A poll conducted by the United States think-tank the Pew Research Center – and done before President Donald Trump signed off on a US drone attack that killed Iranian General Qassem Soleimani – found that the world is sceptical that after three years in office, the US leader will do the right thing on foreign affairs.
The majority of people in many of the 33 nations surveyed by the nonpartisan research centre disapprove of a number of Trump’s most talked-about policies, including imposing tariffs on imported goods as a way to gain leverage in trade disputes, withdrawing from international climate-change agreements, building a wall on the US-Mexico border and putting tougher restrictions on immigration to the US.
Similarly, across the 33 countries, more people disapprove than approve of Trump’s decision to have the US be the only world power to back out of a nuclear agreement with Iran.
The survey of nearly 37,000 people was conducted in 2019 from May 18 to October 2, well before Trump approved the killing of Soleimani as he left Baghdad International Airport last week. The strike has pushed tensions between the US and its longtime Middle Eastern nemesis to high alert and led to Tehran launching ballistic missiles at two Iraqi military bases that house US troops.
The poll consisted of telephone and face-to-face interviews.
Across Western Europe, roughly 75 percent or more of people surveyed in Germany, Sweden, France, Spain and the Netherlands lack confidence in Trump.
That feeling runs even deeper in Mexico, where 89 percent have no confidence in Trump, who has made Mexicans the target of his barbs and of anti-immigration policies such as the border wall.
Seen in a more positive light, however, are Trump’s direct negotiations with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un. That effort garnered the most support, though not a majority in most countries surveyed.
Trump and Kim have held three rounds of talks about denuclearising the Korean Peninsula, most recently last year at the Korean Demilitarized Zone separating North Korea and South Korea.
Not all negative
The world isn’t entirely against Trump.
The majority of people surveyed in Israel, the Philippines, Kenya, Nigeria and India have confidence that the businessman-turned-president will do the right thing on the world stage.
Five leaders were rated in the poll, with Trump receiving the most negative views. Those polled also expressed low confidence in Russia’s Vladimir Putin and China’s Xi Jinping.
Confidence in Germany’s Angela Merkel was the highest among the leaders. Views of France’s Emmanuel Macron were slightly more positive than negative.
Trump, a Republican, often treats his relatively low approval on the world stage like a badge of honour. He told supporters during a December campaign rally in Battle Creek, Michigan that Germany and France are more fond of his predecessor, Barack Obama, a Democrat, than they are of him.
Trump noted that he had taxed imports of French alcoholic beverages to retaliate against a tax that France imposed on major tech companies, including some based in the US.
“If I ever become more popular that means I’m not doing my job,” he said.
In an earlier version of the Pew survey, which was released several months after Trump took office in January 2017, less than 30 percent of respondents expressed confidence in the president’s ability to do the right thing on international affairs.