President Barack Obama is getting low marks for his handling of Russia's swoop into Ukraine, and more Americans than ever disapprove of the way Obama is doing his job, according to a newAssociated Press-GfK poll.
Until now, foreign policy has not been a drag on Obama's second term. Although Republicans have long criticized the president as too weak in asserting U.S. power abroad, Americans were about as likely to endorse his actions as to disapprove.
Now Obama has hit a new low on international relations — just 40 percent approval.
Despite the poor performance reviews, Obama's primary tactic so far — imposing economic sanctions on key Russians — has strong backing.
Close to 9 out of 10 Americans support sanctions as a response to Russia's annexation of the Crimean Peninsula, the poll indicates. About half of that group says the U.S. sanctions so far are about right, while the other half wants to see them strengthened, the AP-GfK poll found.
Most Democrats say the sanctions were OK, while a majority of Republicans find them too weak.
"We're supposed to be a country that helps smaller countries in need," said Christopher Ashby, 29, a Republican who wants a more powerful response. "Ukraine at this time is definitely in need."
Ashby, a stay-at-home dad caring for three young daughters, said, "When I look at Obama, I see my 5-year-old daughter looking at something that just happened and saying 'What do I do?'"
Overall disapproval of the job Obama is doing ticked up to 59 percent — a record high for his presidency — in the poll released Wednesday. That is still well below the 72 percent disapproval rate that former President George W. Bush recorded in the AP-GfK poll in October 2008. Still, Obama's 41 percent approval rating is a sobering number for fellow Democrats running in November's House and Senate elections.
Americans are now divided over which party they would rather see in control of Congress. Democrats held a slight edge over Republicans in the January AP-GfK poll.
Obama gets lowest marks for his handling of the federal budget, immigration and the economy.
Majorities say they dislike Obama's handling of the Ukraine situation (57 percent) and his interactions with Russia (54 percent).
Almost half of those polled say they support imposing tougher sanctions if Russia pushes into new regions or other countries; only 14 percent are opposed. That backs up threats from Obama and Western allies to target Russia's economy with damaging sanctions if President Vladimir Putin goes further.
About a third of those surveyed said they oppose giving monetary aid to nations targeted by Russia. Only about 20 percent approve of financial support, while the biggest share is neutral. This week Congress is considering $1 billion in loan guarantees for Ukraine sought by Obama.
The idea of lending any type of military support to Ukraine is unpopular, the poll says. Obama has said there are no plans to use military force to dislodge Russia from the Crimean Peninsula.
The AP-GfK Poll was conducted March 20-24 using KnowledgePanel, GfK's probability-based online panel designed to be representative of the U.S. population. It involved online interviews with 1,012 adults and has a margin of sampling error of plus or minus 3.4 percentage points for all respondents.
Respondents were first selected randomly using phone or mail survey methods and were later interviewed online. People selected for KnowledgePanel who didn't otherwise have access to the Internet were provided with the ability to access the Internet at no cost to them.