WASHINGTON — A new poll on national security issues finds three-quarters of respondents believe it is important for Ukraine to win its war against Russia’s invasion, but not all of them support providing Ukraine military aid.
The Ronald Reagan Presidential Foundation and Institute’s first summer poll, released to the public on Sunday, also found continuing support for the United States taking a leadership role in the world, opposition to cutting defense spending — and a pronounced generational divide over whether to ban the social media app TikTok.
The Reagan Institute Summer Survey, which polled 1,254 people online and over the phone in late May and early June, found that 76% of respondents felt a Ukrainian victory was important to the United States.
That belief was held most strongly by Democratic respondents, 86% of whom agreed that a Ukrainian victory was important, and least strongly by Independents, 58% of whom agreed. Among Republicans, 71% of all respondents agreed with that statement, but support was slightly softer among respondents who said they would vote for former President Trump in the primaries.
A majority of poll respondents — about 59% of them — support the United States sending Ukraine military aid, with about 30% opposing military aid.
Rachel Hoff, the Reagan Institute’s policy director, said in a June 23 call with reporters that represents a slight increase in support from the institute’s last poll, conducted in November 2022. That survey found that 57% of respondents supported providing Ukraine with military equipment and financial assistance, with 33% saying the U.S. should instead focus on its problems at home.
“The polling does not indicate that there’s a kind of Ukraine fatigue,” Hoff said. “There’s not decreasing levels of support for sending military aid to Ukraine. That’s remained consistent.”
Of aid supporters in this summer’s poll, 37% said it was most important to stand up to Russian aggression in Ukraine to deter Moscow from invading other neighboring countries. Another 30% of military aid supporters said it is important to help protect other nations’ sovereignty and the freedom of their peoples whenever possible.
Aid opponents — 57% of them — overwhelmingly said the United States has too many of its own needs that are not being addressed to send billions of dollars in aid to Ukraine. Concerns about further provoking Russia motivated another 15% of aid opponents, and 11% expressed concerns about the depletion of the U.S.’s own weapons stockpile.
Another 11% said the most compelling reason for opposing aid to Ukraine was because corruption and embezzlement there could mean some aid would never make it to the battlefield.
When asked whether more reliable accounting measures aimed at protecting against embezzlement or corruption would make them more likely to support aid to Ukraine, more than half of respondents said it would not sway their opinion.
The poll also found people became more likely to support aid to Ukraine when they learned more about the actual costs and outcomes of the assistance. When first asked a general question about the United States’ aid to Ukraine, half of respondents said it has been worth the cost. When pollsters followed up by saying the aid has amounted to about $24 billion — or 3% of the U.S. military’s budget — while helping Ukraine hold onto about 83% of its own territory while severely degrading Russia’s military and ability to threaten NATO allies, that support rose to nearly two-thirds.
Republicans’ opinions on the cost-effectiveness of Ukraine aid grew the most after being more deeply informed about the potential benefits of that aid, from 41% to 59%. Democrats were again most supportive, and Independents the least, at 46%.
More than half of all respondents, or 56%, said European allies are not doing their fair share to assist Ukraine.
The poll did not query respondents on specific forms of aid to Ukraine, such as long-range missiles or fighter jets.
The Reagan Institute typically polls the public each November, but this year decided to hold a second poll as summer began. This survey took a much greater dive into Ukraine-related questions than previous polls.
The survey showed mixed opinions on what role the United States should play in the world — but support grew when respondents were asked about specific foreign policy principles America could foster.
Hoff said that the institute was surprised to see two-thirds of overall respondents felt the U.S. would be better served by withdrawing from international affairs and focusing more on its own problems. That included 75% of Republican respondents.
“That struck us as quite high, especially when we think about President Reagan’s legacy around global engagement and American leadership,” Hoff said. “We were encouraged to see that as we asked about the particulars of what American global engagement might look like, the answers were quite higher.”
When asked about the importance of standing up for human rights and democracy, and promoting trade and boosting the economy, about three-quarters of overall respondents expressed their support. Another 85% — including 92% of Republican respondents — said it was important to maintain a strong military. Hoff said all questions were asked at the same time.
Hoff said these results — while appearing somewhat contradictory — show that Americans still remain supportive of the country playing a leading role in the world and engaging with other nations, despite domestic challenges.
“Americans … want to do both,” Hoff said. “They seem to reject the premise of that false dichotomy that we need to withdraw and focus on problems here at home.”
The poll also found strong opposition to cutting military spending to reduce the budget deficit, with 58% of respondents opposing such cuts. Democrats were most open to defense cuts, with fewer than half expressing opposition, and 70% of Republicans were opposed to defense cuts.
The Reagan Institute’s poll found more than half of respondents continued to favor supporting Taiwan to discourage China from invading — but again, there were signs of softening support.
Last November, 61% of poll respondents supported increasing a U.S. military presence near Taiwan, and 58% supported selling Taiwan more arms. But in the latest poll, both responses slid to 56% and 52%, respectively.
Hoff attributed those declines to decreasing support for deterrence among Democrats, and said Republicans had grown more likely to support aid and a U.S. military presence near Taiwan.
Respondents were largely divided over the controversial social media app TikTok, with 40% saying it should be banned in the U.S. and 44% opposing such a ban.
TikTok is owned by ByteDance, a Chinese company that is now headquartered in Singapore. It is wildly popular with teens and young adults, who use it to create and share short, often humorous videos.
A pronounced split over TikTok emerged among respondents of different ages. Respondents who were between the ages of 18 and 29 were vehemently opposed to a ban, with only 19% in favor and 73% opposed, and 8% expressing neither opinion.
Support for a ban gradually grew with respondents’ age, with 54% of respondents over 65 saying the app should be banned, and 24% opposed. And the percentage of respondents expressing neither opinion also increased with age, reaching 22% among those 65 and older.
Congress, the U.S. military and federal agencies have already banned TikTok from government-issued mobile devices amid concerns that China could use the app to obtain private user data or try to push favorable misinformation.
ByteDance has rejected accusations that TikTok is a security threat and says it does not share data with the Chinese government, nor hold data in China. ByteDance also says it is independently run, and does not collect more user data than other social media platforms.
Stephen Losey is the air warfare reporter for Defense News. He previously covered leadership and personnel issues at Air Force Times, and the Pentagon, special operations and air warfare at Military.com. He has traveled to the Middle East to cover U.S. Air Force operations.