- 58% in U.S. think Biden is respected by world leaders
- 49% say U.S. rates favorably in world; 37% are satisfied with U.S. position
- Republicans' positivity has tumbled since 2020, driving overall ratings down
WASHINGTON, D.C. -- At the start of Joe Biden's presidency, the 58% of Americans who think he is respected by leaders around the world is among the highest for recent presidents and far higher than Donald Trump's readings on the measure throughout his term.
Yet, this positivity about Biden on the world stage has not translated to optimistic views about the United States' international standing. Instead, the public's sentiment that the U.S. is viewed favorably in the eyes of the world (49%) and their satisfaction with its position in the world (37%) have fallen sharply. These declines are being driven by Republicans, whose near-record highs on these measures last year have tumbled, while Democrats' opinions have shown only modest improvements so far, with Biden newly in office.
|Feb 3-16, 2020||Feb 3-18, 2021|
|World leaders respect president||37||58|
|Satisfied with U.S. position in world||53||37|
|U.S. rates favorably in the eyes of the world||60||49|
The latest findings are from Gallup's Feb. 3-18 World Affairs poll, which was conducted several weeks after Biden outlined his plans to "repair our alliances and engage with the world again" in his inaugural address. Biden's foreign policy goals are largely a reversal from Trump's "America First" strategy, which included the United States' withdrawals from the World Health Organization and the Paris climate accord. Biden tackled both of these issues in his first hours as president by signing executive orders. In addition, Biden has already spoken to many foreign leaders, taken steps to potentially restore the Iran nuclear deal, created a Defense Department task force to address the U.S. military's China strategy and imposed sanctions on Russia, with the promise of more to come.
Majority of Americans Think World Leaders Respect Biden
Since 2001, Gallup has regularly tracked Americans' perceptions of whether foreign leaders respect the U.S. president. Fifty-eight percent of U.S. adults say world leaders respect Biden, a reading that is shy of Barack Obama's initial 67% in February 2009. It is, however, well above George W. Bush's 49% in February 2001 and Trump's 29% in February 2017.
While Trump was in office, no more than 37% of U.S. adults said he was respected by leaders around the globe. Data from Gallup's World Poll similarly found the median approval rating of U.S. leadership among residents of 94 countries and territories was a record-low 28% in 2020. In 2019, median approval was 33% among 135 countries.
Line graph. Americans' views of whether other world leaders have respect for the U.S. president, trend since 2001. Currently, 58% say they think world leaders have respect for Joe Biden. The highest on record is 75% for George W. Bush in 2002 after the 9/11 attacks and the record low is 21% in 2007, also for Bush, during the Iraq War.
Ninety percent of Democrats and 19% of Republicans think Biden is respected by foreign leaders, typical of partisans' opposing views of presidents. The one notable exception was in 2002, after the 9/11 terrorist attacks, when a record-high 75% overall said leaders around the world respected Bush, including majorities of both parties. Yet, Bush also owns the 21% record low in 2007 during the Iraq War. At that time, 45% of Republicans and 11% of Democrats thought other world leaders respected Bush.
Decline in Public's Views of How U.S. Is Rated on World Stage
Although a majority of Americans think Biden has the respect of leaders abroad, he faces the challenge of repairing the United States' global image. The overall 11-percentage-point decline in Americans' belief that the U.S. is viewed very or somewhat favorably in the eyes of the world, from 60% to 49%, is the result of a 37-point drop among Republicans and Republican-leaning independents since one year ago. The decline among Republicans overwhelms the more modest 13-point improvement, to 53%, in Democrats' and Democratic-leaning independents' views with Biden in office.
This trend is similar to what happened when Obama assumed office after Bush's presidency, in 2009. Between 2008 and 2010, Democrats' view that the U.S. rates favorably in the world roughly doubled, from 31% to 63%. At the same time, Republicans' fell from 58% to 38%.
Line graph. Percentages of Americans, Republicans and Republican-leaning independents, and Democrats and Democratic-leaning independents who think the U.S. rates favorably in the eyes of the world. Currently, 49% of Americans think the U.S. is viewed favorably, including 53% of Democrats and 44% of Republicans. Democrats' views have improved from 40% in 2020, while Republicans' have fallen from 81% in 2020.
While 49% of Americans think the U.S. is viewed favorably on the global stage, even fewer, 37%, are satisfied with its position in the world. This marks a 16-point decline since one year ago, also the result of a far greater drop among Republicans (-55 points) than increase among Democrats (+22 points).
Partisans' views of satisfaction with the United States' position in the world have followed a trajectory similar to that involving their views of U.S. favorability. That is, between 2008 and 2010, when the presidency transitioned from Bush to Obama, Democrats' satisfaction rose from 14% to 50%, while Republicans' fell from 54% to 19%.
Line graph. Percentages of Americans, Republicans and Republican-leaning independents, and Democrats and Democratic-leaning independents who are satisfied with the position of the U.S. in the world since 2000. Currently, 37% of U.S. adults, including 45% of Democrats and 27% of Republicans, are satisfied. Republicans' satisfaction has dropped from 82% in 2020 and Democrats' has increased from 23% in 2020.
Majorities of Americans expressed satisfaction with the position of the U.S. from 2000 through 2003. After that, less than half were satisfied until February of last year, when the reading rose to 53%.
Americans are much more likely to think leaders around the world respect Biden than thought this of Trump throughout his presidency. Yet they are in a transition phase when it comes to rating how the U.S. is seen internationally; that is, it is too soon in the Biden presidency for Democrats to be happy with the U.S. role or image, given the damage Democrats believe Trump has done. However, Trump's departure from office has been enough to deflate Republicans' ratings. As Biden increasingly enacts his foreign policy agenda, Democrats' positive impressions of the U.S. on the world stage are likely to grow, and Republicans' may fall further, assuming polarization will expand to the extremes seen under the last two presidents.
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