World Politics

Most Russians don't believe their government tried to influence the US election

Key Points
  • Just over 70 percent of Russians think the Kremlin did not meddle in the vote that saw Donald Trump elected
  • Pew Research Center surveyed 1,000 Russian adults from across the country in May and June
  • Most Russians believe that the U.S. government interferes in the domestic affairs of other countries

Most Russians believe that their government did not try to influence the 2016 presidential election but think the U.S. meddles plenty in other countries' affairs, according to a survey carried out by the Pew Research Center.

Just over 70 percent of Russians think the Kremlin did not meddle in the vote that saw Donald Trump elected, while only 15 percent believe Moscow did try to interfere, the nonpartisan think tank said in a report released Tuesday. The remaining 14 percent said they didn't know.

And Pew's latest survey of 1,000 Russian adults from across the country found that an overwhelming majority (85 percent) thought that the U.S. government interferes in the domestic affairs of other countries, with only 9 percent saying that the U.S. stays out of others' affairs.

City view on Red Square with GUM Shopping Mall, Kremlin, Saint Basil's Cathedral and State Historical Museum on July 8, 2018 in Moscow, Russia. 
EyesWideOpen | Getty Images News | Getty Images

When asked whether Russia interferes in the internal affairs of other countries, Russians were about evenly split, with about 45 percent saying 'yes' while 46 percent said 'no'. Young Russians (aged 18 to 29) were more likely to say Russia tries to interfere abroad (56 percent) than those aged 50 and older (41 percent).

The results come as relations between the U.S. and Russia — and, specifically, between President Trump's campaign team and the Kremlin — remain under scrutiny.

An investigation being conducted by Special Counsel Robert Mueller into whether there was collusion between Trump's campaign team and Russia to influence the 2016 election, using cyber attacks and fake news stories, is ongoing. Already a significant number of people — both American and Russian — have been indicted for alleged interference.

The U.S. has slapped sanctions on Russian individuals and entities for election meddling, in addition to those already imposed for the country's 2014 annexation of Crimea and role in a pro-Russian uprising in eastern Ukraine. The sanctions and slump in the oil price prompted a two-year recession in Russia from which it emerged in 2017, thanks largely to higher oil prices. Russia's central bank now expects the economy to grow 1.5 to 2 percent in 2018.

Still, the Pew survey showed that roughly eight in 10 Russians think that Western sanctions are impacting the Russian economy, with 47 percent saying they are having a major effect.

At a global level, the survey reveals that international tensions are palpable for Russians, with around 80 percent considering NATO a threat and 45 percent seeing the military alliance, that does not include Russia, as a major threat to their country.

Nonetheless, 72 percent of respondents thought that Russia plays a more important role in the world than it did 10 years ago, up from 59 percent last year.

Tellingly, most believe Russia does not get the respect it deserves, with about 60 percent saying Russia should get more respect internationally than it does.

President Vladimir Putin remains popular (his approval ratings shot up to the low-eighties after the Crimea annexation and have remained high since) with 58 percent of the Russians surveyed having "a lot of confidence" in his ability to handle international affairs and only 14 percent having little or no confidence in his international standing.

In his State of the Union address in March, ahead of his re-election as president, Putin promised to fix a plethora of domestic issues, from unemployment and urban development to pay and potholes. But the survey showed that while 57 percent of Russians are satisfied with the direction the country is taking, around 40 percent are dissatisfied.

"Economic issues top the list of Russia's biggest problems, with nearly seven-in-ten (69 percent) saying inflation is a very big problem. Additionally, majorities are very concerned about unemployment and inequality. Despite the positive feelings for Putin and their country, 59 percent say corrupt political leaders are a major concern in Russia today," Pew's Senior Researcher Jacob Poushter said in the report.

Pew noted that the survey was carried out in May and June, mostly before the start of the FIFA World Cup, which boosted Russia's morale at a domestic level, and before the government's proposal to increase the retirement age, which has caused some political backlash against Putin and the government.