Americans see Putin as only slightly more imminent threat than Obama, poll says

March 30, 2015
A huge video screen on Sword Beach shows U.S. President Barack Obama and Russian President Vladimir Putin as they arrive for the International 70th D-Day Commemoration Ceremony in Ouistreham

A huge video screen on Sword Beach shows U.S. President Barack Obama and Russian President Vladimir Putin as they arrive for the International 70th D-Day Commemoration Ceremony in Ouistreham June 6, 2014. REUTERS/Kevin Lamarque

People in the United States feel under threat, both from beyond our borders and within them. In fact, when asked about both U.S. President Barack Obama and Russian President Vladimir Putin, it was a pretty darn close call — 20 percent saw Putin as an imminent threat compared to 18 percent who said the same about Obama.

A recent Reuters/Ipsos poll asked more than 3,000 Americans what they see as some of the biggest threats to themselves and the country. You can slice and dice the information in literally hundreds of different ways here. People were shown a range of potential threats and then asked to rate how dangerous they were with one being no threat and five meaning the threat is imminent.

I think it’s safe to say that a national security expert might not agree with the public’s choices.

More people fear Boko Haram, a scary but ragged Islamic radical group in Nigeria that might have trouble paying for plane tickets to the United States, than Russia, which recently invaded a major European country. And a whopping 34 percent consider Kim Jong-un, the leader of impoverished North Korea, an imminent threat. Kim may have a couple of nukes, but otherwise his nation is a basket case, so poor that it relies on international aid to feed itself. Though considering how fast Sony Pictures pulled “The Interview” from theaters, I guess the public’s not alone in being afraid of the young man with the unique hairstyle.

Perhaps the most disturbing part, however, is how Americans view each other, simply because of the political party they favor. Thirteen percent of us see the Republican and Democratic parties as an imminent threat. That’s the same number who think the Chinese might be. Quick reality check: neither political party is the largest foreign holder of U.S. debt, nor could they cripple us economically in an afternoon. Nor has either party independently building an army that may soon be able to rival that of the United States — that we know of, anyway.

It’s also interesting to see that both sides of the political aisle are worried about themselves: 38 percent of Democrats and 42 percent of Republicans think their own party is something of a threat. Politics makes for strange bedfellows, but when you’re scared of the party you’ve gotten into bed with, something seems amiss.

Meanwhile, the world is certainly worried about the United States. In a Gallup survey of people in 65 countries, about one quarter named the United States as the greatest threat to world peace. Maybe that should not be so surprising, as only about half of Americans know which country was the only one to ever drop a nuclear bomb.

But the Reuters/Ipsos survey didn’t limit itself to “things that are imminent threats.” It also asked about “people who are imminent threats.”

Al Qaeda leader Ayman al-Zawahirithe late Osama bin Laden’s replacement — came in as number one, which makes sense since al Qaeda is the only Islamic militant group to successfully strike inside the United States.

What made less sense is that Jihadi John, Islamic State’s on-camera executioner, who is largely a media creation, right down to his name, is seen as an imminent threat by 38 percent of respondents. The man himself is somewhere in Syria or Iraq and isn’t even willing to show his face to the public, though he’s proud to show his bloody work.

The final survey category asked Americans which beliefs, movements, trends or phenomena pose a threat. While millions of people are trapped in minimum-wage, part-time jobs that offer little hope of every leading to a better life, terrorism is still considered threat number one, pulling in an impressive 55 percent. (Nine percent of people say they’re not sure what the top threat is, and that’s fair enough since Reuters threw a buffet of scary choices at them).

The number two perceived threat is cyber attacks and cyber spying. It’s not clear from the questions whether people are more afraid of cyber snooping from overseas or by the National Security Agency here at home.

Should we be surprised that 25 percent of respondents see Islam as an imminent threat? Only 24 percent see global warming — a scientific certainty that will change the way everyone on the planet lives, and not for better — the same way.

But threats come and go in the public’s mind as events change, and perhaps the list reflects what people are hearing as much as what they’re thinking.

Syria’s Bashar al-Assad used to rank high in people’s imaginations. Only 17 percent see him as a threat now, but a year and half ago, Secretary of State John Kerry put him on a list he apparently keeps that also includes Adolph Hitler and Saddam Hussein. Today, despite being more alive than Hitler or Saddam, Assad is just “meh” to most of us.

Lower on the list of beliefs and movements we feel are imminent threats sit Judaism and Christianity (7 and 6 percent, respectively), thus pulling in all three major Western religions. Still, many Americans feel atheism is an even bigger threat — 12 percent.

Depressingly, people see gay rights (12 percent) and women’s rights (5 percent) as imminent threats. We haven’t come such a long way, baby.

We’re scared here in the home of the brave. We see danger everywhere, even viewing the religious beliefs of our neighbors and the expansion of basic rights to all Americans as imminent threats. There are real bad guys out there, monsters who would do us harm. But far too many of these survey results suggest we are also very scared of each other. Now that is a real threat.

39 comments

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How come the MEDIA wasn’t one of the questions? I’ll bet they’d get the top prize …

Posted by aeci | Report as abusive

The ignorance of Americans is utterly appalling…and potentially disastrous.

Posted by distancematters | Report as abusive

Putin is an oligarch puppeteer who manipulates the hidden Communist Party of the new USSR. Boehner is one of the oligarch puppeteers who manipulate the not so hidden Communist Branch of the Republican Party or, should we say, the American Communist Party.

Posted by SixthRomeo | Report as abusive

UUUhhh…great job with contradictory headlines:

Americans see Putin as only slightly more imminent threat than Obama, poll says

Obama a bigger threat than Putin: poll

or are we splitting hairs about imminence vs. bigness?

Posted by watcher8 | Report as abusive

UUUhhh…great job with contradictory headlines:

Americans see Putin as only slightly more imminent threat than Obama, poll says

Obama a bigger threat than Putin: poll

or are we splitting hairs about imminence vs. bigness?

Obama definitely takes bigness prize over shorty Putin

Posted by watcher8 | Report as abusive

So sad. But with the propaganda machine demonizing the President every day, I can see why the Republicans want to believe that President Obama is a threat. Every day I have to wonder how they can hang onto their beliefs. Every day we are bombarded with “Obama is going to take our guns,” “Obama is going to take our freedoms,” “Obama is a muslim who is going to destroy the country,” etc. After 6 years of President Obama’s leadership, our economy is better off, the job losses have leveled off, no guns have been taken or even threatened to be taken, and he has made no moves to “destroy” the country. Still the easily led masses will buy into the propaganda being out.

Posted by Robert76 | Report as abusive

Is the correlation that difficult to spot? Assad was much more in the media a year ago compared to now. The “recent” Jihadi John and others are now more in the media, hence they ranked absurdly higher. This only proves that fear is not rational, so asking fearful people what they’re currently afraid of doesn’t amount to much. May as well just look at the news and see what the current media scares are.

Posted by pyradius | Report as abusive

this is the time of the year when New Jersey interns start to write for Reuters

Posted by Jingan | Report as abusive

The GOP

Posted by allworlds | Report as abusive

biggest threat to world is the soviet union’s survivor: the U.S. MEDIA

Posted by yobro_yobro88 | Report as abusive

The reason is “THE FOX EFFECT”, a cult caused by the perpetual propaganda feed back loop. Example, along with other Fox contributors, Rudy Giuliani, pointing out his admiration for Putin over The President. Everyday, every show, without wavering constant attacks on the President. I can’t recall a segment that was positive.
If one were study all poll results, as baffling as these, the pushing of propaganda and misinformation as news would be paramount.

Posted by Amwatching2c | Report as abusive

It really depends on what Americans you’re talking about. Obama is a boon for the poor and middle class folks, and, yes, he’s a real threat for those that consider GWB, who almost broke this country, the greatest POTUS of all times! (sarcasm intended)
McConnell: “The *single most important thing* we want to achieve is for President Obama to be a one-term president.”

Posted by UauS | Report as abusive

What republicans say in polls is irrelevant. 60% of them don’t even think evolution is happening. Then they had a U.S. Senator warn us the other day, that Iran had already taken over…. Tehran. Not the brightest bunch.

Posted by AlkalineState | Report as abusive

Republicans will always be afraid of something. That’s what defines their politics. Fear of immigrants, fear of “inner city,” fear of the supposed gay agenda.

It’s a cry-baby group.

Posted by AlkalineState | Report as abusive

The party that ignored terrorism until 9/11 also invaded the only major country in the Middle East without any WMDs as a result, while allowing North Korea to develop nuclear weapons. So they should not be asked any questions at all about security. And then they proceeded to destroy the economy almost to the point of the Great Depression, so they should not be asked any questions about the economy either.

Finally, as California and the West are drying up right before our eyes, they should not be asked any questions about the environment. They seem to know only about witches and goblins, since that was a hot topic in the 15th century.

Posted by Jim1648 | Report as abusive

These POLLS of “greatest fears are immaterial – the actions of Americans tell better what we fear.

One paycheck away from homelessness

IRS audits

Divorce

Harm to children/family

These are the real fears at work in the US – not political tempests in a teapot

Posted by DonD1977 | Report as abusive

Putin did not flood America with millions of third world dependents in exchange for more votes.
Putin did not double America’s national debt.
Putin did not transform the world’s finest medical service into a redistribution scam for more votes.
Putin did not transform the IRS into an instrument of oppression for Republicans.
Putin does not use every opportunity to divide America by race, gender, age, and financial success.
Putin does not apologize for Russia.

Posted by Normal_Guy | Report as abusive

“One paycheck away from homelessness” people do not worry about IRS audits. And Divorce… only if your spouse is unhappy with your cheaten heart. 2 for 4

Posted by Amwatching2c | Report as abusive

No one group is more destructive to the stability of the USA, than the GOP. They constantly bring us into war, they have shutdown the government , they continually try to undermine the president, they continually try to create and atmosphere of fair and uncertainty, they have threatened not fund the Department of Homeland Security, they ignore environmental realities, they don’t support equality for women, they have waged war on homosexuals, they want to take away health care for 16 million people, they want to keep poor people poor, and the list goes on.
If you polled members of hate groups how many would identify themselves as republicans? With all the controversial killing of unarmed civilians by cops, how many of those cops would identify themselves as republicans?
Eastern Kentucky is one of the poorest places in the country, yet their senator is one of the most powerful, why is that?

Posted by allworlds | Report as abusive

Will US ever have enough military superiority to not feel threatened by every tin pot failing dirt-poor country on earth? Paranoia, and the need to dominate everyone everywhere before feeling secure are ruining the country and the world.

Posted by Interdog | Report as abusive

GOP’ers love the corrupt police state.
They hope for the same here in the USA.

Posted by alowl | Report as abusive

GOP’ers love the corrupt police state.
They hope for the same here in the USA.

Posted by alowl | Report as abusive

Normal_guy complains: “Putin did not flood America with millions of third world dependents in exchange for more votes.”

Yeah, neither did Obama. In fact, Obama has deported TWICE as many illegals as Bush did. But you didn’t cry about Bush and “third world” people, did you? Why is that, do you suppose? You probably even voted for Bush, didn’t you? Twice :)

Posted by AlkalineState | Report as abusive

Who even dared to compare Vladimir The Righteous and the other one.

Posted by Macedonian | Report as abusive

Many of us are concerned about Obama’s negotiations with Iran. Iran and its leaders continue to chant “Death To America” and refer to us as the “Great Satan.” How can we negotiate with them while they continue these threats? First they have to stop threatening us and the rest of the world (including Israel and the Sunni states), and then negotiations can get under way. Negotiating like what Obama is doing now is very similar to Neville Chamberlain’s negotiations with Germany prior to WWII. While Obama is caught up in his nuclear negotiations, Iran is taking advantage of these negotiations as a shield to go ahead with its aggressive support of Shi’ite insurgencies.

Posted by oracle123 | Report as abusive

After reading some of these comments here, I feel like I’ve accidentally waded into Oprah’s book club. Boohoo, Iran called us bad names. Boohoo, Iran is not friendly towards us. Seriously? A bunch of effeminate grown-ups crying about their emotional sensitivity.

The Soviets and the US were the worst of enemies but still made geopolitical deals with one another. As did France and England before and after the Hundred Year’ War. Another example would be the Byzantines and the Turks. Even Rome and Carthage signed plenty of trade agreements between the various Punic Wars.

The lesson here is that just because two nation-states aren’t exactly on friendly terms doesn’t mean all contacts should be hostile. That is not how international diplomacy works and such zero-sum thinking is the aberration rather than the norm. Vitriolic political rhetoric is just that and oftenly meant to shore up domestic support as opposed to being an open declaration of war.

Posted by blah77 | Report as abusive

No “People” do not view our President as a threat… ignorant bigoted GOTP’ers fear our President is a threat, real people are not that stupid…. smgdh This is the laziest hack job I’ve seen by Reuters… they ought to be ashamed of themselves. Reuters just pissed away all their “Journalist Integrity” they’re now tantamount to Faux News.

Posted by bourneverde | Report as abusive

Oracle123 complains: “Iran and its leaders continue to chant “Death To America” and refer to us as the “Great Satan.”

Awwww. We’ll get right on that hurt feelings report, and discontinue all further disarmament talks. You’re no satan. You’re a good boy.

Posted by AlkalineState | Report as abusive

Global warming is a certainty? A liberal tenet.
Your whole article is biased then – biased toward liberal beliefs.

Posted by nikon101 | Report as abusive

The title is erroneous. Gee, what else is new?

Posted by Crickenbock | Report as abusive

I never would have thought I’d see the day where we’d have a president who is as bad for the country as a Russian president. Our government has become a sick joke.

Posted by Scottish_Otter | Report as abusive

When did the Reuters message board become filled with bitter, angry far-left liberals? Get a grip, guys.

Posted by Scottish_Otter | Report as abusive

On the whole Americans do not follow the news very carefully, and, stumbling around in the dark to get a grip on reality, fall prey to poisonous political rhetoric emanating from talk radio, Fox News, and all too often straight from the Republican party leadership. Thus does Obama get blamed for anything and everything people are worried about or feel bad about. Fear mongering has become the staple of GOP campaigning, and once again, unsure of their facts and allergic to logic, a sizable portion of the country decides to bite on the Fear Factor. At one point the Ebola Virus polled as the No. 1 threat to this country, even though only three cases had developed anywhere in the U.S. That’s how hair-trigger sensitive fearful Americans have become.
What would help? Let’s start in middle schools and high schools having students follow news from mainstream channels such as The Associated Press or Reuters, reading their local newspapers, listening to NPR, watching say CNN. I know; there are still those who feel these news channels are biased to the left, but the truth is they are as centrist as we’re likely to get. Extremes on the right and left wings are toxic, and they are definitely part of the problem.

John Patrick Grace
Huntington, West Virginia

Posted by publishersplace | Report as abusive

Obama is worse than Putin. He has done more harm to the US than anyone else on earth. He ha flooded the country with illegal aliens, hoping to make them legal and garner their votes. I’ve got news for you Mr. President. The Latinos will put a Latino in office, not another Black. If Garcia wins the mayors seat in Chicago, you will see you corrupt plans begin to die on the vine.

Posted by p19 | Report as abusive

The US border is not secure. There is preference (allowed discrimination) towards illegals from South and Central America. It is damaging to the US in the terms of costs.
⦁ MS-13 is not only the world’s largest, but also the most dangerous gang. Discoveries have linked Mara Salvatrucha gang members to terrorist groups in Central and South America, including Colombian crime syndicates and Mexican crime organizations. MS-13 is believed to recruit at least 1,000 new members a month in the United States alone.
View this link: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AfVENwfe GHw

Posted by americangrizzly | Report as abusive

The US President Obama is nothing more than a dictator. Executive orders are blatant in this regard. These 11 million illegals will turn into anywhere from 22 million to possibly 33 million. How do you say, family members flooding in. Use simple math 1 spouse, 1 child = 33 million. But one Latin American I met has 5 family members. Math again education, healthcare, welfare = $$$$Billions, perhaps Trillions. This a poor policy. Secure the border, enforce verification of employment, jail employers and fine extremely high. To end this preference, and end discrimination against legal residents and citizens.

Posted by americangrizzly | Report as abusive

Awesome, more conservatives who are adept with hyperboles but deficient with facts.

The volume of Executive Orders is making Obama dictator-like you say? Through 6 years of presidency, Obama has issued 193 executive orders. Dubya in his 8 years has issued 291. Reagan was responsible for 381 during his terms. It would seem Obama has a bit of catching up to do in the “who wants to be a totalitarian” game.

A Democracy only works when its voters are informed. Absent that the populace is little more than uneducated Roman mobs, voting for senators because they enjoyed the gladiatorial games. By that metric, the biggest threat to the US Republican system is actually the fear mongering and utterly ignorant conservative base.

Posted by blah77 | Report as abusive

Most Americans are leaving the party system. More and more are becoming Independent without party affiliation. The executive order is a dictators tool that will fail. People like Blah fit the symbolism of the Democrat. A jackass. Never looking beyond the blind faith of the party faithful hacks goosestepping behind the Pied Piper of the party. Placing party agenda before the well being of the country. No illegals, no dictators, and no party stooges. Return to the Constitution, and the bill of Rights inclusive. All are dictators waiting for those like you the faithful drones of the party system to hand these parasites more power.
“In matters of style swim with the current, in matter of principal stand like a rock.” Thomas Jefferson

Posted by americangrizzly | Report as abusive

U.S will buy Iranian oil to bring down Russia. It’s a win win for U.S n Europe. They will get cheaper oil. Russia might attack Saudis cause they are already in bed with Obama against Russia. In the end Middle East and Russia will suffer. Iran and Saudi will nuke each other and Russia n china will most likely come out as a winners. If Obama leave ASAP thru impeachment and we get better president like bobby Jindal from Louisiana. We might be able to contain this. Us needs Russia more than Arabs. Who hate all except the one w circumcisions. I would say next president should visit Russia and become his friend. We have no right to mess up Russia’s internal security issues w their neighbours. Arab exploit western women just because we r infidels per Quran written by illiterate Mohammed.

Posted by happyharry | Report as abusive