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Views of the U.S. plunge in Pew Research survey

Previous ups and downs were nothing compared to the steep drop measured in 2020, hitting an all-time low in almost every nation surveyed.

President Donald Trump speaking at Mankato Regional Airport in Mankato on Monday.
REUTERS/Tom Brenner
President Donald Trump speaking at Mankato Regional Airport in Mankato last month.
The Pew Research Center has been surveying views of the United States in 13 key foreign countries, mostly in Europe, plus Japan, Canada and South Korea, all of them generally American allies. They’ve taken the poll biennially over the past 20 years.

In most of the countries, favorable views of our dear old nation have drifted downward from 2000, but the previous ups and downs were nothing compared to the steep drop measured in 2020, hitting an all-time low in almost every nation.

Pew seems to attribute the bad ratings to two factors, which, one might say, were two sides of the same factor: Donald Trump, and the performance of the United States in handling the COVID pandemic, which has been roughly the worst of any nation, which, of course, occurred under the leadership of the aforementioned individual.

I’ll give you a link to the full Pew write-up below. And I should mention that there were plenty of ups and downs in these ratings over the 20 years of biennial surveys. But you can’t look at the trends without noting the new lows occurring recently. To illustrate that, here are six important U.S. allies emphasized in the Pew report, and the “favorable” rating of the United States in each of them in 2000, and then in 2020.

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Key to the list below: Country, followed by the 2000 “favorable” rating of the U.S., followed by the 2020 rating:

United Kingdom: 83/41

France: 62/31

Germany: 78/26.

Japan: 77/41

Canada: 72/35

Australia: 59/33.

COVID is obviously a big factor in the most recent drop. But, if you click through to the full Pew write-up, you’ll see that every one of the major countries had a dramatic change, before COVID, in their response to a separate question: “Do you have confidence in the U.S. president to do the right thing regarding world affairs?”

In the U.K., Spain, France and Germany, those ratings were in the 70s, 80s or up to 90 percent during the presidency of Barack Obama, then fell to less than 20 immediately upon the arrival of the current incumbent president. The highest such figure for Trump was a 19 percent confidence rating in Britain. The lowest was a 10 in Germany. And in all of those key allies, the rating of Trump fell from 2019 to 2020.

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Across 13 European countries, respondents were asked whether they had “confidence” or “no confidence” in a series of world leaders. Trump got an overall rating, across all the 13 countries, of 16 percent “confidence,” 83 percent “no confidence.” 

This is perhaps even worse than it sounds at first, because that poll question included President Vladimir Putin of Russia, who bested Trump with an overall rating of 23 percent confidence/73 percent no confidence, and President Xi Jinping, who scored 19/78.

The most “trusted” world leader, on that question, was Angela Merkel of Germany, who scored 76 percent confidence, 19 percent no confidence.

Pew asked a separate specific question about how various countries or organizations had done in dealing with COVID. 

In every European country, a majority said that their own nation deserved a positive rating for that. They also had favorable views of the COVID-fighting efforts of the European Union in general, and of the World Health Organization.  Two countries got negative ratings: 

China: 37 percent positive/ 60 percent negative.

And the U.S., worst of all: 15 percent positive/84 percent negative.

There were a few other questions asked across these nations, none of which came out well for the United States or Trump. The full piece, headlined: “U.S. Image Plummets Internationally as Most Say Country Has Handled Coronavirus Badly; Ratings for Trump remain poor,” is viewable here.