Following the election of Donald Trump to the White House in 2016, America’s global image significantly suffered with only 49 percent of surveyed countries being “favorably inclined towards America.” Now, almost two years later, a new study by the Pew Research Center shows that not much has changed.
The study, conducted among 25-nations, found that Trump’s international image remains poor and that ratings for the U.S. abroad are significantly lower than those during the Obama administration when 64 percent had a positive view of the U.S.
“George W. Bush, whose foreign policies were broadly unpopular in Europe, got low ratings during his presidency, while the opposite was true for Barack Obama, who enjoyed strong approval,” the study said. “Following the 2016 election, confidence in the president plunged, with Trump’s ratings resembling what Bush received near the end of his second term.”
One of the common criticisms researchers uncovered regarding recent American foreign policy is that the U.S. prioritizes its own interests over collaboration with others, a trend that has continued under the Trump administration.
“People around the world generally don’t like it when they see the U.S. putting up barriers between itself and the rest of the world, whether that’s a figurative barrier in terms of making it difficult to enter the United States or a literal barrier. People don’t like to when they see the U.S. withdrawing from its international commitments,” Richard Wike, Director of Global Attitudes Research at the Pew Research Center, explained during the launch of the report.
A few countries in particular, representative of some of America’s closest allies and neighbors, exhibited sharply negative perceptions towards America’s image today in comparison to during the Obama administration.
In terms of countries whose citizens have the lowest public confidence levels in Trump, Canada came in third with only 25 percent, Germany followed with 10 percent and Mexico ranked first with only six percent of Mexican citizens having confidence in him.
“The international system is based on American leadership, and today, American leadership is a very significant question mark,” Heather Conley, Senior Vice President for Europe, Eurasia and the Arctic at Center for Strategic and International Studies, said commenting on the report.
China also represented a large area of focus in the Pew study. Among a list of seven major nations, an average of 70 percent said China has exercised more influence and power in the world over the past decade.
Despite this consensus, when asked whether it would be preferable to have the U.S. or China as the world’s leading power, respondents overwhelmingly favored the U.S.
Nevertheless, Michael Green, Director of Asian Studies at Georgetown University, said the United States should be worried about its popularity.
“The bully pulpit role of the president is a powerful tool in American foreign policy, and it makes me worried that in a crisis, and we haven’t really seen one yet through the Trump presidency, that that foreign policy tool might not work,” he said.