MOSCOW – "I'm against that one – the aggressive one – I'm for Obama," said Valentina Savina, a lottery ticket seller on the Old Arbat, Moscow's busy central pedestrian thoroughfare.
"[I'm] against McCain," she added when asked what her views were on the U.S. presidential candidates. "He's against Russia."
Alexander Maleshov, a cab driver in Moscow, agreed. "As far as I know, the Republicans are strongly against us," he said.
|VIDEO: Russians watch the U.S. election|
Savina and Maleshov are not alone in their views of McCain and the GOP, according to a recent poll of Russians conducted at the beginning of September by the Russian Public Opinion Research Center. The survey found that 27 percent of respondents would choose Sen. Barack Obama if they could vote in the U.S. elections, as opposed to just 6 percent choosing Sen. John McCain.
(According to the poll, 34 percent of respondents also said, "I wouldn't vote for anyone," and the remaining 33 percent responded that the question was "hard to answer.")
The results are partly a product of McCain's outspoken criticism of the country and its popular prime minister – and former president – Vladimir Putin. For instance, McCain has advocated excluding Russia from the G8 in response to "diminishing political freedoms" under Putin.
They are also the result of McCain being a member of the Republican Party. In a country where the Bush administration's policies, from the war in Iraq to the planned installation of missile defense systems in Poland and the Czech Republic, are highly unpopular, it would be hard for any GOP candidate to gain much of a following.
Georgia conflict has an effect
Also working against McCain is the conflict in the former Soviet republic of Georgia. The U.S. and Russia have supported opposite sides, with the U.S. voicing strong support for Georgia and Russia backing South Ossetia and Abkhazia, two separatist regions on Georgian territory.
In many ways the Georgia War was fought on the airwaves and the television screens as much as it was on the ground, and Russians' response to the candidates tend to follow what they heard in the Russian media.
And while both candidates were critical of Russia's military actions on Georgian soil beyond the separatist areas, many Muscovites I spoke with quoted McCain's statement at a campaign stop in York, Pa., when he declared that "We [Americans] are all Georgians," as one reason for their leaning toward Obama.
"In both cases, it will be very hard relations between United States and Russia," said Anton Lopatin, 23, taking a lunch break on the Arbat from his job in financial services.
Many Russians agree with him. Less than a fifth of Russians respondents to the recent poll described U.S. relations as "friendly," "neighborly" or "calm."
Overall, the saber-rattling over Georgia has sparked a greater interest in U.S. politics and how it can affect Russia.
In the poll, 47 percent of respondent said they "closely" or "somewhat" follow the U.S. elections, up from 36 percent just two months earlier.
"America, it's the biggest country," said Natalia Golubeva, a 26-year-old who works in financial services, "so we are also interested in the policy … of your country."