Study finds support for Allied response to potential Russian nuclear attack

Americans remain deeply concerned about the war in Ukraine and are likely to support an aggressive response by the US and its allies if Russia deploys a nuclear weapon there, according to a report published by the Covid States Project, which includes a team from explorers from the Northeast.

The report’s latest release comes as the US prepares to provide the Ukrainian government with $4.5 billion in direct budget support through the World Bank by the end of 2022. The Biden administration has also asked Congress to allocate nearly $38 billion in emergency aid to Ukraine in 2023.

The report, released last week, titled American Attitudes Towards Russia’s Invasion Of Ukraine, is based on a survey of 26,161 people conducted between October 6 and November 9 in all 50 states and the District of Columbia. The Covid States Project, a collaboration between Northeastern University, Harvard University, Rutgers University and Northwestern University, organized the survey.

The researchers asked the participants two sets of questions:

  1. How worried they were about Russia’s invasion of Ukraine
  2. We support a number of policy options if Russia were to use a nuclear weapon in Ukraine.

Nearly 8 in 10 respondents said they were either somewhat or very concerned, with a third of Americans being very concerned about the Russian invasion of Ukraine.

What surprised the researchers, however, wasn’t that the majority of Americans were fairly concerned about the war in Ukraine, says Kristin Lunz Trujillo, a postdoctoral researcher at the Covid States Project and Northeastern’s Network Science Institute, but that the significant concern lingers over a long period of time stopped time. At the time of the survey, the war in Ukraine had been going on for seven months.

“Often people hear something on the news and then public opinion reacts, but that wears off over time. In this case it seems [to be] fairly constant even long after the actual invasion began,” says Lunz Trujillo.

The poll also found broad bipartisan support for an aggressive US response if Russia deploys a nuclear weapon in Ukraine, even if it meant more direct NATO or US involvement.

Support for politics when Russia uses nuclear weapons.  Tightening of economic sanctions - 34% strongly support this;  Establishment of a no-fly zone – 28% strongly support this;  Current US policy - 19% strongly support;  increase in military aid to Ukraine - 29% strongly support;  Sending NATO troops to Ukraine – 19% strongly support;  Launch missiles at Russian nuclear weapons – 18% strongly support this;  Withdraw all aid from Ukraine - 6% strongly support this

In the event of a Russian nuclear attack, respondents said they would support tightening economic sanctions (62%), increasing military aid to Ukraine (55%) and creating a NATO-led no-fly zone over Ukraine (56%). Fewer respondents said they would support sending NATO troops to Ukraine to fight Russian forces (42%) or missile attacks aimed at eliminating nuclear weapons that Russia might use on the battlefield in Ukraine (36%).


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