Black Americans are supportive of aid to Ukraine, but less likely than other Americans to back an open-ended support of Kyiv “for as long as it takes.”
As the war in Ukraine reaches its one-year anniversary, the domestic political debate about continued US support for Kyiv is heating up.
One important constituency in that debate are Black Americans, as they form a significant and disproportionately large share of the US military and are a key base of support for the Democratic Party. In the 2022 Chicago Council Survey, a majority of Black Americans identify as Democrats (61%), with a sizeable minority of Independents (31%), and very few Republicans (6%).
Moreover, researchers such as Christopher Shell who have conducted surveys on Black American views on the use of military force find that Black Americans tend to be less supportive of US military interventions abroad and may be less supportive of international engagement generally.
How does that reticence apply to the case of Ukraine?
Thankfully, we have the data to help answer this question. In the 2022 Chicago Council Survey, in partnership with New America, we conducted an oversample of racial and ethnic minority groups in the United States to better explore how these groups think about US foreign policy issues. The data indicate that while Black respondents are similarly supportive of specific policy measures to aid Ukraine in its war, they are less likely than other Americans—and less likely than other Democrats—to back an open-ended support of Kyiv for “as long as it takes” if that support comes at a cost to US households.
Few Differences on America’s Ukraine Policy
When asked specifically about what measures the United States should take in response to Russia’s war in Ukraine, Black Americans look very similar to Americans overall. Across various items, large majorities of Black Americans support providing economic (72%) and military (69%) aid to Ukraine, and similarly large majorities support increasing sanctions on Russia (72%) and accepting Ukrainian refugees into the United States (70%). And like Americans overall, Black Americans oppose sending US troops to Ukraine to fight Russia directly.
While Black American support for these policy options has declined over the course of the war, US policies still receive majority support, as seen in the Council’s most recent November 18-20, 2022 survey. The exception is the policy of sending US troops to Ukraine to fight directly in the conflict, which most Americans—Black Americans included—continue to oppose.
Black Americans More Sensitive to Costs of Conflict
Where we see notable differences between Americans overall and Black Americans are in questions that frame support for Ukraine as a trade-off with costs for American households. While a majority of Americans overall favored supporting Ukraine “as long as it takes,” that wasn’t true for Black Americans. Instead, they were split on this question: half (49%) of Black Americans said the United States should support for Ukraine for as long as it takes even if that means higher food and gas prices for Americans, while a similar proportion (46%) said the United States should urge Ukraine to settle for peace, even at the cost of territorial concessions, in order to reduce costs for American households.
Matching shifting American views overall, Black American support for indefinite aid to Ukraine has also declined over the course of the war. In a November 18-20, 2022 survey, half of Black Americans (50%) said the United States should push Ukraine to settle for peace now, compared to four in 10 (40%) who wanted the United States to support Ukraine for as long as it takes to win the war. This is similar to shifts in overall American attitudes: 48 percent overall in November, compared to 58 percent in July, favored backing Ukraine for as long as it takes, regardless of cost.
This lower level of support for Ukraine is somewhat surprising given how Democratic-leaning Black Americans are, and how strong Democratic support for Ukraine has been. However, Black Democrats were notably less likely to say the United States should back Ukraine for as long as it takes (54%, compared to 67% of Democrats overall and 83% of white Democrats). Similarly, Black Independents were far more likely to favor a policy of pushing Ukraine to make territorial concessions for peace (55%, compared to 44% of Independents overall and 37% of white independents). Nor is this a matter of other demographic characteristics of the Black population. Across income and education levels, Black Americans are consistently less likely to say the United States should support Ukraine for as long as it takes if that leads to higher costs for American households.
However, this concern about cost doesn’t translate more broadly into other policy views. Instead, matching their perspective on US policy toward Ukraine, Black American views are generally similar to overall Americans’ views. Like Americans overall, Black Americans say the United States should have long-term military bases in Germany (64%), the NATO-allied Baltic nations (64%), Turkey (55%), and Poland (54%). They are also as likely as other Americans to say the United States should maintain (61%) or increase (16%) its commitment to the NATO alliance. And they are more concerned about Russia’s territorial ambitions: two-thirds of Black Americans (66%) say they represent a critical threat to the United States, compared to 60 percent of Americans overall.
More to Come
This is the first of many analyses coming from the Chicago Council Survey team examining racial and ethnic minority groups’ views of US foreign policy this year. Stay tuned, and to get the latest analysis, be sure to sign up for our biweekly newsletter, Foreign Policy Matters.