Poll: Even with risk of war, Americans want more support for Ukraine | News

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LOWELL — Americans are rallying behind Ukraine’s fight against Russian President Vladimir Putin, even at the risk of U.S. entanglement in a larger conflict between the former Cold War adversaries, a new poll shows.

The national survey by the University of Massachusetts at Lowell’s Center for Public Opinion found just under half of those polled support a no-fly zone over Ukraine to prevent the Russia military from launching attacks from the skies.

Establishing a no-fly zone over Ukraine would require American and NATO forces to attack Russian fighters if they entered the airspace. The poll found Americans are split over the issue, with 54% of respondents in favor of leaving the airspace alone and 46% backing a no-fly the zone, even with the threat of a nuclear war.

Pollsters say the findings show that Americans on both sides of the political aisle are unified in support for Ukraine and concerns about escalating the conflict.

“Americans like an underdog,” said John Cluverius, an associate professor of political science at UMass Lowell and associate director of university’s Center for Public Opinion. “They don’t like the idea of Russia, in particular, invading another country and they share a deep dislike of Russian President Vladimir Putin.”

Cluverius said pollsters found “no major differences” between Republicans and Democrats over the issue of creating a new fly zone and their willingness to pay higher prices for gas and home heating oil to uphold U.S. economic sanctions.

A bipartisan 71% of those polled believe the U.S. should continue to ban Russian oil and gas imports — even if it means the prices would continue to increase.

Despite the support for Ukraine, Americans are skeptical about President Joe Biden’s handling of the war. At least 52% of the 1,000 adults surveyed for the UMass poll between March 15 and 21 said they disapproved of his handling of the crisis.

“Americans are united behind Ukraine and against Russia but divided narrowly on America’s role in the war and Biden’s execution of it,” Cluverius said.

Other polls have shown similar sentiments about Russia’s five-week old invasion, as Americans are shaken by nightly news coverage showing images of civilians being targeted, as Russia steps up its attacks on Ukraine’s major cities.

A Reuters/Ipsos poll released this week found a bipartisan 55% of Americans support sending more U.S. troops to Washington’s NATO allies in central and eastern Europe in response to Russia’s war.

Biden has made clear U.S. troops won’t be sent to Ukraine, but his administration — with support from Congress — is supplying Kiev with weapons and has imposed a ban on U.S. imports of Russian oil, among other sanctions.

Biden has also deployed thousands of additional troops to Europe to support North Atlantic Treaty Organization allies concerned about Moscow’s invasion.

Amid the growing public antipathy, members of Congress are pressured to ratchet up the pressure on Biden to do more to defend Ukraine and NATO allies.

U.S. Rep. Seth Moulton, D-Salem, said he understands that Americans want to do more to support the Ukrainian people but said the U.S. must walk a fine line in providing military support and avoiding a larger war with Russia.

“I think it is fantastic that so many Americans support the Ukrainians’ fight for freedom,” he said. “But this is a complicated geopolitical situation, and a no-fly zone bears too much risk of escalating this into an all-out war against Russia.”

Moulton, a former Marine captain who served four tours of duty during the war in Iraq, said it’s not clear if a no-fly zone would have much of an impact as Russia has been using mostly field artillery on the ground to target Ukraine’s cities.

While the conflict has become a proxy war between NATO and Russia, Moulton said the two sides simply cannot risk getting engaged in a direct conflict.

“There’s a big difference between a proxy war and World War III,” he said.

U.S. Rep. Lori Trahan, D-Westford, said she is also opposed to a no-fly zone that “would require our troops to actively engage and shoot down Russian forces.”

“The longest war in American history just ended last year, and the last thing we should be itching to do is plunge U.S. service members into the middle of another conflict,” she said.

But Trahan said she believes the U.S. should help the Ukrainian people and punish Putin “by implementing more sanctions on Russia, providing additional aid and humanitarian support to Ukraine, and reinforcing our commitment to our NATO allies.”

Christian M. Wade covers the Massachusetts Statehouse for North of Boston Media Group’s newspapers and websites. Email him at cwade@northofboston.com.

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