The Pew Research Center conducts a not-quite-annual “Global Attitudes Study,” which, among other things, measures attitudes toward the United States in many countries around the world. Maybe you know where this is going.
For the first time since they started the project in 2002, the image of the United States among Mexicans is negative — in fact, overwhelmingly negative. The most recent Pew survey of Mexicans finds that 65 percent describe their view of the United States as negative. The previous record high was 44 percent negative in 2008, but even then, 47 percent of Mexicans described their attitude as positive. As recently as 2015, the view was almost the opposite with 66 percent positive compared to 29 percent negative. (Here’s the link to that Mexico poll data.)
Given the various insulting things candidate Donald Trump said about Mexico and Mexicans during 2016, the drop isn’t exactly inexplicable. In fact, if you have any doubt, Pew also asked Mexicans whether they had confidence (or no confidence) in the U.S. president to do the right thing in international affairs. In 2015, by a bare 49-45 percent, Mexicans expressed such confidence in then-President Barack Obama. The most recent survey, taken during the first year of the Trump presidency, that shifted to a pretty staggering 5 percent confidence, 93 percent no confidence.
Here’s a taste of the Pew write-up of the Mexican attitudes report:
The 36-percentage-point drop in favorability is the largest across 37 countries surveyed by the Center. And the intensity of Mexicans’ distaste for America has grown: The share that holds a very unfavorable opinion of the U.S. has increased since 2015, from 6% to 42%.
Ouch. Or maybe not ouch.
If you are sufficiently in sync with the views and policies of the current incumbent, especially regarding views toward Mexicans (including those who reside illegally in the United States) you may not find those numbers shocking nor even concerning. Personally, I think having a good relationship with one of our two nearest neighbors is better than a bad relationship, but not at any price.
On a related note, Time magazine’s recent feature on “Five Elections to Keep an Eye On in 2018” led off with the presidential election in Mexico, where hostility toward President Trump has (perhaps) contributed to the surge of a “leftist firebrand” named Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador to the top of current polls ahead of the upcoming Mexican presidential election. Lopez Obrador, Time says, “has solidified his place as front-runner by matching Trump’s bluster with a defiance that resonates with Mexican voters.”
But decline in attitudes toward the United States is not limited to Mexico. Not even slightly. I wrote the other day about the overall Pew global attitudes survey, in which confidence in the American president had shifted in the negative direction in 35 out of 37 countries surveyed.
But, just to complete the review of nations on our borders: In the only other nation with which we share a border (that would be Canada, and Trump did not insult Canadians directly, as he did Mexicans) views of the U.S. president fell from 84 percent of Canadians, who had confidence in the U.S. president to do the right thing in world affairs the last time they were surveyed before Barack Obama left office, to 22 percent who said that about the current incumbent the first time Pew asked the question after the change of administrations.