren’t sure.

“I know that we’re not directly responsible,” said Rachel Renfro, a 35-year-old from Nashville, Tennessee. “But we’ve always been the kind of people that insert ourselves into these kinds of situations, and I don’t understand why we’re not doing that now to a bigger degree.”

Renfro wants to see the U.S. accept more refugees and provide more aid to Ukraine. Sending troops should be “an absolute last resort,” she said.

Most Americans are in favor of the U.S. sanctioning Russia for the invasion, providing weapons to Ukraine and accepting refugees from Ukraine into the U.S. More Americans also support than oppose deploying U.S. troops to Eastern Europe to support U.S. NATO allies in response to Russia’s invasion, and about two-thirds say NATO membership is good for the U.S.

But public support stops short of deploying U.S. troops to Ukraine to fight against Russian forces. Only 22% say they favor deploying U.S. troops to Ukraine to fight against Russian forces, while 55% are opposed; 23% say they are neither in favor nor opposed.

Michael Gonzalez, a 31-year-old from Fort Collins, Colorado, said Biden’s response was “about right,” citing wide-ranging sanctions on Russian banks, oligarchs, and government officials and their families.

“In a perfect world, I wish we can go out there with the troops,” said Gonzalez, whose father served in the Cuban military and whose stepfather worked as a private contractor during the U.S. war in Afghanistan. “I feel like we shouldn’t be policing the world and going everywhere. I wish we could help them, but we’ve been fighting for a while.”

Biden faces other significant political challenges heading into the midterms with inflation at a four-decade high and soaring energy prices exacerbated by the war. The poll suggests the balance in the tradeoff between sanctions on Russia and the U.S. economy might be shifting. By a narrow margin, Americans say the nation’s bigger priority is sanctioning Russia as effectively as possible over limiting damage to the U.S. economy, 51% to 45%. Last month, more said they prioritized sanctioning Russia over limiting damage to the economy, 55% to 42%.

Anthony Cordesman, emeritus chair in strategy at the Washington-based Center for Strategic and International Studies, noted that Americans broadly support many actions the White House is already taking. Building up Ukraine’s air defense or sending more tanks and airplanes also requires setting up logistics, including radar and maintenance capabilities, that take far longer than many people would expect, Cordesman said.

The White House making that case to people who want more action carries its own risk.

“If you start communicating the limits to what we can do in detail, you may or may not reassure the American people, but you’re providing Russia with a lot of information that you scarcely want to communicate,” Cordesman said.


The AP-NORC poll of 1,085 adults was conducted April 14-18 using a sample drawn from NORC’s probability-based AmeriSpeak Panel, which is designed to be representative of the U.S. population. The margin of sampling error for all respondents is plus or minus 3.9 percentage points.

Copyright © The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.


FILE - Police officers stand outside a Target store as a group of people protest across the street,...

Associated Press

Pride becomes a minefield for big companies, but many continue their support

Many big companies, including Target and Bud Light's parent, are still backing Pride events in June despite the minefield that the monthlong celebration has become for some of them.

2 days ago

FILE - Then-Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden plays music on a phone as he arrives to spe...

Associated Press

Biden, looking to shore up Hispanic support, faces pressure to get 2024 outreach details right

Joe Biden vowed in 2020 to work “like the devil” to energize Hispanic voters, and flew to Florida seven weeks before Election Day to do just that.

2 days ago

Editorial members of the Austin American-Statesman's Austin NewsGuild picket along the Congress Ave...

Associated Press

Correction: US-Gannett Walkout story

Journalists at two dozen local newspapers across the U.S. walked off the job Monday to demand an end to painful cost-cutting measures and a change of leadership at Gannett, the country's biggest newspaper chain.

2 days ago

FILE - The logo of the Organization of the Petroleoum Exporting Countries (OPEC) is seen outside of...

Associated Press

Saudi Arabia reducing global oil supply, could spell higher prices for US drivers

Saudi Arabia will reduce how much oil it sends to the global economy, taking a unilateral step to prop up the sagging price of crude.

3 days ago

This photo provided by Robert Wilkes, owner of a house boat management company, shows smoke rising ...

Associated Press

Houseboats catch fire while docked at Wahweap Marina on Lake Powell

More than half a dozen house boats momentarily caught fire at a popular boating destination on the Utah-Arizona line on Friday.

5 days ago

File - Women work in a restaurant kitchen in Chicago, Thursday, March 23, 2023. On Friday, the U.S....

Associated Press

US hiring, unemployment jump in May and what that says about the economy

The nation’s employers stepped up their hiring in May, adding a robust 339,000 jobs, well above expectations.

5 days ago

Sponsored Articles



Here are the biggest tips to keep your AC bill low this summer

PHOENIX — In Arizona during the summer, having a working air conditioning unit is not just a pleasure, but a necessity. No one wants to walk from their sweltering car just to continue to be hot in their home. As the triple digits hit around the Valley and are here to stay, your AC bill […]


OCD & Anxiety Treatment Center

How to identify the symptoms of 3 common anxiety disorders

Living with an anxiety disorder can be debilitating and cause significant stress for those who suffer from the condition.

(Photo: OCD & Anxiety Treatment Center)...

OCD & Anxiety Treatment Center

Here’s what you need to know about OCD and where to find help

It's fair to say that most people know what obsessive-compulsive spectrum disorders generally are, but there's a lot more information than meets the eye about a mental health diagnosis that affects about one in every 100 adults in the United States.

Many say Biden not tough enough on Russia: AP-NORC poll