Poll: 74 percent outside U.S. view Trump poorly
President called ‘strong’ even by critics
President Trump may not be popular around the world, but that may not be the end of the world.
A new Pew Research Center survey of 37 foreign countries found that 74 percent of foreign citizens polled are not confident that President Trump will do the right thing, and nearly four in 10 have an unfavorable view of the United States — both significantly higher figures than those reported when the poll was last administered under the Obama administration.
But panelists discussing the results at a crowded Brookings Institution briefing Tuesday called for caution about using the polls to predict a decline in American power or new foreign policy problems. For instance, Mr. Trump was seen as a “strong leader” even in countries where his personal ratings were low.
“The world doesn’t end with these changes” in the popularity of a given U.S. president, said Shadi Hamid, senior fellow of the project on U.S. relations with the Islamic world at the Brookings Institution.
“I take surveys with a kilo of salt,” said Constanze Stelzenmuller, a senior fellow at the Brookings Institution’s Center on the United States and Europe. She reminded the audience that there has been “whipsawing” in presidents’ global ratings over previous decades.
Mr. Hamid noted that ratings for Mr. Trump in some countries are higher than they were during some years of Barack Obama’s presidency, and that good rankings don’t necessarily translate to good policies.
“People’s attitudes toward the U.S. are very complex, and there’s sort of a love-hate relationship,” said Mr. Hamid, questioning the ability of “binary” poll questions to unearth people’s opinions. He joked that some people might prefer to write an essay in answer to the poll questions.
Richard Wike, director of global attitudes research at the Pew Research Center, noted that opinions of President Trump don’t necessarily track with opinions of the U.S. overall. According to the poll, many people overseas still have a positive opinion of the nation’s citizens and culture, and believe that relations with the U.S. will stay the same.
“Certain [results of the poll] highlight resiliency in America’s image,” said Mr. Wike. “People still tend to like a lot of things about the U.S. even when they’re not happy with the administration.”
Mr. Hamid noted, too, that the Trump administration does not represent just one foreign policy. Different members have different opinions on how to deal with international relations.
Policymakers’ separation from the president is important, said Ms. Stelzenmuller: “Even when there’s huge turbulence at the official level, policymakers move closer together.”
The poll results might be a cause for concern in Asia, said Ely Ratner, a senior fellow in China Studies at the Council on Foreign Relations. As countries make trade decisions, unfavorable views of the U.S. and the new administration could help fuel China’s growing economic dominance in the region.
“If the U.S. does want to lead in Asia, the opportunity is still there,” said Mr. Ratner. But he said a shift in the balance of power toward Beijing could transform the region in a “fundamental way.”
Overall, however, the panelists were optimistic that the U.S.’ international relations are not doomed to suffer under the Trump administration.
“It’s quite difficult to completely rip apart this fabric of relationships” between the U.S. and other countries, said Ms. Stelzenmuller. “These relationships are so much bigger than one single government that this too shall pass.”
Other results of the Global Attitudes Survey included:
● Russia and Israel are the only countries that reported greater confidence in Mr. Trump than they did in Mr. Obama. Mexico reported the greatest decline in U.S. favorability since the last Global Attitudes Survey, with 65 percent reporting an unfavorable opinion of the United States.
● 76 percent of respondents said they disapprove of Mr. Trump’s proposal to build a wall on the U.S.-Mexican border.
● 55 percent of respondents said they think Mr. Trump is a strong leader, a belief that was held even in some countries where citizens reported a very negative opinion of the president overall.
● 58 percent of respondents reported a favorable view of Americans, and 65 percent said they like American music, movies and television.