American and Russian Publics View One Another Skeptically
George W. Bush and Vladimir Putin will attempt to rekindle their friendship at next week's Group of Eight summit and again in July at the Bush family compound in Kennebunkport, Maine, but it may take more than smiles and handshakes to change the way the American and Russian publics each view the other country.
In general, Americans look at Russia with a friendly, if skeptical eye.
In a February Gallup poll, 53 percent had a favorable view of Russia; four in 10 said unfavorable. Most had moderate views on the matter, with fewer than one in 10 choosing each of the extreme positions; six percent said "very favorable" and nine percent said "very unfavorable."
Americans' assessment of Russia's allegiance to U.S. interests is more cautious. In a July Gallup survey 18 percent of Americans said they felt that Russia is a U.S. "ally," while 55 percent said that while it is friendly, it is not an ally. Twenty percent said it was either unfriendly or an enemy.
Russians also have mixed feelings. In a survey this month from the Yuri Levada Center, 45 percent of Russians said they have a good feeling about the United States, but an almost equal number, 43 percent, had a bad feeling. As in the U.S., these feelings tend to be lukewarm - only two percent said "very good" and 11 percent said "very bad."
On the policy side, Americans view Russian affairs as critical to the U.S. In the February Gallup poll, 40 percent said what happens in Russia is "vitally important" to the U.S. and another 40 percent said it was important, but not vital.
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