Views of Russia and Putin’s Decline Among Right-Wing European Populists

Party supporters attend a campaign launch rally for far-right Italian Brothers of Italy party leader Giorgia Meloni in central Italy August 23, 2022. Meloni criticized the Russian military invasion from Ukraine. (Vincenzo Pinto/AFP via Getty Images)

Europeans who support right-wing populist parties have consistently been more likely than other Europeans to express a positive view of Russia and its President, Vladimir Putin. While still generally the case today, pro-Russian and pro-Putin views declined sharply among European populists after Russia’s military invasion of Ukraine, according to new analysis from the Pew Research Center.

The decline in pro-Russia and Putin opinions has been particularly pronounced among populists in Italy, which hold an election on September 25 to determine whether the far-right Brothers of Italy party – backed by two other right-wing populist parties, Lega and Forza Italia – will lead the winning coalition. Pro-Russia views have fallen by 49 percentage points among Lega and Forza Italia supporters since 2020 – the biggest drop of any measured in the Centre’s analysis.

A graph showing that preference for Russia has fallen sharply among European right-wing populists.

Overall, positive ratings for Russia have fallen by 15 points or more among supporters of most right-wing populist parties in Europe between 2020 and 2022. In France, for example, a majority of supporters of the National Rally (55%) had a favorable opinion of Russia. in 2020, but only about a fifth (21%) do so now – a drop of 34 points. In Hungary, which was last polled in 2019, and Germany, supporters of Fidesz and Alternative for Germany (AfD) also became less positive towards Russia, with a 15-point drop in the two countries.

This Pew Research Center analysis focuses on the decline in favor of right-wing populist parties in Russia and in trust in Russian President Vladimir Putin in many of the 14 European political parties included in the survey. For more information on how we classify European populist parties, see the appendix.

Data collection began a week before the Russian invasion of Ukraine in France, Germany, Italy and the UK. In Poland and Hungary, data collection started on March 25 and April 19 respectively. All other countries began fieldwork on the same day or soon after the invasion. Due to the time it takes to translate, program and test our international survey questions, we have prioritized data collection at the start of this important international event rather than delaying or pausing the work of field to add questions specifically about the war or actions taken by the world. leaders in response.

For non-U.S. data, this analysis is based on nationally representative surveys of 12,420 adults surveyed from February 14 to June 3, 2022. All surveys were conducted by telephone with adults in Belgium, France, in Germany, Greece, Italy, the Netherlands, Spain, Sweden and the United Kingdom. Face-to-face surveys were conducted in Hungary and Poland.

In the United States, we surveyed 3,581 American adults from March 21-27, 2022. All of those who participated in this survey are members of the Center’s American Trends Panel (ATP), an online survey panel recruited by national random sampling. residential addresses. In this way, almost all American adults have a chance of being selected. The survey is weighted to be representative of the US adult population by gender, race, ethnicity, party affiliation, education and other categories. Learn more about the ATP methodology. Here are the questions used for the report, along with the survey responses and methodology.

The negative shift in European populist views on Russia also extends to the ratings of the Russian president. The trend is again particularly pronounced in Italy, where supporters of the right-wing populist parties Lega and Forza Italia have seen the biggest loss of trust in Putin on record (-52 and -41 points, respectively).

In Sweden, where the right-wing Swedish Democrats has just become majority party in government, 9% of Swedish Democrat supporters give the Russian leader a positive rating in 2022. This represents a 21-point drop in confidence from 2021. Double-digit drops in confidence have occurred among 13 of the 14 right-wing parties tracked in our survey.

A graph showing that trust in Putin has declined among right-wing populists, especially in Italy.

Right-wing European populists remain more positive towards Russia and Putin than other Europeans

While favorable views of Russia and Putin have declined sharply among supporters of right-wing populist parties in Europe, supporters of these parties continue to be more likely than other Europeans to view Russia and Putin in a positive light. For example, in Greece, those with a favorable view of the right-wing populist Greek Solution party are 34 percentage points more likely than those with an unfavorable view of the party to have a positive view of Russia (53% vs. 19% ). .

A graph showing that right-wing populists remain more positive towards Russia and Putin than others.

When it comes to the opinion of the Russian president, right-wing populist supporters are, in many cases, again more likely than those who don’t support these parties to have confidence in Putin. Here too, supporters of the Greek Solution party stand out: 55% say they trust Putin, compared to 18% of those who do not support the Greek Solution. Double-digit gaps are also present in Germany, Hungary, the Netherlands and the United Kingdom. Notably, Hungarians with a favorable view of Jobbik – a right-wing populist party that has regularly moved to the center opponents of Prime Minister Viktor Orban and his ruling Fidesz party are less likely to have a positive opinion of Putin than non-Jobbik supporters.

For three right-wing populist parties included in the survey – Lega in Italy, Vox in Spain and Law and Justice (PiS) in Poland – supporters do not differ significantly from non-partisans in their current views on Russia and Putin. Overall, Poland stands out from the rest of Europe for its extremely critical views of Russia and its leader.

Note: The following are the questions used for this analysis, along with the responses. Visit our methodological database for more information on the survey methods used in this survey. For more information on how we classify European populist parties, see the appendix.

Moira Fagan is a research associate specializing in global attitude research at the Pew Research Center.

Laura Clancy is a research assistant specializing in global attitude research at the Pew Research Center.

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