June 23, 2024

By Jason Lange and Patricia Zengerle

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – Support is falling among Americans of both major political parties for supplying Ukraine with weapons, a warning sign for Kyiv, which relies heavily on U.S. arms to fight against a Russian invasion, according to a new Reuters/Ipsos poll.

The two-day poll, which closed on Wednesday, showed only 41% of respondents agreed with a statement that Washington “should provide weapons to Ukraine,” compared to 35% who disagreed and the rest unsure.

Support for U.S. weapon shipments is down from May, when a Reuters/Ipsos poll showed 46% of Americans backed sending arms, while 29% were opposed and the rest unsure.

The poll was taken as U.S. congressional leaders debate Democratic President Joe Biden’s request for $24 billion in additional funding for Ukraine, of which about $17 billion would be defense aid.

Washington has provided $44 billion to supply Kyiv with dozens of tanks, thousands of rockets and millions of rounds of ammunition that Ukraine has used to defend itself since Russia invaded in February 2022. Ukrainian forces have retaken a series of villages and settlements in the counteroffensive that began in June, but its soldiers have been hampered by vast Russian minefields and trenches.

Some Republicans, particularly those with the closest ties to former President Donald Trump as he seeks re-election next year, oppose the aid. It was left out of a stopgap funding bill Congress passed on Saturday to keep the government open, although the White House and some congressional leaders pledged to vote separately on a package for Kyiv.

House of Representatives Speaker Kevin McCarthy’s ouster on Tuesday added to the uncertainty, with some of his potential successors skeptical about the value to U.S. taxpayers of assisting Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy’s government.

“The declining support is having a negative effect on congressional support, and eventually, prospects for additional aid packages,” said Elizabeth Hoffman, director of congressional and government affairs at the Center for Strategic & International Studies.

She said better messaging would help, including making it clear to Americans that much of the money allocated for Ukraine stays in the United States, including in jobs at U.S. weapons producers. Biden said on Wednesday he would make a major speech soon on why it is necessary to continue helping Ukraine.

While U.S. public backing for the arms shipments has persistently been stronger among Democrats since Russian troops invaded, the recent decline in overall support was driven by changing views among Biden’s Democrats.

Some 52% of Democrats backed arming Ukraine in the most recent poll, down from 61% in May. Among Republicans, support for sending weapons to Kyiv fell to 35% from 39% in May.

Some 34% of Democrats in the poll agreed with a statement that Ukraine’s problems “are none of our business and we should not interfere,” compared to 56% of Republicans.

The Reuters/Ipsos poll was conducted online and nationwide, surveying 1,005 U.S. adults. It had a credibility interval, a measure of precision, of about 4 percentage points in either direction.

(Reporting by Jason Lange and Patricia Zengerle; editing by Grant McCool)

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