US slips behind China in new global leadership poll

A year into Donald Trump’s presidency, global confidence in US leadership has fallen to a new low, according to an opinion survey conducted across 134 countries.

The Gallup poll puts global approval of US leadership at just 30%, slightly behind China on 31% and only three points ahead of Russia. Germany is now the top-rated global power in the world, with an approval rating of 41%, according to the survey.

The US rating is down nearly 20 points from the 48% approval rating in the last year of President Barack Obama’s administration, Gallup said. It’s also four points lower than the previous low of 34%, seen in the final year of George W. Bush’s presidency.

By comparison, in Obama’s last year in office the United States led Germany by seven points, China by 17 points and Russia by 22 points, according to Gallup.

“This year marks a significant change in our trends,” said Jon Clifton, global managing partner at Gallup. “Only 30% of the world, on average, approves of the job performance of the US’s leadership, down from 48% in 2016.

“In fact, more people now disapprove of US leadership than approve. This historic low puts the US’s leadership approval rating on par with China’s and sets a new bar for disapproval.”

The results were based on face-to-face and telephone interviews with about 1,000 people aged 15 and above in each country or are surveyed, Gallop said. Between March and November 2017, residents were asked to rate US, German and Russian leadership in 134 countries or areas, while residents in 135 countries or areas were asked to rate the leadership of China. Gallup gave a margin of error across the total sample of 2 to 5.1 percentage points.

Since becoming President, Trump has pushed an “America First” policy which has seen the United States pull back from global pacts and alliances on trade, the environment and defense.

Within days of taking office, Trump withdrew the United States from the Trans-Pacific Partnership, a massive free trade deal involving a dozen countries that was negotiated under Obama. He has also cast doubt on the future of NAFTA, the 23-year-old trade pact between the United States and its neighbors, Mexico and Canada, and continued to insist that Mexico should pay for a wall along its border with the United States.

Perhaps the biggest blow to international cooperation came in June, when Trump took the United States out of the Paris climate accord. As things stand, the US will be the only country in the world not signed on to the accord when it completes the lengthy withdrawal process in 2020.

More recently, the Trump administration has upset allies in western Europe, as well as Russia, by threatening to quit a multinational deal that limits Iran’s nuclear ambitions.

The President’s own words, often fired off via Twitter, may also have served to undermine public confidence in the United States as a reliable, stable ally and global leader.

At the same time, there have been foreign policy successes. Trump’s administration built on the Obama administration’s plans to defeat ISIS in Syria and Iraq, helped bring greater stability in Afghanistan and imposed the most stringent ever sanctions against North Korea.

However, these achievements don’t appear to have shifted the winds of global disapproval blowing Trump’s way.

US leadership approval ratings declined substantially, by 10 percentage points or more, in 65 out of 134 countries and areas, Gallup said. And the falls have been most marked among the United States’ allies and partners in Europe and the Americas.

In Canada, to the north, approval of US leadership plunged 40 points from 60% in 2016 to 20% in 2017. South of the border in Mexico, approval is at a new record low of 16% for 2017, 28 points lower than for the previous year.

Russia ties with Iceland to give US leadership the lowest approval rating of all, at 8%. However, the report adds: “It’s important to note that Russians’ ratings are heading in a positive direction for the first time in years; the current rating is up six points from 2% in 2016.”

Meanwhile, approval of US leadership increased 10 points or more in just four countries: Belarus, Israel, Macedonia and Liberia, according to Gallup.

The Trump administration’s decision last month unilaterally to recognize Jerusalem as Israel’s capital may have won him support in that country, but resulted in overwhelming international condemnation.

This year’s 30% median global approval rating for US leadership is the lowest since Gallup began tracking this measure in 2007.

The news isn’t much better at home. Trump’s domestic approval rating has remained consistently locked in around 37% — plus or minus depending on which way the wind is blowing — for the past nine months, according to weekly numbers from Gallup.