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The change in Republican voters' views of Putin since Trump's rise is remarkable

Andrew Prokop is a senior politics correspondent at Vox, covering the White House, elections, and political scandals and investigations. He’s worked at Vox since the site’s launch in 2014, and before that, he worked as a research assistant at the New Yorker’s Washington, DC, bureau.

Donald Trump's unusual friendliness toward Vladimir Putin has been much-discussed, and with controversy about reported Russian hacking of Democrats' email accounts in the news yet again, Will Jordan of YouGov presents a remarkable set of statistics:

Yes, according to YouGov’s polling, Putin’s favorability rating among Republican voters in the US — while still skewing negative — has sharply improved since 2014. Now, about 37 percent of self-identified Republicans say they view Putin very or somewhat favorably, and 47 percent say they view him very or somewhat unfavorably.

Digging into the crosstabs a bit — you can check out the July 2014 ones here, and the December 2016 ones here:

  • The number of Republicans who viewed Putin "very unfavorably" shrank from 51 percent in July 2014 to just 14 percent in December 2016.
  • The number who view Putin favorably rose from 10 percent to 37 percent.
  • And the number who say they don’t know what to think about him stayed about constant, from 15 percent to 16 percent.

To be clear, Putin is still viewed unfavorably by a plurality of Republicans. Still, that’s a massive improvement in his ratings since 2014.

And it makes sense, because GOP voters are no longer hearing uniformly negative messaging from their party elites about Putin. Trump has repeatedly praised Putin as a "strong leader," and it is instead Democrats who have been loudly criticizing Russia for its attempts to intervene in the 2016 election.

Another tidbit: Republican voters view Hillary Clinton (-77) and Barack Obama (-64) far more unfavorably than Putin (-10), and Democratic voters also view Trump (-65) about as unfavorably as the Russian president (-62).

This post was originally published in September. It has been updated with December's numbers.

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