U.S. Image Suffers as Publics Around World Question Trump’s Leadership

U.S. Image Suffers as Publics Around World Question Trump’s Leadership

America still wins praise for its people, culture and civil liberties

WASHINGTON, D.C. (June 26, 2017) – 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, a new Pew Research Center survey of 37 nations finds.

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. A median of just 22% across the countries surveyed 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. 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 the image of the U.S. 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.

These are among the major findings from a new Pew Research Center survey conducted among 40,447 respondents in 37 countries outside the U.S. from Feb. 16 to May 8, 2017. Additional findings in the report include:

President Trump’s policies: As a candidate, Trump repeatedly pledged to withdraw the U.S. from the nuclear weapons agreement with Iran, though he has yet to do so as president. On balance, global publics oppose this idea. Only in Israel and Jordan do majorities support U.S. withdrawal from the agreement. About a third globally express support for Trump’s proposed ban on people entering the U.S. from certain Muslim-majority nations, although there are four countries – Hungary, Israel, Poland and Russia – where more than half endorse this proposal. The survey, which was conducted before Trump officially announced that the U.S. would pull out of the Paris climate accord, finds widespread opposition to the U.S. withdrawing from international climate change agreements. A median of only 19% support the U.S. backing away from accords like the one signed in Paris.

Wider views of America: Overall, the American people are seen more positively than the U.S. as a country. Across the nations polled, a median of 58% say they have a favorable impression of Americans. Positive views are especially common in Asia and Europe. They are less common, however, in the Middle East – Turkey, Jordan and Lebanon are the only nations polled where majorities express an unfavorable opinion of Americans. Along with its citizens, America’s popular culture is often well-regarded abroad. Roughly two-thirds across the countries surveyed like American music, movies and television. Europeans and Asians are particularly likely to find U.S. pop culture appealing. A U.S. export that not all publics embrace is American-style democracy. While publics around the world generally endorse broad democratic principles, they offer mixed views regarding American ideas about democracy. Globally, a median of 43% say they like these ideas, while 46% say they dislike them.

Trump, Putin, Xi and Merkel: Trump is not the only world leader in whom global publics lack confidence. Chinese President Xi Jinping and Russian President Vladimir Putin also get poor marks, though neither is rated as negatively as the U.S. president. Across the 37 nations surveyed, a median of 28% voice confidence in Xi, while 27% feel this way about Putin. In contrast, 42% express confidence in the long-serving German Chancellor Angela Merkel, while just 31% lack confidence in her.

The findings are for immediate release and available at http://www.pewglobal.org/2017/06/26/u-s-image-suffers-as-publics-around-world-question-trumps-leadership. For more information, or to arrange an interview with this study’s lead author, Director of Global Attitudes Research Richard Wike, please contact Stefan Cornibert at 202.419.4372 or scornibert@pewresearch.org.

In addition to the report, the Center has published an interactive tool enabling users to track the public image of the U.S. and confidence in the U.S. president since George W. Bush’s first term. The interactive is available at http://www.pewglobal.org/interactives/us-image.

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