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That stinks: Global opinion of US goes down the toilet

Dragged down in important part by disapproval over the U.S. position on the Gaza war, the popular image of the United States abroad has declined over the past year, according to a new poll of public opinion in 34 countries released Tuesday by the Pew Research Center.

The survey, the latest in an annual series that dates back more than two decades, also found that international confidence in U.S. democracy has fallen. A median of four in ten of the more than 40,000 respondents said U.S. democracy used to be a good model for other countries to follow but no longer is. That view was most pronounced in the ten European countries covered by the poll.

This year’s survey also found that respondents in 24 of the countries have more confidence in President Joe Biden to “do the right thing” in world affairs than they have in his rival, former President Donald Trump, while Trump was favored over Biden in two countries (Hungary and Tunisia). It found that there was no significant difference in confidence in the two men in the remaining eight countries.

At the same time, however, confidence in Biden’s stewardship of international issues fell over the past year in 14 of the 21 countries that were polled by Pew both this year and in 2023, by double digits in eight of the countries, notably South Africa, Australia, the UK, Poland, Sweden, Spain, Israel, and Japan.

The survey was conducted from early January this year through the latter part of May. In addition to Hungary, the UK, Poland, Sweden, and Spain, European countries included France, Germany, Greece, Italy, and the Netherlands. In the Americas, the poll covered Argentina, Brazil, Chile, Colombia, Mexico, and Peru.

In the Asia-Pacific region, ten countries were polled. In addition to Australia and Japan, they included Bangladesh, India, Malaysia, Philippines, Singapore, South Korea, Sri Lanka, and Thailand. Besides South Africa, sub-Saharan African countries included Ghana, Kenya, and Nigeria.

Overall, views of the United States remained more positive than negative across all of the countries with a median of 54% of respondents offering a favorable opinion, with the most positive ratings found in Latin America and sub-Saharan Africa. In ten of the 21 countries that were also surveyed last year, however, favorable views fell by six percentage points or more, with the biggest declines found in Australia, Israel, South Africa, and Germany.

As for confidence in Biden “to do the right thing” in world affairs, confidence was highest in sub-Saharan Africa, with the exception of South Africa where opinions were evenly split. In the Middle East, on the other hand, nearly 90% of respondents in both Turkey and Tunisia said they had “no confidence” in the U.S. president whose ratings were also mostly negative in Latin America (with the exception of Colombia), southern Europe, Australia, Singapore, Malaysia, France and Hungary.

Of five specific issues on which respondents were asked to rate Biden’s performance, by far the most negative appraisals were related to his handling of the Gaza war. A median of 31% across the 34 countries said they approve of his conduct in that conflict, while a median of 57% said they disapproved.

The most negative assessments were recorded in predominantly Muslim Turkey (8% approval), Tunisia (5%), and Malaysia (15%). Twenty-five percent or less of respondents in Hungary, Italy, Peru, Mexico, and Chile also said they disapproved of Biden’s policy on Gaza.

With respect to the war in Ukraine, a median of 39% of respondents voiced approval of Biden’s policies. The most positive views of his performance in that war were recorded in Canada and Europe, particularly in Poland, the Netherlands, Sweden, Germany, and the UK. In Asia, views were most favorable in Japan and South Korea, although they still fell short of 50%.

As with Ukraine, a median of 39% of respondents said they approved of Biden’s approach to China with his strongest support of around 50% coming from respondents in Poland, the Netherlands, the Philippines, Japan, South Korea, Kenya, and Nigeria.

Asked to rate their confidence in four current national leaders “to do the right thing” in world affairs, French President Emmanuel Macron scored highest at 44% of all respondents, followed closely by Biden at 43% . Chinese President Xi Jinping received a median confidence score of 24%, and Russian President Vladimir Putin placed lowest at 21%.

The lowest confidence scores for Putin came from European respondents (with the exception of Greece), Japan, South Korea, Australia, Israel, Brazil, and Chile. European respondents also gave Xi poor marks, as did respondents in Japan, South Korea, Australia, Israel, Turkey, Brazil, and Chile.

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