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Poll: 46% of Americans Want No-fly Zone over Ukraine even if it Risks Nuclear War

New national survey also finds public seeks U.S. political reforms

Man's hands holding screen with Online Survey on it

03/24/2022

Detailed poll results and analysis are available at www.uml.edu/polls.

UMass Lowell representatives are available for interviews about today’s poll. 

Contact: Emily Gowdey-Backus, Emily_GowdeyBackus@uml.edu; Nancy Cicco, 978-934-4944 or Nancy_Cicco@uml.edu

LOWELL, Mass. – Just under half of U.S. adults surveyed (46%) favor creating a no-fly zone in Ukraine airspace, increasing U.S. involvement with the risk of possible nuclear war, according to a new national poll released today by the Center for Public Opinion at UMass Lowell. 

Conducted over the past week, the poll surveyed U.S.

adults’ attitudes about the war in Ukraine as well as domestic issues including the appetite for political reform, political leaders’ favorability ratings, and the federal government’s handling of the COVID-19 pandemic. 

Establishing a no-fly zone over Ukraine would require American forces to attack Russian airplanes should they enter the airspace. Asked whether the United States should create the zone and risk escalating the possibility of a nuclear war or leave the airspace open and risk more civilian casualties, Americans are split with 54% of respondents in favor of leaving the airspace alone and 46% preferring to establish the zone. The poll found no significant differences between respondents who identified as Democrats or Republicans on this question.  

Inflation and gas prices have become a large part of the conversation about international affairs, the domestic economy and President Joe Biden’s job performance. Asked if the U.S. should continue to ban Russian oil and gas imports – even if it meant gas prices would continue to rise – a majority of both Democrats and Republicans polled agreed with 49% answering “definitely yes” and 25% responding “probably yes,” for a total of 74% in favor. 

Through these questions and more, poll results demonstrated respondents’ support for Ukraine. The country’s President Volodymyr Zelenskyy garnered a net positive favorability rating of 46 points among those surveyed, while Russian President Vladimir Putin had a net negative favorability rating of 80 points.

Respondents were more evenly split on Biden’s handling of the war in Ukraine with 48% saying they approve of how the president has handled the crisis and 52% saying they disapprove. Those numbers somewhat mirrored the president’s job rating as 57% of respondents disapprove of Biden’s performance while 43% approve. 

“Americans are united behind Ukraine and against Russia but divided narrowly on America’s role in the war and Biden’s execution of it. Americans want Russian troops out of Ukrainian territory and Russian gas out of America’s cars and trucks, even if it means more pain at the pump,” said John Cluverius, associate director of UMass Lowell’s Center for Public Opinion and associate professor of political science. 

Despite Biden’s favorability numbers, Democrats may still fare well in the midterm elections, according to Cluverius and UMass Lowell Political Science Prof. Joshua Dyck, the center’s director. That’s because none of the U.S. political leaders asked about in the survey received a positive favorability rating from respondents. This included net negative favorability ratings for officeholders Vice President Kamala Harris (negative 15 points); Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (negative 23 points); Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (negative 16 points); Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (negative 47 points); and House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (negative 15 points), along with prospective 2024 presidential candidates former President Donald Trump (negative 16 points) and Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis (negative 3 points). In addition, 19% of Americans polled responded they have no opinion of DeSantis, while 18% of respondents answered they have not heard of him. 

Respondents also gave a net negative favorability rating of two points to Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases and Biden’s chief medical adviser. More than two years into the COVID-19 pandemic, respondents were evenly split on the federal government’s response to it, with 50% satisfied and 50% dissatisfied. 

“Polarization is making the political terrain for leaders challenging. While Biden’s approval remains quite low, Republicans and Republican leadership are not viewed positively in contrast. This is creating what appears to be a more competitive midterm environment than we would generally expect with an unpopular incumbent president,” Dyck said.  

Responses to a series of questions on political reform asked in this poll that were first asked in a national Center for Public Opinion poll conducted in October 2020 showed the majority of Americans remain in favor of many reform proposals. 

Current survey results reveal 64% support expanding vote-by-mail options; while 59% of those surveyed responded favorably to separate questions about each of the following: electing the president by popular vote instead of through the Electoral College; implementing a nationwide, same-day voter registration option; and a belief the U.S. would be better with more than two competitive political parties. Automatic voter registration garnered the support of 58% of respondents. 

With 71% in favor, respondents also back term limits for U.S. Supreme Court justices. Support for expanding the Supreme Court from nine to 13 justices falls short of a majority, with 47% in favor, which is down five points from the results of the October 2020 survey. Support for ranked-choice voting continues to fall short of majority support at 44%, down three points from the results of the October 2020 poll.

“Our latest poll suggests Americans are committed to a democracy that is more inclusive – one that would spur greater participation and offer them more choices. The level of institutional dissatisfaction people feel with their democracy right now should not be understated. Party polarization has taken a toll and while most people have chosen a side, the appetite for reform suggests that many people can imagine another way to live and another way to govern,” Dyck said. 

The nonpartisan poll of 1,000 U.S. adults was funded by the University of Massachusetts Lowell. The survey was designed and analyzed by the Center for Public Opinion and fielded by YouGov from March 15 through March 21. It has an adjusted margin of error of plus or minus 3.4% for 1,000 U.S. adult respondents and an adjusted margin of error of plus or minus 3.7% for a subset of 873 registered voters. Detailed poll results – including topline and full methodology – are available at www.uml.edu/polls.

The Center for Public Opinion presents events and polling on political and social issues to provide opportunities for civic engagement, experiential learning and real-world research. The center is a member of the American Association of Public Opinion Research (AAPOR) Transparency Initiative.

UMass Lowell is a national research university offering its students bachelor’s, master’s and doctoral degrees in business, education, engineering, fine arts, health, humanities, sciences and social sciences. UMass Lowell delivers high-quality educational programs and personal attention from leading faculty and staff, all of which prepare graduates to be leaders in their communities and around the globe.www.uml.edu