As Russia’s military invasion of Ukraine approaches its third month, the U.S. and its allies continue to try to navigate the tense situation.

Rep. Eric Swalwell (D-CA) suggested deporting foreign exchange students from Russia who are currently studying in the U.S.

Swalwell’s idea was swiftly criticized and doesn’t appear to be on the table for serious consideration. However, according to a new Intelligent.com survey, among American college students, the idea has some support.

From April 29-30, 2022, Intelligent.com surveyed 1,250 current college students ages 18 and older about their opinions of Swalwell’s comments as well the conflict in general and the U.S. government’s response to it.

Key Findings:

  • 35% of U.S. college students ‘agree’ or ‘strongly agree’ that the U.S. should ban foreign exchange students from Russia as a punishment for invading Ukraine
  • In the ongoing conflict, 45% of U.S. college students support Ukraine, while 15% support Russia
  • Half of American students disapprove of the U.S. government’s response to the conflict; 28% want the U.S. to increase support for Ukraine, while 22% want the U.S. to scale back its involvement
  • Of the 28% of students who want the U.S. to increase support for Russia, 1 in 5 think the U.S. should attack Russia directly

35% of American college students support a ban on Russian exchange students

When presented with Swalwell’s suggestion of banning Russian exchange students to punish Russia for invading Ukraine, 16% of current U.S. college students ‘strongly agree’ with the idea, while 19% ‘agree’ with it.

The plurality of students, 44% ‘strongly disagree’ or ‘disagree’ with the suggestion. The remaining 21% aren’t sure or have no opinion.

Among U.S. students who agree that Russian students should be expelled, the number one reason is that the U.S. must punish Russia as much as possible to end the war (48%).

Thirty-six percent of students who support the ban say it’s because Russian students might be spies. Thirty-five percent don’t believe that Russian students deserve the benefit of an American education.

Meanwhile, 65% of respondents who think Russian students should still be allowed at U.S. colleges say banning them is unfair, as they may not support Russia’s military actions in Ukraine.

Thirty-six percent say it’s unlikely such a ban would help stop the war. One in four respondents point to the small number of Russian students in the U.S., which hovered around 5,000 in 2021, according to the Institute of International Education.

40% of Republican students want Russian students banned

When broken down by political affiliation, students who identify as Republican are most likely to support a ban on Russian foreign exchange students, with 40% agreeing or strongly agreeing that these students shouldn’t be allowed at American universities.

Thirty-eight percent of students who belong to the Green, Libertarian, or other political parties also support the ban, as do 34% of independents, 32% of Democrats, and 28% of students who identify as apolitical.

Conversely, 49% of students who identify as independent or apolitical disagree or strongly disagree with bans on Russian foreign exchange students, as do 47% of Democrats, 44% of Republicans, and 38% of members of the Green, Libertarian, or other political parties.

U.S. colleges should keep Ukrainian students for duration of war, say 58% of U.S. students

Meanwhile, one of the moves that the U.S. has taken to support Ukraine is granting Temporary Protected Status to all Ukrainian nationals, including students, who were in the U.S. when the war began. These individuals can remain in the U.S. for up to 18 months, regardless of their visa status.

Fifty-eight percent of U.S. college students ‘agree’ or ‘strongly agree’ that foreign exchange students from Ukraine should be allowed to remain in the U.S. for the duration of the war. According to 62% of students who agree, the U.S. must allow these individuals to stay for their own personal safety. Half of these respondents also say that letting Ukrainian nationals stay instead of deporting them to their war-torn country is the morally right thing to do.

Democrat students are most likely to support Ukrainian students remaining in the U.S., with 70% agreeing with such a policy. By comparison, 60% of Republican students, 57% of independents, 55% of apolitical students, and 47% of third-party members agree with letting Ukrainian students remain in the U.S. until the conflict ends.

For the 27% of students who ‘disagree’ or ‘strongly disagree’ with letting Ukraine students stay in the U.S., their reasons are split. Forty percent say Ukrainians should go home to defend their country, it’s not the U.S.’s responsibility to protect Ukrainian citizens, and letting Ukrainians stay is unfair to American students.

45% of U.S. students are backing Ukraine, while 15% support Russia

In the ongoing conflict, 45% of U.S. students support Ukraine and its efforts to expel Russian military forces. Fifteen percent support Russia and its attempt to take control of Ukraine. Seventeen percent support both sides equally, while nearly one in four (23%) aren’t sure or have no opinon.

When broken down by political party, support for Ukraine is highest among Democrats, with 68% of students from that party backing Ukraine. Support is lowest among third-party members, with only 25% of whom say they support Ukraine.

Third-party students are also most likely to say they support Russia in the conflict, with 22% selecting this response. Sixteen percent of apolitical students indicate support for Russia, as do 13% of Republicans, 12% of independents, and 8% of Democrats.

Social media most popular way of demonstrating support for Ukraine among college students

For students who are backing Ukraine, the most popular way of demonstrating that support is by posting pro-Ukraine photos, videos, and other content on social media (37%).

Donations are also a popular method of helping Ukraine and its citizens. Thirty-three percent of students who support Ukraine have donated money to organizations helping individuals displaced by the war, while 23% have donated clothing or other necessities.

Sixteen percent of students helped by organizing or volunteering at an on-campus fundraiser or event to raise awareness, while 19% of students have attended such an event.

Roughly one-fourth of students who say they support Ukraine, 24%, haven’t taken any actionable steps to help the country or its citizens.

U.S. college students’ opinions of government’s response to Russia-Ukraine conflict divided

When it comes to the federal government’s response to the conflict between Russia and Ukraine, U.S. college students have little consensus on whether the U.S. is doing a good or bad job.

Twenty-nine of students approve of the U.S. government’s response, including the aid the U.S. is providing to Ukraine and the sanctions they’re imposing on Russia. Twenty-one percent aren’t sure or have no opinion.

The half that disapprove are divided on what needs to change. Twenty-eight percent of respondents want the U.S. to do more to help Ukraine, while 22% want the U.S. to be less involved in the conflict.

Roughly one-third of Democrats, Republicans, and independents approve of the U.S.’s handling of the situation. Democrats and third-party members are most likely to say the U.S. should be doing more to help Ukraine (31% and 29%, respectively). Twenty-six percent of apolitical students say the U.S. should be less involved, while one in five students who identify as Democrat, Republican, or independent have the same attitude.

1 in 5 pro-Ukraine U.S. students think the U.S. should attack Russia

Among students who think the U.S. should be doing more to help Ukraine, 44% want the U.S. to send more money, weapons, and supplies to the war-torn country, 37% want the U.S. to accept more Ukrainian refugees, 36% want the U.S. to try to negotiate peace between Russia and Ukraine, and 30% favor harsher economic sanctions against Russia.

Some students also support the U.S. getting more directly involved in the conflict, either by sending U.S. troops to Ukraine (34%) or attacking Russia directly (22%).

Meanwhile, 31% of students who want the U.S. to scale back its involvement in the conflict say the U.S. shouldn’t accept Ukrainian refugees. Thirty percent want the U.S. to stop sending weapons and other forms of aid to Ukraine, while 27% think the U.S. should both lift sanctions against Russia, and that President Biden and other U.S. government officials should stop speaking out in support of Ukraine.

Methodology

All data found within this report derives from a survey commissioned by Intelligent.com and conducted online by survey platform Pollfish. In total, 1,250 current U.S. college students ages 18 and older were surveyed. To qualify for the survey, each respondent had to currently be in a degree-granting program at a 2- or 4-year institution. Appropriate respondents were found via a screening question. This survey was conducted from April 29-30, 2022. All respondents were asked to answer all questions truthfully and to the best of their abilities. For full survey data, please email Content Marketing Specialist Kristen Scatton at [email protected].