A few short years ago, Republican attitudes about Russian President Vladimir Putin and the controversial site Wikileaks could hardly have been more negative. A 2013 YouGov poll showed that, at the time, Republican voters held a tremendously negative view of Wikileaks — in fact, the site had an overall -47 favorability rating, a number similar to the overwhelming unpopularity with which Republicans viewed House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, President Barack Obama and Hugo Chavez of Venezuela.
In fact, the only person or thing Republicans viewed more unfavorably than Wikileaks was Russian President Vladimir Putin, who had an astonishing -66 net favorability rating among Republican voters as late as 2014.
Those numbers have changed to an absolutely shocking degree, as Wikileaks now enjoys a +24 favorability rating among Republican voters.
Part of the explanation can be found by examining the subject matter of Wikileaks’ document dumps. Prior to the 2016 election, Wikileaks was mainly known for publishing classified or otherwise secret information about United States foreign policy, including military operations in Iraq and Afghanistan. However, in recent months, Wikileaks regained prominence as the antagonist of Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton after they published a cache of documents from the email boxes of Clinton campaign chair John Podesta.
Even more surprising, however, is the change in Republican attitudes toward Putin. He is still viewed unfavorably, but much, much less so. Putin’s current net favorability among Republican voters is now -10, meaning that Putin’s net favorability among Republican voters has improved an astonishing 56 points in the last two years.
Among Democratic voters, meanwhile, Wikileaks and Putin have remained relatively unpopular. Wikileaks’ net favorability among Democrats was -3 as of June 2013, and it has fallen today to -28. Putin’s net favorability among Democrats in July 2014 was -54, according to YouGov; it has now fallen slightly to -62.
Democrats — bolstered by the assessment of some intelligence agencies — have alleged that Russian hackers, acting at the behest of the Kremlin, obtained access to Podesta’s emails and delivered the contents thereof to Wikileaks for dissemination.