Skip to content

At Ukraine war’s one-year mark, some trend lines of U.S. public support turn downward

‘Americans appear to be more concerned about potential issues at home,’ analysts say

The flag of Ukraine is mounted on a captured Russian tank in St. Michael’s Square in Kyiv on Friday.
The flag of Ukraine is mounted on a captured Russian tank in St. Michael’s Square in Kyiv on Friday. (Kay Nietfeld/Picture Alliance via Getty Images)

ANALYSIS — Wars typically don’t get more popular, and that’s the case with the Ukraine conflict on its one-year anniversary. Public support in the U.S. is slipping — especially on sending more weapons.

Some of the trend lines are heading in the wrong direction for Ukraine hawks like President Joe Biden and Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, especially with any final decision on future Ukraine aid spending levels unlikely until the fall.

Polling data paints a mixed picture of U.S. public opinion of the conflict and the country’s comfort level with just how deeply involved, and how much more so, Washington should get.

A Fox News poll released Thursday suggests Americans are about split on whether U.S. economic and military aid should come with a time limit. It found exactly half want to keep assisting Kyiv “as long as it takes,” versus 46 percent who would support a “limited” time frame on their tax dollars going to Ukraine assistance. It also found 48 percent of those surveyed said they approve of Biden’s response to the February 2022 Russian invasion, with 49 percent disapproving.

But other polls conducted in recent weeks suggest support for sending even more American-made weapons to Ukraine is cooling.

The Pew Research Center has been tracking U.S. support levels since fighting started, showing a methodical uptick in Americans’ concerns. Twenty-six percent of those surveyed last month responded that Washington is sending “too much” aid, a higher figure than the three previous versions of the survey, though it’s still lower than the 31 percent who called it the “right amount.”

Nearly one year ago, in March 2022, just 7 percent of respondents said the United States was sending “too much,” with 32 percent calling it the “right amount.” In September 2022, the “too much” column had grown to 20 percent and the “right amount” crowd stood at 37 percent.

But notably, the Pew surveys also show a drop since last March in the number of Americans who responded that Washington’s aid level is “not enough,” falling from 42 percent a year ago to 18 percent in September, then rising only slightly to 20 percent by the end of last month.

‘NATO must do more’

Biden and McConnell were in Europe over the past week ahead of the conflict’s one-year anniversary, and both expressed a view of a long-term U.S. assistance effort — even as some conservative House Republicans want to drastically decrease or completely cut off the aid spigot to Kyiv.

“One year into this war, Putin no longer doubts the strength of our coalition. But he still doubts our conviction,” Biden said Tuesday during a speech outside the Royal Castle in Warsaw, Poland. “He doubts our staying power. He doubts our continued support for Ukraine. He doubts whether NATO can remain unified.

“But there should be no doubt,” Biden told his Polish audience, “our support for Ukraine will not waver, NATO will not be divided, and we will not tire.”

Jonas Schmidt stands in front of the Russian embassy in Berlin on Friday to commemorate the first anniversary of Russia’s war in Ukraine. (Steffi Loos/Getty Images)

Biden and McConnell go way back, serving for decades together in the Senate. While they disagree on most major policy issues, there are several that bring them together — including the war in Ukraine and U.S. support for Kyiv.

“I think defeating the Russians in Ukraine is the single most important mission in the world right now,” McConnell told a group of reporters the morning of Feb. 16.

“The Europeans have stepped up,” the Kentucky Republican added. “We’re all in this together. It’s important to remember who’s helping the Russians: the Iranians and the Chinese.”

About an hour later, McConnell was on the Senate floor talking Ukraine.

“The rest of NATO must do more to follow our lead, increase defense spending, upgrade their capabilities and put skin in the game,” McConnell said.

“Hard power is what kept the peace during the Cold War. Our allies have got to reinvest in it,” he added. “In the short term, both America and our allies need to serve our own interests by investing in the munitions and weapons systems that will help Ukraine defeat the invasion.”

McConnell took a similar message to the Munich Security Conference in Germany the next day, saying to America’s allies: “Popular support for a strong and involved NATO alliance will only be sustained if leaders across the alliance explain clearly and concretely to their own citizens how their nation’s peace and prosperity hangs in the balance.”

“This is a case that top Republicans are making in Washington and to the American public on a daily basis,” McConnell added.

‘Issues at home’

The Pew polling data and other public opinion surveys, including one released last week by the University of Chicago’s National Opinion Research Center and The Associated Press, suggest Americans are souring on that message.

The NORC-AP poll echoed the Fox survey by showing that “most of the public still thinks the United States should play at least some role in the war effort,” according to a summary of that poll.

“However, support for supplying weapons or funds to Ukraine, accepting Ukrainian refugees, or imposing economic sanctions against Russia has declined since last spring,” NORC and AP found. “And Democrats and Republicans alike are increasingly likely to prioritize limiting damage to the U.S. economy over effective sanctions.”

No U.S. lawmaker or Biden administration official is talking about another Ukraine aid spending bill anytime soon. That means the matter seems locked into a broader federal funding fight in the weeks leading up to Sept. 30, when current government funding is set to expire.

There are some doubts the White House will get nearly the amount of Ukraine assistance dollars it wants, which helps explain why Biden and McConnell, along with a long list of other American officials and lawmakers, were in Europe in recent days pleading with European officials to continue their aid efforts and, in some cases, send more.

In the same poll in May of last year, 60 percent of Americans favored sending more weapons to Ukraine and 19 percent opposed doing so. Fast-forward to late last month, when the survey was conducted: The pro-weapons group had shrunk to 48 percent and the opposition column grew by 10 percent, to 29 percent.

There is a strong headwind facing the Biden-McConnell camp heading into the coming aid fight, as noted recently by the Brookings Institution’s Elaine Kamarck and Jordan Muchnick: “Americans appear to be more concerned about potential issues at home, versus wide ranging geopolitical events with not yet clear ramifications.”

Editor’s Note: The Fox News poll was conducted Feb. 19-22 and had a margin of error of plus-minus 3 percent. The Pew Research Center survey was conducted Jan. 18-24, with a margin of 1.7 percent. The NORC-AP poll was conducted Jan. 26-30, with a margin of 4.2 percent.

Editor-at-Large John T. Bennett also writes the subscription-based CQ Afternoon Briefing newsletter.

Recent Stories

Should doctors in Congress earn money for their side job?

Supreme Court dodges definitive answer on legality of a ‘wealth tax’

Senate Finance Democrats look to raise revenue for 2025 tax cliff

Capitol Lens | Juneteenth on the Maryland campaign trail

At the Races: Trumping incumbency

Trump, Biden propel migrants to forefront of ‘contentious’ race