It wasn’t that long ago that the usual partisan divide was nonexistent on one pressing issue: Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. As we recently discussed, a Pew Research Center poll in February found only 9% of Republican voters believed the United States was providing too much support to Ukraine.
By September, that figure had more than tripled to 32% — which, according to Pew’s research, represented a new plurality in GOP politics.
A new Wall Street Journal report suggests the partisan divide on support for our Ukrainian allies is intensifying further.
The majority of Americans support continuing aid to Ukraine in what will likely be a prolonged war with Russia, but support is becoming a partisan issue as Republican opposition grows to helping the country, according to a new Wall Street Journal poll. Military and financial aid to Ukraine has emerged as one of many political flashpoints days before a midterm election in which control of the Congress is at stake. The continuing flow of aid is falling out of favor with some Republicans in the House of Representatives, who say they struggle to justify the overseas spending amid domestic concerns, including high inflation and economic uncertainty.
In March, a Wall Street Journal poll found that only 6% of Republicans thought the U.S. was doing too much to support Ukraine. Now, that number has soared to 48%.
This would’ve been difficult to predict in the wake of the Russian invasion. In the spring, there was broad consensus among Republican leaders on Capitol Hill that support for Ukraine was not only imperative, but also that the Biden administration had a responsibility to do as much as humanly possible, as quickly as possible, to assist our allies.
Eight months later, the party’s position has grown far messier. Not only are GOP voters changing their minds, the party’s media allies are echoing the Kremlin’s preferred messages, and a growing number of Republican officials are openly discussing reducing support for Ukraine.
Initially, the talk was largely limited to extremists like Georgia Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene, who’s been unsubtle about abandoning our allies. But Politico reported in September that a growing number of GOP lawmakers are also prepared to curtail financial and military support for Ukraine, and Republican Rep. Matt Gaetz of Florida suggested that a GOP majority in the House, which now appears quite likely, would halt aid to Ukraine altogether.
Democratic Sen. Chris Murphy predicted that a Republican majority would likely “hold up any additional aid” after the midterm elections, and as regular readers might recall, House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy soon after declared that Ukraine shouldn’t expect “a blank check” from the United States anymore.
There’s room for a debate about which part of the GOP is driving the shift in focus. Perhaps Republican voters’ attitudes are changing in response to party leaders, or maybe party leaders are responding to changes among rank-and-file voters.
Either way, what was a bipartisan issue is quickly becoming a partisan dispute — which is very likely the outcome Vladimir Putin was eager to see.