Negative views of Russia mainly limited to western liberal democracies, poll shows

The sharp polarisation between mainly western liberal democracies and the rest of the world in perceptions of Russia has been laid bare in an annual global poll of attitudes towards democracy.

Within Europe, 55% of those surveyed for the Alliance for Democracies said they were in favour of cutting economic ties with Russia due to Vladimir Putin’s invasion of Ukraine, whereas in Asia there was a majority against, and in Latin America opinion was evenly split.

Negative views of Russia are largely confined to Europe and other liberal democracies. Positive views of Russia have been retained in China, Indonesia, Egypt, Vietnam, Algeria, Morocco, Malaysia, Pakistan and Saudi Arabia.

The annual Democracy Perception Index, carried out after the invasion of Ukraine, covers 52 highly populated countries in Asia, Latin America, the US and Europe.

Majorities in a total of 20 countries thought economic ties with Russia should not be cut due to the war in Ukraine. They included Greece, Kenya, Turkey, China, Israel, Egypt, Nigeria, Indonesia, South Africa, Vietnam, Algeria, the Philippines, Hungary, Mexico, Thailand, Morocco, Malaysia, Peru, Pakistan, Saudi Arabia. Colombians were evenly split.

By contrast, among the 31 countries that favoured cutting ties, 20 were in Europe.

Although Russian diplomats will point to the findings as evidence that global public opinion does not share western interpretations of events in Ukraine, the level of distrust of Russia in some countries was high.

The countries with a widely held most negative view of Russia included Poland (net negative 87%), Ukraine (80%), Portugal (79%), Italy (65%), UK (65%), Sweden (77%), US (62%) and Germany (62%). Even in Hungary – whose leader Viktor Orbán is an ally of Putin – a net 32% have a negative view of Russia. In Venezuela, often seen as propped up by Russia, the local population has a net negative view of Russia of 36%.

Countries with a net positive view of Russia included India (36%) Indonesia (14%), Saudi Arabia (11 %), Algeria (29%), Morocco (4%), and Egypt (7%).

Despite the mixed views about Russia, strong sympathy was shown for Ukraine. Most people surveyed in Asia, Latin America and Europe thought Nato, the US and the EU could do more to help Ukraine. In Latin America, 62% of respondents thought Nato has done too little and only 6% too much. In Europe 43% said Europe has done too little and 11% too much. In China, 34% said the US has done too much to help. Nearly half (46%) globally said that the European Union, United States and Nato were doing too little to assist Ukraine, while 11% said they are doing too much.

Negative perceptions of China are not as widespread as for Russia. British respondents were the most likely to want to cut economic ties with China if it invaded Taiwan.

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