Meet the Press

Majorities Say Situations in Russia, Syria Pose Threats to U.S.

Majorities of Americans believe that the situations in Syria and Russia could pose a threat to the United States, according to a new NBC News/Wall Street Journal poll.

Nearly three-quarters of respondents said that Russia poses a military threat to the U.S., with 60 percent characterizing the threat as long-term, while 14 percent calling it an “immediate” threat. About a quarter – 23 percent – said that Russia poses no military threat to the U.S.

That’s a jump from 2005, when more than half of Americans said that Russia did not pose a real military threat at all.

Asked about the situation in Syria, 56 percent of Americans said that it is not a threat to the United States at this time but that “it likely will be soon.” An additional 23 percent called the turmoil in Syria an immediate threat to the United States, while just 16 percent believe that the situation does not pose a threat at all.

Americans also do not give President Barack Obama high marks for handling the situation in Syria. A majority – 54 percent – disapprove of the job he’s done handling the crisis, while 34 percent approve. That’s a slight improvement, though, from September 2013, when only 28 percent approved of his handling of the situation, compared with 57 percent who disapproved.

Russia launches missiles in Syria 4:53

Russia’s tensions with the United States are increasingly strained after President Vladimir Putin began airstrikes in Syria largely seen as an effort to prop up that country’s president, Bashar al-Assad, rather than to weaken ISIS militants there.

The turmoil in Syria and the rise of ISIS militants there has prompted a refugee crisis, with millions fleeing their homes in the hopes of seeking asylum in the West.

The ongoing foreign policy conundrums surrounding Russia and Syria are particularly concerning to Republican primary voters, the new poll shows.

About four in ten Republican primary voters (38 percent) believe Syria poses an immediate threat to the U.S., while only about one in ten Democratic primary voters (11 percent) say the same.

And 20 percent of GOP primary voters believe that Russia poses an immediate military threat to the U.S., compared to just five percent of Democrats.