News from Ukraine has appeared on American television screens for weeks. First, there were scenes of the clashes between anti-government protesters and government security forces in the capital, Kyiv.
Then came the first-ever pictures of the mansion used by President Viktor Yanukovych before he fled the country for Russia. Next came images of the Russian takeover of Crimea and pro-Russian protests in eastern Ukraine.
While one might think Americans by now would be well-versed in the dispute, three U.S. researchers found that was hardly the case.
In late March, Survey Sampling International polled more than 2,000 Americans about the conflict and found only about one in six could correctly pinpoint Ukraine's location.
Dartmouth College political scientist Joshua Kertzer said their guesses were all over the map, typically about 2,900 kilometers off the mark, even placing it near Brazil or in the Indian Ocean.
“People tended to put Ukraine somewhere between Portugal and Sudan, Kazakhstan and Finland, Kertzer said. So, depending on your point of view, they were relatively in the neighborhood, but not as close as I think we would like.”
The survey showed Americans want little engagement with the Ukraine dispute, according to Kertzer. "In general, one of the things we found is that the costlier the policy, the less Americans want to have anything to do with it.”
Americans with the least knowledge of where Ukraine is on a map were more supportive of U.S. intervention than who knew U.S. policy better, Kertzer said. The survey showed Americans to be fairly supportive of the announced Western boycott of Russia’s planned June meeting in Sochi of the G-8 meeting of leading economies.
Only 13 percent of those surveyed support U.S. military intervention in Ukraine, Kertzer said. “Americans generally want to focus on issues at home,” he added.
Overall, he said several recent surveys have shown that after the lengthy U.S. military involvement in wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, American support for armed intervention abroad is very limited, perhaps at its lowest point in five decades.