The Cable

Democrats and Republicans Alike Want the U.S. to Work With Russia Against ISIS

Americans want to beat the Islamic State more than they fear a resurgent Russia.


At some point in the long, slow march that is this presidential election, Donald Trump said he would like to get together with Russian President Vladimir Putin to “knock the hell out of ISIS.”

A new poll shows that most Americans agree.

At Tuesday’s launch of the University of Maryland Critical Issues Poll, researchers explored Americans’ views on ISIS, also known as the Islamic State, and Syria. Some 60 percent — 67 percent of Republicans, 53 percent of Democrats, and 67 percent of independents — would like to see the United States work alongside Russia in the fight against the Islamic State in Syria.

This is not to say that all Americans are as fond of Putin as Trump seems to be: Thirty percent of Democrats and 8 percent of Republicans named him their least-liked world leader. But counterterrorism can make for strange bedfellows, and fully 53 percent said battling the terrorist outfit should be America’s priority, ahead of issues like dealing with a rising China or a resurgent Russia itself. If fighting the Islamic State means working with Russia, say most Americans polled, so be it.

And the Obama administration’s push — at least initially — to oust Syrian President Bashar al-Assad has little support: Only 2 percent said America’s primary objective in Syria should be Assad’s removal. Just over half said the main objective there should be defeating the Islamic State and its allies.

Curiously, Republican respondents’ top choice for favorite world leader, nipping Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, is former President Ronald Reagan, a man who was known for many things but not for his penchant for working with Russians on much besides disarmament.

Photo credit: Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images

Emily Tamkin is the U.S. editor of the New Statesman and the author of The Influence of Soros, published July 2020. Twitter: @emilyctamkin

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