Trump’s an admirer, but US voters view Putin’s leadership with distaste, poll finds

PUBLISHED : Monday, 26 September, 2016, 9:23am
UPDATED : Monday, 26 September, 2016, 10:58pm

Donald Trump has told the US that Russian President Vladimir Putin is “a leader — unlike what we have in this country.”

But most Americans don’t agree with Trump’s assessment of Putin’s leadership skills, a new Associated Press-GfK poll shows.

Only 24 per cent of registered voters say Putin has leadership qualities that would be good for an American president to share, while 71 per cent say he does not. In fact, a majority, 56 per cent, said they have an unfavourable view of Putin, while only 10 per cent said they view the Russian leader favourably.

Voters were split on whether Trump would be too close to Putin, with 42 per cent saying they think Trump would be too close, and 41 per cent saying his approach would be about right. Fourteen per cent think he would not be close enough.

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By comparison, most voters (53 per cent) think Democrat Hillary Clinton’s relationship with Putin would be about right, while 11 per cent think she would be too close and 32 per cent think she would not be close enough.

The relationship between the Republican nominee and the Russian strongman began taking on new life when Putin praised Trump last December as “bright and talented” and “the absolute leader of the presidential race.”

The billionaire businessman hailed Putin’s regard for him as a “great honour,” brushing off widespread allegations that the Russian president has ordered the killing of political dissidents and journalists.

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“Our country does plenty of killing also,” Trump told MSNBC’s Morning Joe in December.

Four in 10 Trump supporters and only 1 in 10 Hillary Clinton supporters say Putin has leadership qualities that would be good for an American president to have. Still, even among Trump’s supporters, just 16 per cent have a favourable opinion of Putin. Only 5 per cent of Clinton’s supporters do.

Marissa Garth, a 28-year-old stay-at-home mom from Smithfield, Utah, said she plans to vote for Trump this November because he exhibits the qualities of a strong leader — not to be compared with Putin.

“I think (Putin) is a strong leader for his country,” she said. “But at the same time I don’t think he necessarily has the qualities that I would want as a president.”

The poll finds that men are more likely than women to say that Putin has leadership qualities that would be good in an American president, 28 per cent to 19 per cent.

Forty-seven per cent of voters say they approve and 52 per cent disapprove of President Barack Obama’s handling of the US relationship with Russia.

The AP-GfK Poll of 1,694 adults, including 1,476 registered voters, was conducted online September 15-19, using a sample drawn from GfK’s probability-based KnowledgePanel, which is designed to be representative of the US population. The margin of sampling error for all respondents is plus or minus 2.5 percentage points.