US lead­ers slump in pop­u­lar­ity, ap­proval polls, should con­tinue

China Daily (USA) - - ACROSS AMERICA - Chen Wei­hua WASH­ING­TON JOUR­NAL Con­tact the writer at chen­wei­hua@chi­nadai­

It might be odd for peo­ple out­side the US to see how many Amer­i­cans cel­e­brate when Pres­i­dent Barack Obama’s job ap­proval rat­ing ex­ceeded the 50 per­cent level.

The lat­est Gallup poll re­leased on Fri­day showed that Obama had a 52 per­cent job ap­proval rat­ing in his 31st quar­ter in of­fice — the best quar­terly av­er­age in his se­cond term.

It was in­deed high, con­sid­er­ing that since his first year in of­fice, Obama’s job ap­proval rat­ings have mostly stayed be­low the break-even level.

Obama has wit­nessed an up­ward mo­men­tum in ap­proval rat­ings as he approaches his last quar­ter in of­fice, partly due to his con­trast to the two 2016 pres­i­den­tial can­di­dates, Demo­crat Hil­lary Clin­ton and Repub­li­can Don­ald Trump, both of whom are viewed un­fa­vor­ably by most Amer­i­cans.

A di­vided Amer­ica un­der Obama is ev­i­dent. In his 31st quar­ter in of­fice, Obama’s ap­proval rat­ing reached 90 per­cent among Democrats and 50 per­cent among in­de­pen­dents, both up from a year ago. But his ap­proval rat­ing among Repub­li­cans re­mains at 12 per­cent from the pre­vi­ous quar­ter, ac­cord­ing to the poll.

Through­out his nearly eightyear pres­i­dency, Obama has av­er­aged a 47.6 per­cent job ap­proval rat­ing so far. Even if his ap­proval rat­ing in his fi­nal quar­ter in of­fice stays above 50 per­cent, his eight-year av­er­age will rank among the low­est of post-World War II pres­i­dents, ac­cord­ing to Gallup.

What’s worse is the US Congress’ ap­proval rat­ing, which was at 18 per­cent, ac­cord­ing to a Gallup poll con­ducted in early Oc­to­ber. In fact, the rat­ing for Congress has never ex­ceeded 25 per­cent since Obama took of­fice in 2009.

Most Amer­i­cans prob­a­bly have the mis­taken idea that their lead­ers are more pop­u­lar among their own cit­i­zens com­pared with lead­ers in coun­tries such as China and Rus­sia. It is at least what the US news me­dia and US politi­cians try to present to their peo­ple.

The re­al­ity, how­ever, is quite to the con­trary.

Polling from the Le­vada Cen­ter, a widely rec­og­nized in­de­pen­dent and non-gov­ern­men­tal polling and re­search or­ga­ni­za­tion, shows that Rus­sian Pres­i­dent Vladimir Putin is very pop­u­lar in his coun­try. His ap­proval rat­ing was at 82 per­cent in a sur­vey con­ducted Aug 26-29.

In the sum­mer of 2015, the Pew Cen­ter found that 88 per­cent of Rus­sians “have con­fi­dence in (Putin)” to do the right thing re­gard­ing world af­fairs.

Some Amer­i­can politi­cians can­not even ac­knowl­edge such a ba­sic fact. Dur­ing the only de­bate be­tween the two US vice-pres­i­den­tial can­di­dates, Demo­crat Tim Kaine re­buked Repub­li­can Mike Pence and ac­cused Trump of call­ing Putin a leader. Such a fact would never be dis­puted in other parts of the world, but it has sadly be­come a foot­ball of po­lit­i­cal cor­rect­ness in to­day’s US.

It re­minds me of an Amer­i­can jour­nal­ist I worked with in Shang­hai in the late 1990s. When we met in New York in 1998 af­ter he re­turned to the US af­ter work­ing years in China, he told me that when he first went to China, he thought that all Chi­nese liv­ing in a com­mu­nist coun­try must hate their gov­ern­ment and be ready to re­volt. What he found, how­ever, was that the Chi­nese loved their gov­ern­ment and coun­try just like Amer­i­cans loved theirs.

Com­pared with US lead­ers like Obama, Chi­nese lead­ers are much more pop­u­lar among their peo­ple, ac­cord­ing to var­i­ous sur­veys by the Pew Cen­ter.

In fact, Chi­nese Pres­i­dent Xi Jin­ping was the most pop­u­lar among the 10 world lead­ers listed in a De­cem­ber 2014 sur­vey on the pop­u­lar­ity of global lead­ers, con­ducted by the Har­vard Kennedy School.

Xi av­er­aged 9 out of 10 among the na­tional rank­ings, where peo­ple rated their own leader, higher than any other head of state. A to­tal of 94.8 per­cent of Chi­nese ex­pressed con­fi­dence in how Xi han­dles do­mes­tic af­fairs and 93.8 per­cent said the same about in­ter­na­tional af­fairs.

Xi was trailed by Putin (8.7), In­dian Prime Min­is­ter Naren­dra Modi (8.6) and South African Pres­i­dent Ja­cob Zuma (7). Obama came in 7th place, with a 6.2 rank­ing.

In that sur­vey, only 51.7 per­cent of Amer­i­cans ex­pressed con­fi­dence in Obama’s han­dling of do­mes­tic af­fairs while 49.1 per­cent had con­fi­dence in his han­dling of global af­fairs.

While it is still un­cer­tain whether Clin­ton or Trump will be­come the next US pres­i­dent, one thing does seem quite cer­tain — nei­ther of them is likely to en­joy pop­u­lar­ity among a ma­jor­ity of Amer­i­cans.

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