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President Obama speaks at a joint news conference with South Korean President Park Geun Hye at the Blue House on April 25 in Seoul. Obama said the U.S. and Europe are laying the groundwork to sanction broad sections of Russia's economy if Moscow invades eastern Ukraine, but he acknowledged those sanctions may fail to deter Vladimir Putin. / Carolyn Kaster, AP

WASHINGTON - Americans support tighter economic sanctions on Moscow, a USA TODAY/Pew Research Center Poll finds, but they oppose by more than 2-1 the idea of sending arms or military supplies to the Ukrainian government to bolster its defenses against Russian forces.

The survey was released Monday as the White House announced a freeze on assets and bans on travel targeting seven Russian officials and 17 firms close to President Vladimir Putin. Additional restrictions were imposed on 13 other Russian companies, and the administration moved to block some high-tech exports to Russia.

"These sanctions represent the next stage in a calibrated effort to change Russia's behavior," President Obama said at a news conference in the Philippines, the last stop in his four-nation Asia tour. He admitted, "We don't yet know whether it is going to work."

The poll finds majority support across party lines for increasing economic and diplomatic sanctions on Russia, by 53%-36%. There is also strong bipartisan opposition to sending weapons, 62%-30%.

While Republicans, including Arizona Sen. John McCain and former vice president Dick Cheney, have blasted Obama for not taking stronger steps, the survey found limited appetite for more aggressive action by the United States. About a third, 35%, say Obama hasn't been tough enough in dealing with the situation, but 43% say the president's actions have been "about right." Just 5% say he has been too tough.

On that, there is a predictable partisan divide: Most Republicans say Obama isn't being tough enough; most Democrats say he is handling things about right.

"You can only do so much without actually going in militarily, which I don't agree with," says Ronald Moore, 65, of San Francisco, who was among those surveyed. "You try to put as many economic sanctions as you can on them and then force them to do what they should do. But I think we're doing as much as we can on that issue. Well, not as much as we can, but we're doing it the right way."

Loree McOwen, 50, of Dryden, N.Y., supports sanctions but is skeptical that they will work. "I think we're behind the eight-ball right now," she said in a follow-up interview. "The world doesn't see us as having a strong policy. Back when (President Ronald) Reagan was in office, you knew off the bat that if a decision was made, he would stick to his guns, and I don't think that is happening."

The poll of 1,501 adults, taken April 23-27, has a margin of error of +/-3 percentage points.

Americans continue to insist the president should focus more on domestic policy than foreign policy, 72%-13%. Still, foreign policy is seen as slightly more critical than earlier in Obama's second term. The gap of 59 percentage points, while overwhelming, is 10 points closer than when the question was asked in a Pew poll in January, and more than 20 points closer than in January 2013.

"I think America needs to keep their nose out of it," says Anthony Miniard, 50, of Lynchburg Ohio. "I saw today that kids over here are going hungry. You see that around the world, but I never thought I would see it here. We need to worry about our own backyard."

Foreign policy analysts describe Russia's action in Ukraine, including the annexation of Crimea, as the biggest land grab in Europe since World War II ?? one that British Foreign Secretary William Hague and others warn could revive the Cold War.

Not quite half of those surveyed say they have read or heard a lot about it. About a third say they have heard "a little." One in five say they have read or heard "nothing at all" about it.

That reflects a relatively high level of interest in a foreign policy issue, says Peter Feaver, a professor of political science and public affairs at Duke University who served on the National Security Council during the Bill Clinton and George W. Bush administrations.

"After 12 years of non-traditional, terrorist threats and counter insurgency, (this is) the old geopolitics of the angry bear," Feaver says. That helps explain the difference in views by age: Just 20% of those under 30 say the Russia-Ukraine situation is "very important" to the United States. Among those 50 to 64 years old, that more than doubles, to 41%.

"A certain generation of Americans spent a lifetime thinking about it," he says. "The younger generation didn't live through the Soviet threat, so (to them) the Russians are more a punchline than a menace."



Copyright 2014 USATODAY.com

Read the original story: Poll: Americans support sanctions, not arms for Ukraine

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