NewsWire: 10/7/2020

  • The global image of the United States has plunged to new lows amid the pandemic, with 84% of respondents from other countries saying we’ve handled the coronavirus outbreak badly. The share who have confidence in President Trump (just 16%) is comparable to the ratings for Vladimir Putin and Xi Jinping. (Pew Research Center)
    • NH: A few weeks ago, we commented on a Pew report that looked at how residents in 14 advanced economies rated their governments' responses to Covid-19. (See "Government Response to Covid-19: Attitudes in 14 Countries.")  Now Pew has released a follow-up report about these countries' attitudes towards the US overall. The results speak for themselves.  
    • Since the pandemic began, foreign public opinion of the US has dropped to dismal lows. The UK, Japan, Canada, and Australia all report their lowest favorable views of the US since Pew began asking in 2000. The median US approval rating from all 13 countries is only 34%. Belgians give the US the lowest ranking at 24%, while South Koreans give the highest at 59%. (While South Koreans believe the US has failed with Covid-19, they are also the most likely to say the US remains the world’s leading economic power.)

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    • Much of the current criticism stems from our management of the pandemic. Of the 13 countries, Spain gives the US its highest marks—though that’s not saying much. Only 20% say the US has done a "good job" with Covid-19. The 13-country median for the US doing a "good job" with the virus is only 15%. Notably, South Korea is the most critical. This isn’t surprising since South Korea has had the virus under control for months, and the US is still struggling.

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    • But views of the US had already begun to slide well before the pandemic. In many of the countries, favorability ratings of the US dropped dramatically in 2016 after the election of Donald Trump. And he remains deeply unpopular, with 83% saying they have no faith in Trump “to do the right thing” in world affairs. Only 16% say they have confidence in his ability. When Pew asked about confidence in other world leaders, Trump ranks last behind Putin (23%) and Xi (19%).

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    • Over the last three presidential administrations, foreign perceptions of the US has dropped for the two GOP presidents (GWB, Trump) and has risen for the one Democratic president (Obama). This could be because Bush and Trump have been inept or disengaged as global leaders. Such would be the judgment of most Democrats. Then again, if you are a Republican, you are more likely to say that this is because Democratic leaders give away the store (so of course they are beloved abroad) and only Republicans fight for "fair deals" and try to put "America first."
    • Either way, I would expect global favorability of the US to rise if Biden is elected. I would add only this observation. In the event of a Biden victory, I would also expect favorability to rise a lot further among our closest allies, including Japan, South Korea, and western Europe, than among our avowed geopolitical adversaries like Russia and China.
    • Explaining this asymmetry is a bigger challenge for Trump's partisans. Except, I suppose, by arguing that if America just minded its own business and stuck to self-interested "deals," we wouldn't really need to regard Russia and China as threats after all. As I have argued elsewhere, this attitude resembles not so much the isolationism of the left (last popular in America in the 1970s), but the isolationism of the right (last popular in the 1930s). See "America Turns Inward." 

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