Ukraine in the Pre-Election Campaign in the United States

By Anna-Mariia Mandzii

2 MB

Key takeaways

  • Electoral Dynamics and Challenges: Donald Trump is encumbered by legal troubles and the necessity of unifying a fractured Republican base while emphasizing the economic achievements of his previous term to woo voters disillusioned by current economic policies. Joe Biden faces the crucial task of maintaining support among pivotal voter groups (African Americans, Latin voters, the youth, and women) amid criticisms of his economic and immigration policies. His campaign is further complicated by dissatisfaction over his stance on the Israel-Hamas conflict, particularly among young voters and significant communities in swing states like Michigan.
  • The Ukrainian Question: The war in Ukraine emerges as a significant foreign policy challenge, testing the candidates’ diplomatic strategies and their implications for U.S. global leadership. Biden’s approach is framed around support for Ukraine as a defense of democratic values and national security, highlighting the economic benefits of U.S. aid to Ukraine. Trump’s stance on Ukraine is marked by inconsistency and suggests a potential shift in U.S. foreign policy that could influence American and international perceptions of the conflict. His comments on the provision of aid and negotiation tactics reveal a broader ideological divide within the American electorate concerning foreign assistance and engagement.
  • Voter Sentiment and Key Issues: Economic concerns, domestic policies, and the candidates’ handling of foreign conflicts, especially the situation in Ukraine, are central to voter sentiment. Trump aims to capitalize on positive economic perceptions from his term, while Biden emphasizes his foreign policy credentials and the economic upside of supporting Ukraine.
  • Polarization around the Ukrainian issue reflects deeper ideological divisions within the U.S., with varying levels of support for U.S. aid to Ukraine across political affiliations. It also raises questions about the influence of foreign policy on electoral outcomes.
  • Electoral Strategies: Both candidates must strategically navigate the complex landscape of American politics, balancing the appeal to their bases with the need to address broader national and international concerns. The role of suburban voters and the impact of candidates’ positions on issues like support for Ukraine and economic policies underscore the intricate calculus of electoral success.

The election campaign in the United States is currently in full swing, with candidates vying for attention and support across the nation. As the primaries progress, it appears increasingly probable that we may witness a rematch between former President Trump and incumbent President Biden in the November 2024 general election. Moreover, President Biden has already secured a significant number of delegates during the primaries, positioning him as the presumptive nominee for the Democratic Party. His anticipated formal nomination is expected to take place at the Democratic National Convention in August 2024.

Currently, public opinion polls suggest that both Trump and Biden are neck and neck in terms of national support from the electorate, with minor fluctuations occurring periodically. This tight race makes it challenging to predict the outcome with certainty. The margin between them is exceedingly narrow, and the dynamic nature of politics means that the situation could evolve significantly throughout 2024.

However, despite the political landscape, Donald Trump faces a multitude of legal challenges. He has been charged with dozens of crimes across four separate cases, including two federal cases in New York and Georgia. Notably, in a civil fraud trial in New York, he was slapped with a staggering fine exceeding $450 million. In a recent development, the former president’s legal team disclosed that he could not post the required $454 million bond, which would have temporarily halted the proceedings against him in the latter case. This financial constraint adds a significant layer of complexity to his legal predicament.

It’s worth highlighting that national polls reveal a stark divide in public opinion regarding the legal implications surrounding former President Trump. Approximately 34% of U.S. citizens, which accounts for a third of the population, advocate for granting Trump immunity from criminal prosecution. In contrast, a significant majority of 65% oppose such immunity.

Of particular interest is the stance among Republican voters, where a notable 68% believe that Trump’s alleged illegal activities during his presidential tenure should not result in prosecution. This divergence in viewpoints underscores the deep-seated polarization within the electorate regarding accountability for past actions at the highest levels of government.

Main Electoral Groups

For a more comprehensive understanding of the candidates’ support base, it is essential to examine the interests of the main electoral groups.

Joseph Biden

Biden is relying heavily on key electoral groups for support, including the black population, where approximately 76% are poised to vote for the incumbent president. Additionally, citizens of Latin American origin are showing a notable level of support at 53%, while the youth demographic aged 18-29 stands at 63%, and women at 52%. These figures, albeit slightly lower than those seen in the 2020 election, were instrumental in securing Biden’s victory. The primary concerns shaping citizens’ views on the president’s policy predominantly revolve around economic matters, given widespread dissatisfaction with the current state of the economy. When examining women as a significant electoral group, it’s noteworthy that those prioritizing the issue of abortion tend to support Democratic Party candidates, while women whose focus lies on economic issues lean towards endorsing Trump.

Another electoral group whose support Joe Biden can garner includes representatives of the black population and citizens of Latin American origin. However, as previously mentioned, their percentage of support is somewhat diminished compared to the 2020 election. This decline can be attributed to widespread dissatisfaction with the president’s domestic policy, particularly regarding the perceived low likelihood of improving the financial situation of the population during his next presidential term. Furthermore, Biden’s immigration policy and the instability on the Mexican border may pose a significant challenge to him.

The war between Israel and Hamas and the United States’ pro-Israeli policy has sparked dissatisfaction with the current administration among some young people aged 18 to 29. The state of Michigan provides a particularly striking example, where during the Democratic primaries, over 100,000 citizens, constituting 13% of those who voted, opted for “uncommitted” on their ballots, effectively expressing protest against Biden’s candidacy. This protest was orchestrated through the mobilization of citizen groups, notably within the Arab and Muslim communities, which wield significant influence in Michigan. Such activism presents a notable challenge for the incumbent president, given that Michigan is one of the pivotal swing states that often determine the outcome of the presidential election. It is noteworthy that Biden secured victory in Michigan in 2020, whereas Trump carried the state in 2016, rendering the situation highly unpredictable and potentially perilous for the Democrats. The events in Michigan have catalyzed similar actions in other states, such as Minnesota, where 19% of Democrats voted “uncommitted” in the Democratic primaries.

People spotted with the ‘Vote
Uncommitted’ signs during an
uncommitted vote election night
gathering in Dearborn, Michigan, February 27, 2024. Source: Reuters

It is crucial to bear in mind that support for Israel holds significant importance within the Republican Party, possibly even more so than within the Democratic Party. Former President Donald Trump has not publicly expressed sympathy towards Palestinian claims nor indicated a willingness to exert more pressure on Israel to agree to a cease-fire, nor claimed his support for Israel.

Overall, despite the significant attention given to the Israel-Hamas conflict, experts argue that the majority of American voters prioritize domestic political issues, with foreign policy traditionally playing a less pivotal role in their decision-making process. While the conflict may have a notable impact on the voting behavior of Arab-Americans and certain left-leaning youth, it is unlikely to be the decisive factor for the broader electorate. Nevertheless, it is widely believed that due to the current president’s precarious standing, he may struggle to regain the support of voters he has lost.

Donald Trump

Continuing the discussion on how the Israel-Palestine conflict impacts the U.S. election campaign, the Republican Party is employing various tactics to capitalize on dissatisfaction with Biden’s actions. However, Trump’s rhetoric appears somewhat ambiguous: while criticizing the president’s handling of the situation, he claims he would have prevented the conflict if he were currently in the White House. Meanwhile, he has also emerged as one of the most pro-Israel presidents during his tenure, marked by the relocation of the U.S. embassy to Jerusalem. However, he is characterized by the opposition to any U.S. intervention in foreign conflicts, which aligns with his isolationist ideology.

In summarizing this topic, it’s important to recognize that widespread dissatisfaction with Biden’s handling of the Israel-Palestine situation won’t necessarily benefit Trump, yet could still pose challenges for the Democratic candidate’s electoral prospects. A key consideration is that voters who are disenchanted with the president’s approach might opt not to vote altogether or could choose a third-party candidate. This dynamic is particularly concerning in six pivotal swing states, including Michigan, with its significant group of Arab origin, as well as Arizona and Pennsylvania, which are characterized by a number of voters of Jewish descent. The problem is that not all Jewish citizens support Israel’s actions, nor do they endorse Biden’s policies, so a small shift in their general election choice could cost the incumbent president statewide votes.

Returning to the topic of electoral demographics, it’s evident that a significant portion of Donald Trump’s support base comprises white individuals, particularly those without higher education degrees. Conversely, citizens with higher levels of education and more progressive leanings are more inclined to align their votes with Joe Biden. Men represent another substantial segment of Trump’s voter base, while a considerable portion of women, particularly those critical of Trump’s controversial attitudes toward women and his stance on issues like abortion, tend to favor Biden. Recent statistics indicate that 58% of voters aged 65 and above are inclined to support the former president, although there are indications that support for Biden among this demographic may be on the rise.

Once again, the economic factor emerges as a pivotal consideration, commanding attention from a substantial portion of American citizens. Recent statistics underscore this sentiment, revealing that 65% of voters perceived the economic landscape as relatively favorable during Trump’s presidency. In contrast, only 38% hold a similar view regarding the economy under Biden’s leadership. Moreover, when it comes to domestic policies, a notable divergence in public opinion is evident. Approximately 46% of voters regard Trump’s domestic policies as generally beneficial, contrasting with just 33% who express a comparable assessment of Biden’s initiatives.

Overall, women and suburbanites are quite problematic for Trump’s electoral prospects. Traditionally, Republicans have garnered support in rural regions, while Democrats have maintained a stronghold in urban centers. However, predicting the inclinations of suburban residents has proven to be more intricate. Notably, they emerged as a primary focus of both parties’ political campaigns in 2024. In 2020, Biden successfully secured majority support in the suburbs, a feat Trump did not achieve in 2016. This shift underscores the evolving dynamics within suburban demographics and highlights the increasing importance of this demographic group in shaping electoral outcomes. In general, suburbanites are more likely to possess college degrees, a demographic characteristic that often aligns them with Democratic sympathies. However, it’s intriguing to note that individuals with higher education residing in urban areas constituted a significant portion of Nikki Haley’s support base. Following her withdrawal from the candidacy and her decision not to openly endorse Trump, both presumptive nominees intensified efforts to court this segment of American society. Presently, Biden holds a slight edge over Trump in key suburban demographics. Among college-educated adults, Biden boasts a 46.6% approval rating, whereas Trump’s approval rating stands at just 39.7%. Consequently, some experts argue that success among suburbanites could emerge as a decisive factor in determining the victory of either candidate.

As for Nikki Haley, who withdrew from the presidential race without publicly endorsing Trump, the interesting thing is that a large part of her electorate will probably vote against Donald Trump. The Emerson College poll found that 63% of Haley supporters opt for Biden, while only 27% said they would vote for Trump and 10% were undecided. Because of this, Biden’s team is actively working to secure as much support for him as possible from those who wanted to cast their vote for Haley.

The Opinion of the Main Electoral Groups Regarding Aid to Ukraine

The opinion of the main electoral groups regarding aid to Ukraine. Source: GALLUP

Overall figures for American public support for Ukraine vary, particularly by political affiliation, race, and age.

On average, individuals who perceive the United States aid to be insufficient tend to be better educated, more affluent, and older compared to those who deem the current level adequate or excessive. Additionally, women and white respondents generally express greater support for Ukraine compared to men and respondents from other racial and ethnic backgrounds.

Opinions about the extent to which the United States should support Ukraine vary the most by political affiliation. According to The Washington Post, more than 75% of Democrats support Ukraine in a war against Russia, while only slightly more than half of Republicans share the same opinion.

Where sympathies lie in the Russia-Ukraine war (by age and political affiliation). April 2022, Feb 2023, and Jan 2024. Source: YouGov-Economist/The Washington Post

Ukraine in the Election Campaign

It is well known that foreign policy has never been the criterion on which American citizens orient themselves during elections. Moreover, a significant part of the population is not sufficiently familiar with the foreign policy of the United States and does not attach much importance to it. Accordingly, much attention is not focused on the topic of Ukraine in the election campaigns of the main candidates.

For the administration of Joseph Biden, the conflict between Russia and Ukraine represents a significant test, as it underscores the United States’ capacity to address violations of international law and uphold universal principles of the modern world order on the global stage. The central themes of the campaign emphasize the current president’s commitment to defending democracy and human rights worldwide, as well as his dedication to supporting American allies in the face of threats posed by revisionist states like Russia. President Biden addresses the threat Russia poses to Europe and, by extension, to the United States, which has pledged to uphold European security under the NATO founding treaty. This messaging underscores the administration’s focus on safeguarding global stability and reinforcing the transatlantic alliance in the face of geopolitical challenges.

Furthermore, the president consistently underscores the tangible benefits derived by the United States from its support of Ukraine. These advantages include the erosion of the military and economic capabilities of a hostile state, which poses a potential threat to American national security. Notably, these efforts are conducted within the territory of another sovereign state without the direct involvement of American soldiers. Furthermore, over 90% of the financial and military assistance allocated to Ukraine ultimately circulates back to the United States. These funds are utilized to initiate the production of weaponry, thereby contributing to the replenishment of the American arsenal. This investment, equivalent to only 0.32% of U.S. GDP, not only fortifies the nation’s security but also stimulates job creation within the defense industry, fostering economic growth and bolstering domestic stability.

Furthermore, according to the Chicago Council on Global Affairs, a substantial majority of American citizens, 6 out of 10 (58%), endorse the ongoing provision of aid to Ukraine. While statistics vary across party lines, including Democrats, Republicans, and independent voters, in all cases, over 50% of citizens advocate for the continuation of support to Ukraine in its conflict with Russia. Notably, 60% of respondents believe that American assistance to Ukraine holds significance for national security and aligns with U.S. interests.

American public support for sending arms to Ukraine. Source: Chicago Council on Global Affairs / Ipsos

It is indeed crucial to acknowledge that support for Ukraine within American society is diminishing over time, a trend substantiated by statistical evidence. Statements issued by Donald Trump, the radical right wing of the Republican Party, and other public figures and politicians who exploit anti-Ukrainian rhetoric for their political agendas exert a considerable influence on public opinion. Although the former president hasn’t extensively addressed Ukraine, the few statements he has made appear manipulative and lacking in clarity, making it challenging to draw definitive conclusions about potential White House policies regarding Ukraine should Trump be elected as the forty-seventh president of the United States.

One of the most notable instances was Trump’s promise in May 2023 to halt the war in Ukraine within 24 hours by exerting pressure on both sides and compelling them to engage in negotiations. However, he did not provide specifics on how this could be achieved. Experts speculate that Trump would attempt to pressure Kyiv by abruptly cutting off all aid. Furthermore, Trump’s direct influence on the delay in the adoption of the military aid package to Ukraine by the US Congress, along with his exertion of pressure on certain representatives of Congress, has had an extremely adverse impact on public opinion in the USA. A significant portion of Trump’s supporters, particularly among the so-called MAGA movement, staunchly oppose providing any aid to Ukraine.

More recently, Trump has begun demanding that financial and military aid to Ukraine be provided on credit. This stance has garnered support from many Republicans, as well as a small number of Democrats. They hope that this approach will finally facilitate the passage of this crucial decision, which has been stalled in Congress for months.

All of this suggests that even minor mentions of Ukrainian issues in a negative context or the implementation of certain manipulations strongly influence both public opinion and the provision of American aid to Ukraine. One way or another, the American public will not elect a president based on his foreign policy, but manipulations on this topic undermine Ukraine’s image and, accordingly, its ability to resist an aggressor on the battlefield, which directly affects the course of the war.


Based on the aforementioned information, it can be inferred that public support for Ukraine in the United States is heavily influenced by various demographic and ideological factors, including political affiliation, age, race, education, and geographic location. Notably, opinions on the continuation of U.S. aid to Ukraine exhibit significant polarization based on these factors, particularly driven by the political alignment of American voters. This polarization is further exacerbated by the incorporation of the Ukraine issue into the election campaigns of U.S. presidential candidates, albeit to a rather small extent.

The utilization of the Ukraine topic for political purposes has led to numerous manipulations, potentially undermining the level of support for Ukraine. There is a distinct possibility that such political maneuvering may contribute to a significant decrease in public support over time. Moreover, political battles over aid to Ukraine will likely persist until the general elections in November 2024, a scenario that is not conducive to Ukraine’s interests.

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