People in the Philippines Still Favor U.S. Over China, but Gap Is Narrowing

Source: Pew Research Center

Duterte and his war on drugs are seen positively by most Filipinos

Rodrigo Duterte claimed the presidency of the Philippines in May 2016, and six months later Donald Trump won the U.S. presidency, capping a year of electoral surprises around the world. While Trump’s first months in office have had a major impact on worldwide perceptions of the U.S., people in the Philippines still like the U.S. and have confidence in its leader. But Filipinos also share positive views of China and its leader, President Xi Jinping. And overall, the perception gap between the U.S. and China in the Philippines is narrowing.

Despite efforts by Duterte to build better relations with China, Filipinos’ attitudes toward China and its leader have not changed much since 2015. But opinions of the U.S. and its president, though still strong, are down from their Obama-era highs. As of this spring, 78% in the Philippines have a positive view of the U.S., down from 92% who expressed positive sentiment in 2015. And despite Filipinos being the most pro-Trump nation in Pew Research Center’s spring 37-country survey, confidence in Trump now is lower than trust in then-President Barack Obama was in 2015. Currently, 69% have confidence in Trump to do the right thing in world affairs, compared with 94% who expressed such confidence in Obama in 2015.

Despite these drops, people in the Philippines still support the U.S. military presence in the region and say that the U.S. would defend them should they get into a conflict with China. Three-quarters say having U.S. military personnel based in the Philippines is a good thing for the country and 68% assume the U.S. would use military force to defend their country from China. The U.S. has been involved militarily with the Philippines dating back to 1898, when U.S. forces seized the islands in the Spanish-American War. A U.S. military presence remains, despite Filipinos having gained their independence in 1946.

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