By Sunnivie Brydum
Originally published on Advocate.com September 19 2013 1:07 PM ET
Despite some international praise for helping broker a nonmilitary response to Syria's use of chemical weapons, Americans still don't like Russian president Vladimir Putin.
In fact, for the first time in 15 years, a broad majority of Americans view Russia as unfriendly to or even an enemy of the United States, according to a new Gallup poll released Wednesday. That's a marked increase from June, when 52% of Americans considered Russia an American ally.
While Russia's decision to grant temporary asylum to former National Security Agency contractor Edward Snowden ignited the ire of some respondents, some also cited Putin's op-ed in The New York Times last week criticizing "American exceptionalism" and foreign policy.
But American disapproval of Russian leadership hit its peak when Gallup asked about the country's harsh and far-reaching ban on so-called homosexual propaganda. Of those respondents who were aware of the law, signed by Putin this summer and imposing fines and jail time for anyone found to be distributing or discussing "propaganda of nontraditional sexual relations" visible to minors, 69% said they disapprove. Notably, 45% of respondents said they hadn't heard about Russia's anti-LGBT laws. Thirteen percent approved of Russia's criminalization of LGBT identities that's resulted in Russians and tourists being arrested, beaten, and harassed, often for simple, nonviolent demonstrations like unfurling a rainbow flag.
The critical stance toward Putin and his increasingly repressive nation marks the first time American public opinion has been so against the Russian president. More than half of those Americans polled — 54% — now view Putin unfavorably, according to Gallup. That's the lowest approval rating Putin's ever received since he served his first term as president, beginning in 2000.
Favorable opinions of Putin's Russia marked their high point in 2006, when 73% of Americans viewed Russia favorably, or as an ally to the U.S. Notably, that period was shortly before Putin was constitutionally forbidden from seeking a third term as the president of Russia. Instead, Putin served as prime minister from 2008 to 2012, at which point he was once again elected to the presidency.