(NewsNation) — American voters are overwhelmingly concerned about a nuclear attack within the next decade and almost half do not support U.S. troops being deployed to aid Ukraine’s war efforts, according to a new NewsNation/Decision Desk HQ released on Wednesday.
Another noteworthy takeaway: Registered voters across the political spectrum displayed a rare moment of unity in support of President Joe Biden’s economic sanctions against Russia, in response to President Vladimir Putin’s aggression toward Ukraine.
“There is a majority here and they’re largely aligned, and it’s largely bipartisan,” said Scott Tranter, Decision Desk HQ adviser.
Over the weekend, more than 1,000 registered voters were asked about their views on the war in Europe, Biden’s response and their biggest concerns about the conflict. Here are five biggest takeaways from the poll:
1. Respondents are concerned about a nuclear attack
An overwhelming majority of respondents — 82% — said they are at least somewhat concerned that there will be a nuclear attack at some point within the next decade.
Putin has done little to alleviate those fears, placing his nuclear forces on high alert at the end of February and shelling Europe’s largest nuclear power plant, a move the Pentagon called irresponsible.
Experts said the renewed concern around nuclear weapons is reminiscent of life during the Cold War and shows just how quickly those fears can resurface.
“That nuclear genie we kept on trying to stuff back into the bottle after the Cold War, you can’t put it back into the bottle, it’s always there,” said Michael Genovese, president of the Global Policy Institute at Loyola Marymount University.
2. support for sanctions, even if they lead to increased gas prices
More than 70% of voters at least somewhat favor imposing economic sanctions against Russia with that support only slightly declining to 65% when respondents considered the sanctions’ contribution to rising gas prices.
“This is certainly unifying. Numbers don’t lie. You don’t get to 65% unless you get some Republicans or some Democrats, you just don’t,” said Tranter.
Biden’s economic sanctions against Russia target everything from the country’s financial institution to the personal assets — companies, homes and yachts — of its billionaire oligarchs. Tuesday, after the poll was already conducted, Biden announced a ban on the import of Russian oil to “keep the pressure mounted on Putin,” and warned that the sanctions would impact Americans’ wallets.
But how long does Biden have before Americans’ support of the sanctions could waver? That will depend on how the situation in Ukraine evolves in the coming days, according to Genovese.
“The American public is notoriously impatient and the question is, if gas prices continue to go up, if Russia continues to move further and further to consolidate control of Ukraine, will the American public stick with President Biden over the long run? I think he has several more weeks,” Genovese said.
3. Despite support for sanctions, split views on foreign policy
Though Biden appears to have voters’ support on imposing economic sanctions against Russia, their views are split 52-48 in favor of his overall foreign policy. This is, however, a slight improvement since a NewsNation poll last week revealed voters’ doubts in the commander-in-chief on various other aspects of his presidency.
“I would have expected it to be much closer to his approval ratings and yet it was higher. So these people were like, ‘don’t really approve of him as a president, or at least his job as a president, but at least on Ukraine, I’m for it,'” said Tranter.
4. perceived threat from china has fallen
Since the Russian invasion and increased attention on the U.S.’s former Cold War foe, voters are less focused on China, with more than half now believing Russia to be the greatest threat to the country. That’s a 36-point increase since January.
So long as the war in Europe continues, Tranter notes that Americans’ perception is unlikely to change.
“I think as long as Russia is in the forefront of the news and appears to be dropping bombs on civilians indiscriminately and doing these things live on television, 24 hours a day, I think they’re going to be considered that [the biggest threat],” he said.
Note: The February survey was partially conducted prior to the Russian invasion of Ukraine, so recent developments in Ukraine will not be reflected there.
5. widespread concern that Russia will invade other countries
Just over one-third of voters support sending American troops to aid in Ukraine’s war effort if economic sanctions prove ineffective against Putin, the NewsNation poll revealed. However, overwhelmingly, Americans are at least somewhat concerned about the possibility of Russia invading another country.
While Biden has made it clear that American troops will not be sent to fight Russian forces, vowing instead to impose harsh sanctions on Russia and to defend “every inch” of NATO territory. Though Ukraine is not part of NATO, several countries are including neighbors Hungary, Poland and Romania.
Tranter said the last two weeks have had an outsized impact on Americans’ perception of Russia as a threat and that most Americans do not think Putin will stop at Ukraine.