People around the world have differing assessments of the United States and its president, according to a new Pew Research Center study. On one hand, views of the U.S. are favorable across many of the 33 countries we surveyed in 2019. On the other, confidence in U.S. President Donald Trump is low, though not as low as it was shortly after he took office in 2017.
As has been the case in past surveys by the Center, Trump inspires much less confidence globally than his predecessor, Barack Obama, and he receives more negative marks than other current world leaders, such as Germany’s Angela Merkel. In addition, Trump’s foreign policies are deeply unpopular. Support for Trump and these policies abroad disproportionately comes from people on the ideological right and those who favor right-wing populist parties in Europe.
Here are 10 charts that show how people around the world see the U.S. and its president, based on the new report:
How we did this
1 Opinions of the U.S. vary substantially across the globe. Among the countries surveyed, positive views of the U.S. are most common in Israel, the Philippines, Poland, South Korea, Ukraine and Lithuania. (The survey was conducted in Ukraine prior to revelations regarding Trump’s July 25, 2019, phone call with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky.) By comparison, only 39% of Germans and 20% of people in Turkey have a positive opinion of the U.S.
2 Views of the U.S. remain relatively positive, despite declining somewhat since the end of the Obama era. Across 24 countries that have been surveyed consistently since 2015 and 2016, a median of 53% of adults have a favorable view of the U.S., slightly below the 64% who had a positive view at the end of the Obama administration. People in these countries are now more likely to have a favorable view of the U.S. than to have confidence in the president – a reversal of the pattern at the end of the Obama administration. Still, the share of people who have confidence in Trump has edged higher in recent years.
3 Young people tend to have more positive opinions of the U.S. In most countries surveyed, young people are more likely than their older counterparts to have a favorable view of the U.S. For example, 57% of Russians ages 18 to 29 see the U.S. favorably, compared with only 15% of Russians ages 50 and older. However, in many countries those who are older also tend to be less likely to answer the question.
4 Confidence in Trump is relatively low across the world, but there are pockets of support. Most Europeans and Latin Americans have little confidence in the U.S. president to do the right thing regarding world affairs. This includes only 13% of adults in Germany and 8% in Mexico.
However, Filipinos and Israelis are especially keen on the U.S. president, with 77% and 71% of adults, respectively, expressing confidence in Trump. And about half or more in Kenya, Nigeria, India and Poland have confidence in the U.S. leader.
5 In key EU countries, people express little confidence in Trump. Views of U.S. presidents have changed dramatically since Pew Research Center began asking about this nearly 20 years ago. In Germany, the UK, France and Spain, attitudes toward the U.S. president moved downward during the George W. Bush era, surged in the Obama era and fell again with the election of Trump. And despite a small rebound in support for the U.S. president in the past year, especially in Spain and France, Trump is still much less popular in these EU nations than Obama was during any part of his tenure.
6 Support for Trump has increased among those on the ideological right. Since 2018, there has been an increase in confidence in Trump among people on the ideological right, mostly in European countries. For example, since 2018, confidence in the U.S. president has increased 22 percentage points among those who place themselves on the right end of the ideological spectrum in Hungary and Spain. However, even among people on the ideological right, support for Trump rarely rises above 50%.
7 Fewer people express confidence in Trump than in other world leaders. Of the five world leaders asked about in the survey, German Chancellor Angela Merkel gets the most positive rating, with a median of 46% expressing confidence in her handling of world affairs. Only around three-in-ten express confidence in Trump (29%) – similar to the share who voice confidence in Chinese President Xi Jinping (28%). However, the share of people who express no confidence in Trump is higher (64%) than it is for all of the other world leaders asked about.
8Trump’s key foreign policies are unpopular. When asked in the spring and summer of 2019 about six of Trump’s key foreign policies, people around the world largely expressed disapproval. They are especially critical of his tariff policy and the withdrawal from climate change agreements such as the Paris Agreement.
Trump’s immigration policies, including his well-known plans to build a wall on the U.S.-Mexico border, are also unpopular, with a few exceptions in Central and Eastern Europe and Israel. People also see Trump’s withdrawal from the Iran nuclear weapons agreement negatively but are more positive about his negotiations with Kim Jong Un over North Korea’s nuclear weapons program. (The survey was conducted prior to the Jan. 3, 2020, U.S. missile strike that killed Iranian Gen. Qassem Soleimani.)
Across the six policies asked about in the survey, Israelis generally show the most approval, while those in Turkey are among the most skeptical.
9 Trump’s restrictions on immigration are more popular among those who support right-wing populist parties in Europe. When asked whether they approve of Trump’s policy to allow fewer immigrants in the U.S., people who support National Rally in France, Alternative for Germany (AfD) in Germany and Sweden Democrats in Sweden are at least 40 percentage points more likely than nonsupporters to express approval. This stark difference between populist supporters and non-populist supporters appears in many European countries and extends to opinions about Trump himself, as well as to his policy of building a wall between the U.S. and Mexico.
10 Views of the U.S. president are closely linked with attitudes toward the U.S. itself. Generally speaking, those with more trust in the U.S. president to do what is right in foreign affairs tend to view the U.S. more positively. For example, the two countries with the most confidence in Trump – Israel and the Philippines – are also among the most favorable toward the country he leads. Conversely, in Turkey and Mexico, low confidence in the U.S. president aligns with less positive views of the U.S. However, in almost every country surveyed, views toward the U.S. surpass confidence in the U.S. president, sometimes by wide margins.