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Trump approval ratings stagnate on global scale

Leah Carter
January 8, 2020

Positive responses to the US president's policies remain far lower than those of his predecessor, Barack Obama. However, views of the US are mostly favorable worldwide and have even seen boosts in some regions.

US President Donald Trump
Image: picture-alliance/AP Images/AP Photo/A. Brandon

Almost three years into his term, United States President Donald Trump hasn't managed to boost his global approval ratings much from when he began, according to a Pew Research Center report that was released on Wednesday

Under the haze of multiple scandals and a lengthy impeachment process, approval ratings of the president's policies, and the United States as a whole, are significantly lower than those of Trump's Democrat predecessor, Barack Obama. 

Those polled by the survey overwhelmingly offered responses indicating a lack of confidence in Trump as a president; 64% of those surveyed outside of the US said they did not have confidence in Trump to make the right decisions in foreign affairs. This compares with 57% expressing a lack of confidence in Russian President Vladimir Putin's judgment, and 43% for Chinese President Xi Jinping. 

The survey follows a particularly contentious German opinion poll, even making headlines in the US late in December, where a plurality of respondents named Trump as a greater threat to world peace than Putin, Xi, North Korea's Kim Jong Un and Iran's Ayatollah Ali Khamenei.

Read moreGermans think Trump is more dangerous than Kim Jong Un and Putin

Pew's research found that Trump's global disapproval rates were higher than those of German Chancellor Angela Merkel, French President Emmanuel Macron, Putin and Xi Jinping.

According to the results of the survey, which polled 36,923 people across 33 countries, western European countries had the lowest approval ratings for both Trump and the United States, particularly in the Netherlands, Sweden and Germany. Just 39% of Germans expressed approval of the United States, while 45% of Swedes gave favorable responses.

However, their central and eastern European neighbors express much more positive views. In Poland, the United States garners an approval rating as high as 79% in Poland, 70% in Lithuania and 66% in Hungary.

Infografik Trumps Politik EN


Despite relatively high approval of the United States, however, around the world, a majority of respondents said that they disapproved of all but one of Trump's policies.

His most contentious move was to increase tariffs on imported goods, followed by his withdrawal from international climate change agreements.

Read moreWorld reacts to US withdrawal from Paris agreement

Germany had the highest rate of disapproval of Trump's tarriffs, as it was one of the hardest hit by the US-China trade war, with economic analysts predicting a possible recession in the western European country.

Read moreTrade frictions could cause 'major recession in Germany'

The majority of people in all countries disapproved of his move to pull out of the Paris climate accord in June 2017, with a median 66% disapproval rate. His policies on climate change were particularly frowned upon in Europe, where nine out of 10 people disapproved in France, Germany, Sweden and Spain.

Trump's withdrawal from the nuclear agreement with Iran also garnered a majority of disapproval. Trump withdrew from the agreement, also known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), which was signed in 2015, in May 2018. After the withdrawal, economic sanctions were reimposed on Iran due to its weapons development programs and militant support. In Europe, less than one third of respondents  approve of his policy on Iran.

The one policy that saw a somewhat higher overall rate of approval were his direct negotiations with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un. The negotiations, which resulted in a meeting in Singapore in 2018 and one in Vietnam last year, garnered approval ratings as high as 80% in Japan and 78% in South Korea, in direct contrast to the approval of any other policies.

Majorities in the United Kingdom, the Netherlands and Germany also approved of the negotiations. However, in
the Middle East, Africa and Latin America, there is general disapproval or indifference to the talks with Kim.

Israelis had the highest overall rate of approval of Trump's policies. 

Approval of United States as a whole

Global views of the United States as a whole remain mostly favorable. About 54% of global respondents said that they had a favorable opinion of the US, with particularly high ratings in Poland, the Philippines, South Korea and Israel. Russia and Turkey, however, have particularly low views of the United States, with just 29% of Russians answering favorably.

Affiliation with the right

In Europe, positive regard for both Trump and the US increased slightly, particularly among those who identify with right wing parties. Thirty-seven percent of supporters of Germany's Alternative for Germany (AfD) party expressed confidence in Trump, compared with just 9% of Germans who do not support the party.

Read moreTrump's threat to label Antifa terrorist group triggers row in Germany

Those who identified as being right wing also had more favorable responses to Trump's policies, including to his withdrawal from the climate agreement and efforts to tighten immigration. 

Regardless of small increases in approval on the global right, Trump's global ratings have still stagnated at historically low levels compared to his predecessor.

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