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Gallup Poll: 61 Percent of Americans Believe U.S.-Russian Relationship Friendly

Aired June 5, 2000 - 2:32 p.m. ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.

KYRA PHILLIPS, CNN ANCHOR: Capping his week-long tour of Europe today, President Clinton received a promise that the Ukraine will close the Chernobyl nuclear plant by the end of the year. In return, Mr. Clinton promised $78 million to continue to manage the aftermath of the 1986 explosion of the plant's reactor number four.

Chernobyl still ranks as the single worst accident in the history of nuclear power. It was blamed for more than 4,000 deaths and hundreds of thousands of radiation-related illnesses.

Before he traveled to Ukraine, Mr. Clinton spent several days in Russia, America's former enemy turned wary friend.

Gallup's Frank Newport join us now from Princeton, New Jersey to tell us how Americans feel about a changing global relationship.

Hi, Frank.

FRANK NEWPORT, GALLUP POLL EDITOR IN CHIEF: Hi, Kyra.

In fact, one of the interviewers of President Clinton used one of our Gallup polls a couple of days ago and said to Mr. Clinton, only 42 percent of the American public has a favorable opinion of Russia. What do you think about it?

Well, we actually have another number here about how Americans think about Russia, which is actually a little higher. This is a question about several different countries: Do you consider them friendly our an ally of the U.S., or do you consider them to be an enemy or unfriendly? And there's Russia. That's higher. It's 61 percent who now say that we have friendly relationships, from their perspective, a lot higher than it would have been, say, 10 or 20 years ago; still lower than, for example, Germany, another western Europe country; but higher than China, and, of course, way higher than one of our real enemies, Iraq there, one of America's real enemies.

Now, Vladimir Putin himself, with whom Clinton was meeting, not a known figure yet -- we thought we would show you that -- certainly not like Gorbachev or Yeltsin. Only 18 percent of the American public actually can name him when we ask them, who's president of Russia?

Now, the question of nuclear safety was a big one on President Clinton's mind as he met in Russia. We've been tracking a question -- a very interesting question of the public: How likely is it that we will have a nuclear war within the next 10 years? And back in the Reagan years in '82, that was half of Americans who said, yes. The numbers have kind of gone up and down, but now we still have right over here in our last poll, just a couple of weeks ago, about a quarter of Americans saying they think it's at least somewhat likely that we will have a nuclear war. That's the basis, of course, for the whole missile defense system that President Clinton was trying to push in his visit.

And when we asked the public about that back in Reagan's years -- we called it Star Wars then -- mix opinion. Now when we re-ask whether the public in America wants that or not, mixed opinion still. So Americans personally, internally in our country, still not wholly convinced we need that kind of missile defense system, apparently, as is the case for the Russian leaders as well.

Kyra and Lou, that's where the American public stands. Back to you.

WATERS: All right, Frank, thanks.

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