A majority of Republicans called Russia’s war against Ukraine a “critical threat” to US interests in the weeks before Florida GOP Gov. Ron DeSantis said the conflict was not a matter of “vital national interest,” a new Gallup poll has found.
The venerable survey company found that 62% of registered Republicans said the year-old invasion by Moscow “represents a critical threat to US vital interests” — the highest proportion of any political affiliation, as just 58% of Democrats and 51% of independents agreed with the statement.
However, those numbers are down among Republicans and Democrats from their highest levels at the start of the war in February 2022, when 72% and 64% backed that statement, respectively.
DeSantis set off an internal debate among Republicans about US support for the Kyiv government on Monday, when he told Fox News host Tucker Carlson in response to a written questionnaire: “While the US has many vital national interests — securing our borders, addressing the crisis of readiness within our military, achieving energy security and independence, and checking the economic, cultural, and military power of the Chinese Communist Party — becoming further entangled in a territorial dispute between Ukraine and Russia is not one of them.”
The poll released Monday found just 9% of Republicans said the Russia-Ukraine war was “not an important threat at all” to American interests, compared to 8% of independents and 5% of Democrats.
Another 29% of Republicans said the conflict was an “important but not critical threat,” compared with 40% of independents and 37% of Democrats.
DeSantis, 44, is expected to launch his 2024 presidential campaign later this year. He received a preemptive endorsement Wednesday from staunch conservative Rep. Chip Roy (R-Texas).
“The next President of the United States must be a vibrant and energetic leader with the faith, vision and courage to chart a new course,” Roy said in a statement.
“America needs a leader who will truly defend her and empower the people against the destructive force of unrestrained government and corporate excess, profligate spending, and woke cultural indoctrination,” he added. “That leader is Florida Governor Ron DeSantis.”
But other members of the Republican Party have criticized DeSantis for his Ukraine statement.
“[The war is] not a territorial dispute in the sense that any more than it would be a territorial dispute if the United States decided that it wanted to invade Canada or take over the Bahamas,” Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) told radio host Hugh Hewitt. “Just because someone claims something doesn’t mean it belongs to them.”
Fellow Republican Sen. Lindsey Graham of South Carolina argued that if the West allows Putin to win, it will bring “more conflict.”
“When it comes to Putin, you either pay now or pay later,” Graham, 67, tweeted. “Giving in to Putin in Ukraine, in terms of American national security interests, is Biden’s disastrous withdrawal from Afghanistan on steroids.”
GOP presidential candidate Nikki Haley claimed DeSantis was attempting to copy former President Donald Trump.
“America is far better off with a Ukrainian victory than a Russian victory,” the 51-year-old former South Carolina governor and US ambassador to the United Nations said.
Russia’s favorability has declined 15% among US voters since the invasion last year — its lowest level since the fall of the Soviet Union.
Nearly 70% view Ukraine favorably, and 89% call the war either a “critical” or “important” threat to “vital” US interests.
The Gallup survey took place between Feb. 1 and 23, polling more than 1,000 American voters. Its margin of error was plus or minus 4 percentage points.