Follow us on social


US image hits record lows with closest Western allies, but views of Trump even worse

This year’s record declines could be attributed in part to perceptions of the country’s — and Trump’s — handling of the coronavirus pandemic.

Analysis | Washington Politics

Positive perceptions of the United States by the citizens of Washington’s most important Western allies across the globe have fallen to record lows, in some cases even lower than during the nadir of the George W. Bush administration after its invasion of Iraq. The findings, published this week by the Pew Research Center’s Global Attitudes project, reveal consistently unfavorable opinions of both the United States and President Donald Trump’s leadership.

A majority of respondents in 12 of the 13 nations covered by the survey — South Korea being the sole exception — said they held a negative opinion of the United States. A median of only 34 percent of all respondents expressed favorable views of the U.S.

The leadership of President Trump was viewed even more negatively, particularly in western Europe, with a median of a mere 16 percent of respondents saying they had “some” or “a lot of” confidence in the U.S. president “to do the right thing in world affairs.”

In comparison to other world leaders — Germany’s Angela Merkel, France’s Emmanuel Macron, the United Kingdom’s Boris Johnson, Russia’s Vladimir Putin, and China’s Xi Jinping — Trump was found to inspire the least confidence — although Putin and Xi also fared relatively poorly — among European respondents.


“These numbers are predominantly a response to Trump’s foreign policy,” Steve Kull, Director of the Program for Public Consultation at the University of Maryland told Responsible Statecraft. “Withdrawing from the World Health Organization, aspects of Trump’s own personality, and the coronavirus pandemic are all likely contributors” to these results, according to Kull.

The Global Attitudes project, which has been regularly polling international perceptions of the U.S. and other major foreign policy issues since the early 2000s, was released Wednesday but has received little media coverage.

The survey covered several regions. European countries surveyed included the United Kingdom, France, Germany, Spain, Italy, the Netherlands, Belgium, Sweden, and Denmark. The poll also included Japan, South Korea, Australia, and Canada. Altogether, over 13,000 respondents in the 13 countries were surveyed between June 10 and August 3.

With the exception of Sweden, Washington has collective-defense agreements with all of the countries covered by the poll, which requires them to consider an attack on the United States as an attack on them and vice versa. Record low public approval for the United States in those countries, if it persists, could have important implications for Washington’s defense posture overseas.

In six of the 13 countries — the United Kingdom, France, Germany, Japan, Canada, and Australia — Washington’s image fell to its lowest point since Pew began conducting these surveys, substantially lower in Japan, Canada and Australia than even after the 2003 U.S. invasion of Iraq.


As noted by Kull, this year’s record declines could be attributed in part to perceptions of the country’s — and Trump’s — handling of the coronavirus pandemic. The United States is fast approaching 200,000 deaths attributed to the virus, the world’s highest total death toll.

Respondents in all 13 countries surveyed rated Washington’s response to the pandemic as the worst. They said their own countries, as well as the WHO, had performed more effectively.

The perception of U.S. economic strength also appears to have suffered, according to the survey results. Of the 13 countries, majorities in only South Korea and Japan said they considered the United States to be the world’s leading economic power. Pluralities or majorities in the other 11 nations rated China as the world’s leading economic power.

Writing in the Washington Post, Daniel Drezner, who teaches international relations at Tufts University, found this result particularly concerning. “Despite Trump’s claims about building the greatest economy in history, and despite a two-year trade war,” he wrote, “a plurality of respondents believe that China is now the world’s most powerful economy.”


Kull stressed that the plunge in the U.S. image documented by the latest poll is not necessarily irreversible. Despite the low ratings of the country that followed the Iraq invasion, which in some countries dipped to levels not far from where they currently stand, positive views of the United States rebounded in most countries with Obama’s election.

Similarly, trust in the U.S. president “to do the right thing regarding world affairs” rose sharply, at least initially, when Obama succeeded Bush in 2009. Kull expressed confidence that a similar recovery in global favorability towards the U.S. will occur if Joe Biden defeats Trump in the presidential election this November.

To see the remainder of the survey’s findings, read it here.

President Donald J. Trump and German Chancellor Angela Merkel participate in a pull aside meeting Wednesday, June 5, 2019, at the Southsea Common in Portsmouth, England following the D-Day Commemorative event. (Official White House Photo by Shealah Craighead)||||||
Analysis | Washington Politics
Diplomacy Watch: A peace summit without Russia
Diplomacy Watch: Ukraine risks losing the war — and the peace

Diplomacy Watch: How close were Russia and Ukraine to a deal in 2022?


The RAND corporation’s Samuel Charap and Johns Hopkins University professor Sergey Radchenko published a detailed timeline and analysis of the talks between Russian and Ukrainian negotiators just after the Russian invasion in February 2022 that could have brought the war to an end just weeks after it had begun.

Much of the piece confirms or elucidates parts of the narrative that had previously been reported. In the spring of 2022, the two sides appeared relatively close to a deal, one that, according to the authors, would “have ended the war and provided Ukraine with multilateral security guarantees, paving the way to its permanent neutrality and, down the road, its membership in the EU.”

keep readingShow less
Blinken ignores State recommendation to sanction Israeli units: Report
L-R: U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu shake hands after their meeting at the Prime Minister's Office in Jerusalem, on Monday, January 30, 2023. DEBBIE HILL/Pool via REUTERS

Blinken ignores State recommendation to sanction Israeli units: Report


State Department leadership is ignoring a recommendation from an internal panel to stop giving weapons to several Israeli military and police units due to credible allegations of serious human rights abuses, according to a major new report from ProPublica.

The alleged violations, which occurred before the Oct. 7 Hamas attacks, include extrajudicial killings, sexual assault of a detainee, and leaving an elderly Palestinian man to die after handcuffing and gagging him. Secretary of State Antony Blinken received the recommendation in December but has yet to take action to prevent the units involved from receiving American weapons.

keep readingShow less
Europe's hopelessly murky, mixed messaging on restraint

Ursula von der Leyen (CDU, l), President of the European Commission, stands at the lectern in the European Parliament building. Josep Borrell, EU High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy, sits in the background. The EU Parliament is debating the attack on Israel and preparations for the EU summit at the end of October. REUTERS

Europe's hopelessly murky, mixed messaging on restraint


The EU has condemned Iran’s April 14 drone and missile attack against Israel conducted in response to Israel’s lethal bombing of the Iranian consulate in Damascus, Syria on April 1. However, while the condemnation is unanimous, EU officials and individual member states have different positions on the issue.

Those differences broadly reflect the pre-existing divisions on the Middle East since the war in Gaza started last October. Even though the EU is united in its calls for restraint and de-escalation, these divisions are limiting the diplomatic role Europe could play in actually bringing those objectives closer to reality.

keep readingShow less

Israel-Gaza Crisis