Julie Ray, managing editor for world news, joins the podcast to discuss the latest findings of Gallup’s annual Rating World Leaders report. How does the world now view Russian leadership -- and how do China, Germany and the U.S. fare? Later, Jay Loschky, regional director for Gallup’s global research in the Middle East and North Africa, discusses leadership approval ratings for Iran and Saudi Arabia as tensions between the two countries thaw. How does the Middle East view the U.S. as a promoter of democracy 20 years after the invasion of Iraq?
Below is a full transcript of the conversation, including time stamps. Full audio is posted above.
Mohamed Younis 00:12
For Gallup, I’m Mohamed Younis, and this is The Gallup Podcast. In this episode, we explore findings from Gallup’s latest Global Leadership Report. Exactly who among the great powers is winning the battle of hearts and minds, and who’s on the decline? First, we’ll speak to Julie Ray about the Global Leadership Report at the macro level -- who’s up and who’s down across 8 billion lives? Then we’ll turn to Jay Loschky, our regional director for the Middle East, for a fascinating comparison on the soft power of Iran and Saudi across some of the countries in the Middle East. Julie Ray is Gallup’s managing editor for world news. Julie, welcome to the podcast!
Julie Ray 00:50
Thanks for having me back!
Mohamed Younis 00:51
It’s always great to have you here. I wanted to have you break down for us the findings of this report, but before we get into that, tell us first about the Global Leadership Report, what does it measure, and how long has it been tracking what it measures?
Julie Ray 01:03
Our global leadership report tracks the approval ratings around the world of leaderships of four major world powers. So we track approval ratings of U.S. leadership, Chinese leadership, German leadership and Russian leadership. And we've been asking these questions around the world since 2005.
Mohamed Younis 01:27
That’s fascinating. Let's start with the U.S. How did U.S. leadership fare at the global level this year around? Did we see an uptick or a downswing in Biden's now, what was second year for the globe?
Julie Ray 01:40
Sure. We saw a little tick downward, you know, that's typically expected. You have a honeymoon phase when a new leader comes into office, and you typically see some, some drop-off in the following year. And that's definitely what we saw for U.S. leadership approval; it dropped from 45% to 41%. So, you know, we, we saw little declines, particularly in Asia and in the Americas.
Mohamed Younis 02:09
Of course, during President Trump’s administration, we saw a significant decline, particularly in Europe, in U.S. leadership. How is President Biden doing in, compared to the Trump era?
Julie Ray 02:21
The numbers are definitely up from the Trump administration years. We saw record lows approval ratings, the median percentage never topped 33% for the world. So, you know, relatively, Biden is, is down but still performing better than what we've measured during the Trump administration years.
Mohamed Younis 02:43
It always fascinates me about the Trump administration is that major issue with European policy on NATO and countries paying their fair share. It's just amazing now how the facts have presented a completely new reality, where NATO is more united than ever, at least on the surface, and U.S. leadership is still doing a little bit better than it was during the Trump era. What about Russia? We have a great piece up on news.gallup.com right now, particularly looking into countries that were members of the former Soviet Union and leadership approval of Russia in those countries. But I want to ask you, Julie, on the global scale, how has the leadership approval for Russia fared since the war in Ukraine?
Julie Ray 03:27
That’s probably the most interesting piece, you know, that we've been reporting on, because we saw, and of course, all the data that we've collected has been post-invasion of, of, of Ukraine. So all the data that we collect in ‘22 is on the other side of that February 24th date. So we saw approval ratings across the board in most countries declined just precipitously. So, overall for the, the entire world, the median approval number was 21%, and that is one point lower than it was after the situation in 2014 with Crimea.
Mohamed Younis 04:09
Wow. So all these years later, basically, Russian leadership approval globally has fallen back to where it was when that was happening in 2014, 2015.
Julie Ray 04:17
Right. We had actually seen it kind of recover a little bit every single year after 2014. So some, some restoration in faith and, and, you know, that we saw that effect kind of mitigated. But any gains are gone.
Mohamed Younis 04:36
And it’s, it’s important to keep in mind, I mean, this is still the same leadership of Russia; as with China, we haven’t really seen that much change in leadership in those countries as we do with the U.S. Another country that is supposed to see a lot of change in leadership but didn’t, really, for a really long time is Germany. I want to ask you about approval of Germany’s leadership, because it’s been an interesting time for Germany’s role in the world -- not only because of the war in Ukraine and Germany’s central role in Europe, economically and strategically, but also because before the current chancellor, Scholz, was in office, Chancellor Merkel, Angela Merkel, was really a mainstay of both the global conversations about the G20, G7, but she really played an important role in Europe’s relationship with Russia. A lot of it's being criticized now in retrospect. Tell me about Germany’s soft power brand across the world right now.
Julie Ray 05:33
So Germany, as it has for the past six years, has been in the top leadership spot. So in 2022, we saw median approval worldwide -- 46%. And so that is a drop-off. So that's first year under Scholz; that is a drop-off from the 52% the last two years of under Angela Merkel. But the interesting thing is that that 46% is actually a little bit better than it was for most of Angela Merkel's tenure, except for the past six years.
Mohamed Younis 06:11
And it's important to know, I mean, Germany has gone through a pretty dramatic change in series of policies since the war in Ukraine has shifted. Of course, the major question on everyone's mind beyond Europe is China. We also ask about approval of the leadership of China across the world. What did we learn this year, Julie?
Julie Ray 06:31
For the most part, the image of, of China around the world hasn't changed much. The median approval rating across the world was 28%. And that's pretty much in line with some of the metrics that we've seen in previous years. It's down a little bit, but it's, it's fairly flat.
Mohamed Younis 06:50
And it's just fascinating to think about these huge global powers, really, in order. It sounds like the U.S. has taken a hit since Biden's kind of honeymoon period but is still relatively higher than it was during the Trump administration. Russia sounds like it's taken a pretty serious hit to its leadership approval, if you will, in a lot of the countries -- not only in its immediate sphere of influence but also globally. Germany is having an interesting moment where it's technically the most-favored nation of the four powers, but going through an interesting leadership shift. And China has kind of stayed flat, which is fascinating, considering how it's tried to remain uninvolved in the war in Ukraine to the degree it can. Would you sort of agree with that rundown Julie?
Julie Ray 07:39
I do. So, you know, previously you've had kind of a cluster. If you look at it during the Trump administration, it's pretty interesting that there was a cluster at the bottom; that it was the United States and then Russia and then China. And now, kind of that order is reversed. Of course, you know, we've seen the most movement for Russia, but, you know, kind of the mainstay and kind of that flat line has been China's position around the world. Whether that's partially a visibility issue, you know, we have a lot of “Don't knows” or “Refused” when, when people are posed that question. But definitely, you know, there is a hierarchy.
Mohamed Younis 08:15
That’s Julie Ray, managing editor for world news. Julie, thanks for being with us on the podcast.
Julie Ray 08:21
Mohamed Younis 08:22
Joining us now is Jay Loschky, Gallup’s regional director for polling across the Mideast region. Jay, welcome back to the podcast, my friend.
Jay Loschky 08:30
Hey, thanks for having me back.
Mohamed Younis 08:31
I couldn't resist having you back. After Julie broke down the Global Leadership Report for us, and we saw kind of how the global powers fared, in terms of their image across the world, I wanted to bring you in, because we're also seeing a historic thaw in relations in the Middle East between Iran and Saudi Arabia. You asked people across a series of nations about their approval of their leadership of both the Islamic Republic and the Kingdom of Saud. And I wanted you to come on, Jay, and just share, what did we find? And what did we ask?
Jay Loschky 09:04
Sure. Well, in addition to some of those global powers you mentioned, like China, Russia and the United States, obviously, there are regional powers that are exerting influence throughout the entire region. Probably the two greatest of those are the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia and Iran. So we did ask about approval of those countries between 2006 and 2009. And now we've come back to it in 2022, just to, to find out where things stand a little bit. What we're really seeing is that Iran's leadership is, is largely rejected across a lot of the Middle East. It's not a preferred partner for many Arab populations in particular. But we also surveyed Afghanistan and Pakistan as part of this survey as well. Saudi Arabia, the results are a little bit more mixed; about, between a median of 14 countries, 39% approve; 48% disapprove. But in all 14 countries, opinion of Saudi Arabia is much higher than Iran.
Mohamed Younis 09:56
Were there any things that kind of stood out to you or surprised you in these data in particular?
Jay Loschky 10:01
Sure. One thing that really stands out is that in countries where Iran’s influence is the greatest, a lot of those populations gave it some of the lowest ratings. So 19% approval in Lebanon, 12% approval in Yemen, 14% in Iraq. These are all countries where Iran has fought proxy wars or sought to influence local governments through certain parties or populations. And I think what we’re seeing is if this can at all be considered a referendum on Iran’s conduct within those countries, at least those populations aren’t really pleased by the role that Iran’s playing in their own countries.
Mohamed Younis 10:34
It is fascinating to see that trend, Jay, because, in so many ways, those are the countries, like you said, that Iran has invested the most time, the most energy, resources, people. And not just weapons, really, also, you know, goods and services and trying to build goodwill. So it, it is, it struck me when I read your article how poorly they’ve done in those countries.
Jay Loschky 10:57
Yeah, for sure. If proximity breeds contempt, then that's a little bit what you're seeing there, for sure. I mean, Iran has been the player in Iraq for the last 20 years really, since the U.S. invasion, and continues to have heavy influence over local politics there. You know, one other thing that kind of stood out to me, Mohamed, was thinking about religious affiliation, right. Iran is, is sort of the eminent Shia power, you could say, in the world; it's the largest, you know, Shia Muslim nation. And, and among other Shia populations in the Middle East, we actually see results that are a little more mixed than you think. It's not only about religious affiliation really. So, you know, in Lebanon, 58% of Lebanese Shia approve of Iran. But in Iraq, a little more nationalistic, where, again, Iran has played a heavy hand over the last 20 years, only 17% of Iraqi Shia are approving of, of Iran.
Mohamed Younis 11:43
Wow, that's fascinating. And it's also particularly fascinating because in Iraq, of course, there is a very strong non-Iran-aligned Shia religious and political movement as well.
Jay Loschky 11:53
Mohamed Younis 11:54
They've become much more verbose and, and outspoken about their differences. Jay, the other thing you did that was genius in the region this past year is you took stock of the 10-year anniversary of the start of the Iraq war by asking people across the Middle East about their views of the U.S. as a promoter of democracy in their region. Could you share with us what you found?
Jay Loschky 12:19
Sure. You know, we added these questions back to the survey, Mohamed, because we thought, it's been 20 years since the invasion of Iraq. The U.S. has left Afghanistan finally. There are certain policies that have changed in a way throughout the region, in terms of how the United States interacts with these Middle Eastern and Muslim populations. So it'd be really interesting to go back and take look and see, has this moved the needle a little bit on how people think about the United States? And when we ask people questions such as if they think the U.S. is serious about encouraging the establishment of democratic systems in their region, or if they think that people in this region have the ability to fashion their own political future, they tend to not trust the United States at all. As a matter of fact, I think it's really tough to find what the highlights are. Almost every country by pretty large majorities is, would, would answer, No, they don't think the U.S. is serious about encouraging democratic systems, despite the fact that for a long time, that was really what, you know, President Bush and a lot of the U.S. foreign policy establishment harped on quite a bit in dealings with the Middle East. It does, it, it doesn't appear that that's landed in any, any useful way.
Jay Loschky 13:21
So a couple things that stand out for me there. Tunisia, which is the country which after the Arab Spring really came the closest to making democratic progress, only 8% believe the U.S. is serious about encouraging the establishment of democratic systems. I mean, this is a population that, you know, really did accomplish things. There's been some relapses obviously recently, but the trust for the United States as a partner in growing that democracy is not there. And then, obviously, you have to mention Iraq. You know, this is a place, again, where the U.S. occupied for 8 1/2 years; returned in 2014 to assist in fighting ISIS and really has been there ever since as a partner of the Iraqi government. And yet only 26% say the U.S. is serious about democratic progress throughout the region. So that's obviously a total rejection of, of U.S. policy in the region. I, I think if there is a highlight, you could say that 65% in Iraqi Kurdistan say that the U.S. is serious about establishing democratic systems. If you wanted to look at that as its own population, that's really the only, the only positive mark.
Mohamed Younis 14:17
And that was another fascinating analysis you did for us, Jay, where you broke down, really, the differences between how Iraqis in general are experiencing life and how in Iraqi Kurdistan in particular are really living such a different reality. That's Jay Loschky, Gallup’s regional director for the Middle East and North Africa. Jay, it's always an education, my friend. Thanks for coming.
Jay Loschky 14:38
I'll be back anytime. Thanks, Mohamed.
Mohamed Younis 14:44
That’s our show. Thanks for tuning in. For more from Gallup, go to news.gallup.com and sign up for our newsletter, Front Page, where we break down all that Gallup is learning across the globe in one weekly email. The Gallup Podcast is directed by Curtis Grubb and directed by Justin McCarthy. I’m Mohamed Younis, and this is Gallup: reporting on the will of the people since the 1930s.
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