America’s image abroad has rebounded under President Joe Biden with 62% of those polled in 12 countries in 2020 and 2021 by Pew Research Center saying they have a favourable view of the country compared to 34% in the last year of former president Donald Trump.
Biden is better regarded and popular than Trump in those same 12 nations. A median of 75% of respondents said they have confidence that Biden will do the right thing in world affairs, compared to only 17% who could say the same for his predecessor in 2020, according to the poll released on Thursday.
Overall, in each of the 16 publics surveyed (the research used data from only 12 countries for comparisons, where polls were done in both 2020 and 2021), more than six-in-ten say they have confidence in Biden to do the right thing in world affairs.
Biden embarked on his first overseas trip as president on Wednesday. He will attend a G-7 summit in Cornwall, United Kingdom and then head out to Brussels for a meeting with EU leaders and NATO. He will then go on to Geneva for this first in-person meeting with his Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin.
Respondents in the 12 countries also found Biden “well qualified” than Trump by a wide margin of 77 % to 16% and a “stronger leader” as well 62% to 46%; this should trouble Trump who liked to portray himself as a strong leader. Trump scores over Biden on less flattering attributes though – he is considered “dangerous” 72% to 14% and “arrogant” 90% to 13%.
Pew found that high levels of confidence in Biden were tied to the popularity of his policies – 89% of those polled in 16 countries approved of his decision to rejoin the WHO; 85% supported his decision to return the US to the Paris Accord to combat climate change; his proposal to organise a conference of democracies was backed by 85% of the respondents; and 76% backed his announcement to take in more refugees.
Despite these large gains and improvements over Trump, Biden trails Germany’s Chancellor Angela Merkel – 75% to 77%. Merkel is the only world leader to beat him though. All others were way behind, 63% for France’s President Emmanuel Macron, and the least trusted of the leaders polled – Russia’s President Vladimir Putin whose ability to handle world affairs had the confidence of only 23% of respondents and China’s President Xi Jinping of only 20%.
Biden’s multilateral approach has been noted and welcomed but it does nothing to change the image of Americans being a country that primarily looks out for itself and its interests. The Pew report notes that this predates Trump’s attempts to shake up old and reliable alliances such as NATO.
“Doubts about the US considering the interests of other countries predate the Trump administration, and this has been the prevailing view – even among close US allies – since the centre began asking the question in 2002,” the report said.
But the US is still not seen as an “unreliable partner”, despite the challenges posed by four years of Trump, who had publicly castigated and questioned NATO and squabbled with allied countries and their leaders, often pejoratively and in deeply offensive personal terms.
A total of 67% of the respondents in 16 publics said they believed America is a “very” or “somewhat” reliable partner, and only 50% of them felt the US political system works well and few believe the US democracy is a model — 57% said it used to be a good model but not in recent years, and 23% averred it was never a good example for countries to follow.