5 January 2021   Leave a comment

The Trump Administration has been unpopular with many in the world. Dissatisfaction with US leadership in world affairs plummeted after Mr. Trump’s election in 2016. Gallup has been conducting polls on global opinion of the US for many years and its analysis of Trump’s effect on US popularity is stark:

“After tumbling to a record-low 30% during the first year of Trump’s presidency, the image of U.S. leadership was not much better in the third year of his term. The median global approval rating for U.S. leadership across 135 countries and areas edged up to 33% in 2019. This rating is slightly higher than the previous low under Trump, but it is still one percentage point lower than the previous low of 34% under former President George W. Bush in 2008.”

Opinions in Europe (except for Poland, Kosovo, and Albania) and in Asia (except for Israel, Mongolia, Turkmenistan, the Philippines, Nepal, and Myanmar) were quite negative. Opinions in Africa (except for the north African states) were stable although low but in Latin America opinions actually improved. Interestingly, global opinions of Russia and China were also quite low:

“China and Russia continue to cluster closely together in the lower 30s. Although China edged slightly ahead of the U.S. in 2018 with an approval rating of 34%, China’s 32% rating in 2019 places it on par with the rating for the U.S. Russia’s approval rating of 30% in 2019 was unchanged from the previous year and now stands slightly lower than that of the U.S.”

The only country securing high approval ratings and where global leadership was feasible was Germany: “Across the 29 countries and areas that Gallup has surveyed so far in 2020, a median 62% approves of Germany’s leadership, up slightly from a median of 59% for this same group in 2019. Approval ratings are at, or top, previous record highs in 18 of the 29 countries.” Chancellor Merkel’s leadership appears to be quite attractive to many in the world even though she is due to step down soon. It seems unlikely, however, that the Germans would actively seek to take a more active role in world affairs.

It remains to be seen whether President-elect Biden can regain the trust that the US enjoyed during the Obama Administration. I suspect that most Americans want Biden to focus on domestic affairs and there will probably be little money available to re-establish an active US role in world affairs. In many respects, that outcome is probably desirable. But the stability of the global system is not self-executing–the expansion of influence by China, Russia, and Turkey in recent years suggests that a world system without the support of a major power or a collective of major powers could unravel into conflict fairly easily. That was the clear lesson of the years following World War I where Great Britain lacked the ability to act as a stabilizing force (not necessarily a good force) and the US lacked the will to perform a similar role.

Posted January 5, 2021 by vferraro1971 in World Politics

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