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What The World Thinks Of Trump

President Trump is attending the opening of the annual U.N. General Assembly in New York City this week for the first time.1 On Monday, he’ll host an event to discuss reforms to the organization, and on Tuesday he’ll make his first formal address to the body. The world isn’t just watching; this time they’re Trump’s target audience. So what does the world think of Trump?

Our best information on global public opinion toward Trump comes from the Pew Research Center’s Global Attitudes & Trends annual survey. Since 2000, Pew typically has asked approximately 1,000 residents each in a variety of countries for their views on the U.S., the U.S. president, other world leaders and several issues.2 We compared the results for the past three years for two questions: Whether respondents have a favorable view of the U.S., and whether they have confidence in the current U.S. president to “do the right thing regarding world affairs.”3

Two patterns jump out. First, since Trump took office, confidence in the president has gone down further, on average, than favorability toward the U.S.: Confidence dropped 47 percentage points; U.S. favorability just 13 points. Since 2005, perceptions of the U.S. have changed less than those of the president.4

Second, while respondents’ views of both America and the president have decreased in the past year, the drops are not uniform. Some of the biggest declines have been in countries with whom the U.S. has a collective defense agreement, such as NATO members and Japan, especially when it comes to confidence in the president. Mexico, unsurprisingly, also saw a big public opinion drop on both questions. On the other hand, public favorability toward the U.S. has gone up in Russia, and public confidence in the president has gone up in both Israel and Russia since Trump took office.5

Overall, though, Trump has brought a return to George W. Bush-era levels of favorability for the U.S. and the presidency.6

What about the actual content of what Trump will say at the U.N.? Beyond U.N. reforms, other major issues on the international agenda are North Korea, Syria, terrorism and climate change. In its 2017 survey, Pew asked respondents whether they approve or disapprove of five of Trump’s specific policies, some of which track with U.N. priorities.

Foreign publics generally do not approve of any of the five policies, but the idea of withdrawing the U.S. from the Iran agreement drew the least disapproval, at an average global net approval of -15.7 percent. Trump’s plans to build a wall between the U.S. and Mexico and to withdraw from major trade agreements were almost universally disliked (average net approval of -50.5 and -49.7 percent, respectively).7

CORRECTION (Sept. 19, 4:55 p.m.): A previous version of the third chart in this article, showing the net approval rating of President Trump’s proposed policies, mislabeled Israel, Germany and Russia. The chart has been updated.

Footnotes

  1. As president.

  2. We’re not exactly talking about the “world’s” opinion, of course. Every year Pew surveys populations in five to 40 countries. It’s not clear how Pew decides which nations to poll, so it’s not clear how representative of the entire planet the countries are. That said, this survey represents the best recent effort to systematically measure foreign public opinion of the U.S., as they ask the same key questions each year and there is some continuity between countries from year to year, especially in more recent years.

  3. Pew asked these two questions in 37 countries in 2017, 17 countries in 2016, and 31 in 2015. For a full list, see their methodologies each year.

  4. If you really want to get into it, the percent favorability of the U.S. since 2005 had a mean of 53.9 and standard deviation of 9.1, while the percent of respondents who had confidence in the U.S. president had a mean of 47.1 and a standard deviation of 19.8.

  5. The 2017 survey was conducted before the latest round of tensions with Moscow — Russian President Vladimir Putin himself isn’t attending the General Assembly this year — so a survey of Russians today might get a different result. Chinese President Xi Jinping isn’t attending this year, either. Unfortunately, Pew didn’t survey China in 2017.

  6. While the Pew survey technically goes back to 2000, it only included a few countries in the early years, and didn’t always ask these two questions, so we only went back to 2005 for Bush. The countries in the Bush and Trump samples are similar but not identical, largely because the Trump sample is much larger. Trump’s approval is lower when we consider only countries — most of which are those same collective defense agreement countries — that were in the Bush-era surveys.

  7. Several countries in the sample had high proportions of respondents indicating “Don’t know/Refused to answer.” Countries that had a 20 percent or higher proportion of respondents in this category across most questions include India, Poland, Russia, Indonesia, Tunisia and Turkey. For these countries, low awareness could affect their approval rates.

Gus Wezerek is a visual journalist for FiveThirtyEight.

Andrea Jones-Rooy is FiveThirtyEight’s quantitative researcher.

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