Two years into the war, American support for Ukraine is down

Plus, polls on Black History Month, the Supreme Court and more.

February 26, 2024, 11:10 AM

Welcome to Pollapalooza, our occasional polling column.

Support is waning for American involvement in Ukraine

Saturday marked two years since Russia invaded Ukraine, drawing opprobrium from around the world. But as the war has dragged on, American support for aiding Ukraine has started to wane.

From the beginning, Americans supported helping Ukraine, but only to a certain extent. Early on, many experts feared a swift Russian victory over the country and a conflict that could spill into the rest of Europe, including the U.S.'s NATO allies. As a result, most Americans, 71 percent, saw Russia as a threat to the country, according to polling from YouGov/The Economist right before the war started. Americans also supported economic sanctions almost immediately imposed by President Joe Biden's administration and the European Union. Biden also recently announced new sanctions.

A plurality of Americans also supported financial aid to Ukraine to help fight off the attack. But even then, 51 percent wanted the U.S.'s role to be "minor," according to an AP-NORC poll from before the conflict. Fifty-five percent of respondents to the YouGov/Economist poll also thought it was a bad idea to send U.S. troops to Ukraine to help fight Russian soldiers. Support for sending troops was relatively low even in extreme hypothetical scenarios like Russia annexing all of Ukraine, according to Morning Consult polling from Feb. 19-20, 2022.

But Ukraine successfully fended off much of Russia's attack, retaining control of its capital city and blocking many Russian incursions. This past summer, the country even began a counteroffensive that recaptured some of the border cities that Russia had taken and pushed Russian troops back.

Of course, Ukraine did that with a massive amount of aid from the U.S. and other countries. The Biden administration and Congress have funneled more than $75 billion into the war effort, along with almost $47 billion in aid from the European Union as of December. EU countries also agreed earlier this month to spend an additional $54 billion through 2027. The latest efforts at providing military aid from the U.S., though, have been stuck in Congress. Cutting Ukraine aid from a budget-deal package was a sticking point in the negotiations that ultimately led to the ouster of (now former) House Speaker Kevin McCarthy in October. Under new Speaker Mike Johnson, the fight has continued. A $95 billion foreign aid package that includes funding for Ukraine has been tied up in negotiations. The House just went on recess without passing it, despite pressure from the administration.

In this, the Biden administration is fighting against popular opinion. Forty-five percent of Americans now think the U.S. is spending too much money helping Ukraine, according to an AP-NORC poll from November. Ukraine aid is especially unpopular among Republicans, 59 percent of whom said the U.S. had spent too much. Disapproval may be especially high among supporters of former President Donald Trump: Only about a third of Trump supporters favored ongoing Ukraine funding in an Ipsos/Chicago Council on Global Affairs poll from Sept. 7-18, while 59 percent of anti-Trump Republicans favored it.

At the same time, a plurality of Americans, 43 percent, think the West should support Ukraine until Russia withdraws, and 46 percent think the West is not doing enough to support Ukraine, according to a YouGov/EuroTrack poll from Jan. 5 - Feb. 4.

—Monica Potts

Americans want Black history in schools

It's February, and that means folks all around the country are celebrating Black History Month. If you're a parent of a school-aged child, you've probably seen them bring home schoolwork aimed at teaching them about the legacy and historical contributions of Black Americans. But Americans themselves are split on whether Black History Month has been achieving its aims. In polling this month from Big Village, just 53 percent of Americans thought that Black History Month was extremely or very important in promoting awareness and understanding of the contributions of Black people to society. White Americans were particularly down on Black History Month in the survey: 48 percent said that Black History Month was very important in this regard, compared with 82 percent of Black Americans and 56 percent of Hispanic Americans.

Nevertheless, in a poll conducted last year and released last week by the Gallup Center on Black Voices, 69 percent of adults said they were familiar with Black Americans' contributions to American culture overall, including majorities of Black, white, Asian and Hispanic Americans. However, it may not be the schoolwork that contributes to that awareness; majorities of all four racial groups said they learned a lot or some about Black Americans' contributions to American culture outside of school, but no group had a majority say they learned a lot or some about Black Americans' contributions in school.

Even so, Americans strongly support teaching about Black history in schools, according to a survey from March and April 2023 from the Gallup Center on Black Voices. Eighty-six percent of Americans said schools should teach about Black Americans' contributions to the U.S. and their impact on society today, including 85 percent of white Americans, 83 percent of Hispanic Americans and 92 percent of Black Americans. This marks a significant shift from a few decades ago; when the Public Agenda Foundation asked parents in 1998 if it was essential for schools to teach the contributions of Black Americans and other minorities, just 59 percent of white parents and 75 percent of Black parents agreed that it was absolutely essential.

—Mary Radcliffe

The Supreme Court remains supremely unpopular

The U.S. Supreme Court has come under intense public scrutiny following a string of controversial landmark decisions and questions about the justices' ethics. And they appear to have cast a shadow on public perception of the court. The Supreme Court's disapproval rating has hovered at or above 50 percent since June of last year, with its approval rating holding steady at about 40 percent or below across the same time period. The latest Marquette University Law School poll gave the court a net approval rating of -20 percentage points, a dramatic plunge from +33 points in September 2020.

Two-thirds of poll respondents opposed the 2022 ruling that struck down Roe v. Wade — the only one of three decisions Marquette asked about that was opposed by a majority of respondents. As for cases coming up on the docket, those familiar with the case were evenly split on whether Trump should be disqualified from Colorado's presidential primary ballot. Respondents were far more united when it came to the upcoming United States v. Rahimi: 91 percent of those with an opinion said the court should uphold the federal law that prohibits those under domestic violence restraining orders from possessing firearms.

As for perceptions of the justices themselves, 36 percent held the justices' honesty and ethical standards in a "low or very low" regard. Just 27 percent rated them highly, while 37 percent rated them as average. But despite the public's disapproval of the bench as a whole, respondents seemed to be largely unaware of most individual justices. With the exception of Clarence Thomas and Brett Kavanaugh, who both received net favorability ratings of -7 points, a majority said they didn't know enough about seven of the nine justices to have an opinion of them.

—Irena Li

American individualism is alive and well

According to a recently released survey conducted by Morning Consult for the conservative State Policy Network in December, Americans seem to be a rather individualistic bunch.

When asked to choose between the two statements, 59 percent of poll respondents agreed more with the idea that they make political decisions based on what is best for themselves individually, while 41 percent instead said they based their political decisions more on what's best for the social groups they belong to, such as their gender, race or socioeconomic status.

And when given the option, 78 percent said that they agreed more that "individuals can and should be trusted to make their own decisions and take their own risks" rather than that "we should trust experts to make decisions for society as they are better at weighing potential benefits and risks." Just 22 percent chose the latter over the former.

Americans' views seem to be at least a little more collectivist when it comes to government action, however. While 54 percent agreed that "government programs that help some people financially always end up having a negative financial impact on others," those views changed when asked about specific policies. Majorities said that providing subsidies for childcare and more financial aid for higher education would positively impact the nation's overall economic outlook, while a plurality said the same of moving to a nationalized health care system.

—Cooper Burton

Americans on TikTok are mostly spectators

If you have TikTok on your phone, chances are you spend most of your time on the app mindlessly and anonymously scrolling, rather than posting your take on the latest meme — or at least that's what a Pew Research Center study found this week. The study looked at the results of a survey of 2,745 U.S. adult TikTok users, including the user data of 869 respondents. It found that around half (52 percent) of users had posted a TikTok video themselves, and only 40 percent had posted a public video. It also found that the vast majority of content on the app is posted by a minority of users: 98 percent of U.S. public content comes from the top 25 percent of users. This is similar to the dynamics on other social media platforms, such as X (formerly Twitter). A lot of TikTok users are scrolling somewhat anonymously, too, with 70 percent having not filled out the bio portion of their user profile. Non-posters were even less likely to have filled out their bio — 90 percent had not.

In general, younger Americans are more likely to be on TikTok: 62 percent of adults aged 18-29 said they had ever used TikTok, compared to 39 percent of 30- to 49-year-olds, 24 percent of 50- to 64-year-olds and just 10 percent of those 65 and older. But among those who are on the app, age doesn't seem to affect who is posting. Around half of each age group has posted a video, and those aged 35-49 were actually slightly more likely to have posted than others.

So what are all these young, anonymous, non-video-posting users doing on the app? Scrolling through their impeccable, algorithmically curated feed and loving it, apparently. Eighty-five percent of TikTok users said the videos on their "For You" page — the main feed on the app that surfaces new content tailored to individual users' preferences — were at least somewhat interesting, with 40 percent calling them "extremely" or "very" interesting. And with endless gems like this, who can blame them?

—Kaleigh Rogers

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