Russia down, NATO up in poll of European, Asian countries
Favorability ratings for Russia and President Vladimir Putin among publics in Europe and several relatively wealthy countries of East Asia have fallen to record lows, presumably as a result of the war in Ukraine, according to a new survey of international opinion conducted by the Pew Research Global Attitudes Project released Wednesday.
Conversely, positive attitudes toward NATO, which has provided strong military and other support to Ukraine in the wake of the Russian invasion are at or near 10-year highs in most of Europe, according to the survey, which gained the views of nearly 20,000 respondents in 17 countries, as well as the nearly 3,600 respondents the United States, between February 14 and May 11.
But while large majorities in most of the countries surveyed said they considered the United States as a “reliable partner” to their country, confidence in President Joe Biden actually fell from 2021 in almost every one, particularly in southern Europe and Singapore. Pew’s analysts suggested the slide may be related to the way the U.S. withdrawal from Afghanistan was handled last August, although majorities in most of the countries surveyed said that the decision itself to withdraw was the “right one.”
Biden’s favorability ratings remained high overall, with a median of 60 percent of all respondents polled expressing confidence in him to “do the right thing in world affairs,” compared with the nine percent median who expressed such confidence in Putin. This is in stark contrast to his overall approval ratings at home, which are hovering at 39 percent according to the latest USA Today-Suffolk poll. In a NPR/Ipsos poll in May, only 36 percent had approved of the way he was handling the Russia-Ukraine situation.
The Pew survey, the first installment of a series of findings on a broad range of international issues to be released by the polling organization over the next weeks, is the latest conducted by the Global Attitudes Project, which began polling international attitudes in 2000.
The findings released Thursday covered ten European countries — Belgium, France, Germany, Greece, Italy, the Netherlands, Poland, Spain, Sweden, and the UK; five Asian nations — Australia, Japan, Malaysia, Singapore, and South Korea; plus Canada and Israel.
Israel proved to be an outlier of sorts in the survey in that it was the only country where respondents were less likely to have confidence in Biden “to do the right thing” than in his predecessor, Donald Trump (60 percent to 71 percent, respectively). However, confidence in Biden is much greater than confidence in French President Emmanuel Macron and German Chancellor Olaf Scholz (38 percent for each).
If Afghanistan was indeed responsible for the slide in confidence in Biden, the U.S. response to the Ukraine war, at least as of the last month, may be behind the increased confidence in the United States as a “reliable partner” in most of the 17 countries compared to the Project’s 2021 findings.
The rise in the assessment of reliability rose most dramatically in South Korea – from 58 percent in 2021 to 83 percent, followed by Sweden (+21 points), Australia (+16 points), Canada (+16 points), and Germany (+11 points). At the same time, a median of only 19 percent of respondents in the 17 countries said the United States was a “very reliable partner,” as opposed to “somewhat reliable.”
The only countries where strong majorities of respondents (62 percent to 89 percent) did not view the United States as either “somewhat” or “very” reliable were Greece (53 percent) and Malaysia, where 54 percent of respondents thought Washington was either “not too reliable,” or “not at all reliable.”
Perhaps not too surprisingly, both Russia’s image and confidence in Putin dropped to record lows, according to the survey. A median of 85 percent of respondents across the 18 countries (including the United States) expressed an unfavorable opinion of the country with majorities (led by Poland at 91 percent) in all but four countries (Germany, Greece, Singapore, and Malaysia) saying that they had a “very unfavorable” view of Russia.
Similarly, confidence in Putin “to do the right thing in world affairs” dropped to the lowest point in almost all of the countries since the question was first posed about Putin in 2001. Across the 18 nations, a median of 90 percent of respondents said they either had “not too much confidence” or “none at all.” The most disapproving nation, as was the case for Russia, was Poland, where 94 percent of respondents said they had no confidence at all in the Russian leader, followed by Sweden (90 percent none at all), the Netherlands (87 percent), Spain, Australia, and the UK (81 percent).
The only country where a majority (59 percent) of respondents said they either had “some” or “a lot” of confidence in Putin was Malaysia. In addition, those respondents in Europe who identified with right-wing parties tended to express more confidence in Putin than the great majorities in those countries.
Chinese President Xi Jinping did not fare much better in the latest poll. A median of only 18 percent of respondents in the 18 countries expressed confidence that he would “do the right thing,” although strong majorities of respondents in Malaysia (62 percent) and Singapore (69 percent) expressed “some” or “a lot of confidence” in Xi’s doing the right thing.
Meanwhile, a median of 65 percent across 11 member states said they had a favorable view of NATO, while 26 percent said they had an unfavorable view. Most favorable were Polish respondents (89 percent), and favorability was at or close to their highest point in seven of the covered member states in the past ten years. Nearly 80 percent of respondents in Sweden, which, along with Finland, has applied for NATO membership in the wake of the Russia invasion of Ukraine, said they had a favorable view of the alliance. Favorable opinions about NATO increased, according to the pollsters, as the war Ukraine evolved over the three months in which the survey was conducted.
Despite the relatively high regard in which the United States and Biden are held abroad, at least according to this Pew poll, a large majority of U.S. respondents (68 percent) said they believe the U.S. is “less respected by other countries” than in the past. While that percentage is relatively consistent with findings since 2002 — they reached a low of just over 50 percent during Barack Obama’s first term — the partisan differences have widened with 81 percent of respondents who identified as Republican or leaning Republican saying the U.S. is less respected, and 60 percent of Democrats or leaning Democratic agreeing.