Geopolitics

Many Americans Say They’ll Brave Higher Gas Prices to Sanction Russian Oil

Even though nearly every U.S. voter is concerned about inflation, worsening views of Russia mean a plurality also back oil sanctions

A protester calls for an embargo on Russian oil during a demonstration against the invasion of Ukraine in New York on Sunday. (Michael M. Santiago/Getty Images)

Almost all American voters are concerned about gas prices hitting historic highs amid Russia’s war on Ukraine, but a new Morning Consult survey shows the lion’s share still supports imposing embargoes on Russia’s oil exports even if it makes prices worse. 

On the numbers
  • Inflation is biting just about everyone in the United States: 96 percent of voters say they are at least somewhat concerned about rising prices.
  • Gas prices in particular have reached historic levels, with a barrel of crude oil reaching 13-year highs of over $130, and 93 percent of voters say they are at least somewhat concerned about rising fuel costs now that Russia invaded Ukraine.
  • Nonetheless, 49 percent of voters say the government should impose sanctions on Russian oil exports even if it causes gas prices to rise, while 28 percent back that course of action only if it doesn’t. Just 7 percent say they oppose oil sanctions entirely.
  • Forty-seven percent of voters also view the protection of Ukraine as an American responsibility — an increase of 7 percentage points since the war started — and 70 percent agree that the U.S. has an obligation to help Ukrainian refugees.
The big picture

Wars make strange bedfellows indeed, with skyrocketing oil prices leading Washington to reach out to Russian ally Venezuela about the possibility of lifting oil sanctions to bring its petroleum supplies back on global markets, and rumored plans to lobby for more oil from Saudi Arabia, with whom relations cooled following the assassination of journalist Jamal Khashoggi in 2018 by the kingdom’s agents. 

Russia’s oil exports have so far been exempted from Western sanctions — but as Moscow’s forces continue to target civilian areas, including shelling of civilian convoys that were promised safe passage — it now may just be a matter of time. U.S. President Joe Biden and his counterparts from France, Germany and Britain met via video on Monday and “affirmed their determination to continue raising the costs on Russia,” according to a White House readout. 

German Chancellor Olaf Scholz has so far demurred on the idea of oil embargoes, but the Biden administration is reportedly considering going it alone, and there appears to be a bipartisan push inside Congress to pass legislation blocking all Russian and Belarusian exports. If Morning Consult’s survey data on U.S. voters is anything to go by, concerns about Western decadence preventing Americans from making sacrifices to defend democracy are unfounded. 

In fact, Americans are the least antipathetic toward Russia among the populations of major U.S. allies in Europe and Asia: The United States was the only country where fewer than three-fourths of adults had an unfavorable view of Russia — and the only country besides Italy where more than 1 in 10 adults have a favorable view. 

What else you need to know
  • The possibility of conflict between NATO and Russia now concerns 84 percent of U.S. voters, and 69 percent are concerned for the safety of themselves and their families. 
  • Half of voters say the U.S. government is either doing the right amount (38 percent) or too much (12 percent), while another third said more needs to be done. Republicans and independents were at least 10 points more likely than Democrats to say the United States isn’t doing enough.
  • Russia’s escalation of attacks on Ukrainian citizens isn’t pushing U.S. voters toward a more dovish response: The share who back diplomacy as NATO’s primary approach to the crisis has fallen to 20 percent, compared to 32 percent who prefer direct military aid to Ukraine (up 5 points since the start of the war on Feb. 24) and the same proportion who prefer sanctions.

The latest Morning Consult survey was conducted March 5-7, 2022, among a representative sample of 2,005 registered U.S. voters, with an unweighted margin of error of plus or minus 2 percentage points.

Morning Consult