America still wins praise for its people, culture and civil liberties
Although he has only been in office a few months, Donald Trump’s presidency has had a major impact on how the world sees the United States. Trump and many of his key policies are broadly unpopular around the globe, and ratings for the U.S. have declined steeply in many nations. According to a new Pew Research Center survey spanning 37 nations, a median of just 22% has confidence in Trump to do the right thing when it comes to international affairs. This stands in contrast to the final years of Barack Obama’s presidency, when a median of 64% expressed confidence in Trump’s predecessor to direct America’s role in the world.
The sharp decline in how much global publics trust the U.S. president on the world stage is especially pronounced among some of America’s closest allies in Europe and Asia, as well as neighboring Mexico and Canada. Across the 37 nations polled, Trump gets higher marks than Obama in only two countries: Russia and Israel.
In countries where confidence in the U.S. president fell most, America’s overall image has also tended to suffer more. In the closing years of the Obama presidency, a median of 64% had a positive view of the U.S. Today, just 49% are favorably inclined toward America. Again, some of the steepest declines in U.S. image are found among long-standing allies.
Since 2002, when Pew Research Center first asked about America’s image abroad, favorable opinion of the U.S. has frequently tracked with confidence in the country’s president. Prior to this spring, one of the biggest shifts in attitudes toward the U.S. occurred with the change from George W. Bush’s administration to Obama’s. At that time, positive views of the U.S. climbed in Europe and other regions, as did trust in how the new president would handle world affairs.
Even though the 2017 shift in views of the U.S. and its president is in the opposite direction compared with eight years ago, publics on balance are not necessarily convinced that this will affect bilateral relations with the U.S. The prevailing view among the 37 countries surveyed is that their country’s relationship with the U.S. will be unchanged over the next few years. Among those who do anticipate a change, however, more predict relations will worsen, rather than improve.
Confidence in President Trump is influenced by reactions to both his policies and his character. With regard to the former, some of his signature policy initiatives are widely opposed around the globe.
His plan to build a wall along the U.S.-Mexico border, for example, is opposed by a median of 76% across the 37 countries surveyed. Opposition is especially intense in Mexico, where more than nine-in-ten (94%) oppose the U.S. government erecting a wall.
Similar levels of global opposition greet Trump’s policy stances on withdrawing from international trade agreements and climate change accords. And most across the nations surveyed also disapprove of the new administration’s efforts to restrict entry into the U.S. by people from certain Muslim-majority nations.
Trump’s intention to back away from the nuclear weapons agreement with Iran meets less opposition than his other policy initiatives, but even here publics around the world disapprove of such an action by a wide margin.
Trump’s character is also a factor in how he is viewed abroad. In the eyes of most people surveyed around the world, the White House’s new occupant is arrogant, intolerant and even dangerous. Among the positive characteristics tested, his highest rating is for being a strong leader. Fewer believe he is charismatic, well-qualified or cares about ordinary people.