allies, America First, Biden, Biden administration, developing countries, Donald Trump, Gallup, globalism, liberal global order, Our So-Called Foreign Policy, polls, public opinion, Ukraine, Ukraine War
As RealityChek regulars might have noticed, I haven’t been writing about too many polls lately. The reason? As I explained at the end of last year (here and here) , most were badly off-base on crucial issues that shaped the results of the U.S. midterm elections – especially abortion.
But some new Gallup findings (on a non-political issue) merit an exception. Not that this survey, like way too much polling on foreign policy, hasn’t suffered major problems of its own. All the same, since the claim that “America is back” has been foundational to President Biden’s approach to world affairs, it’s striking that Gallup on Friday reported results suggesting that fewer Americans believe this than they did during the Trump administration.
I write “suggest” because the wording of the relevant question is pretty vague. “In general,” respondents were asked, “how do you think the United States rates in the eyes of the world — very favorably, somewhat favorably, somewhat unfavorably or very unfavorably?”
Of course, this could mean anything from “as a reliable ally” to “as a great place to live,” to “the world’s strongest (or wealthiest) country.” If true, though, whatever the criteria, these Gallup data indicate deep public’s skepticism that Mr. Biden has achieved one of his central foreign policy goals: reversing a dangerous erosion of America’s international popularity stemming from the “America First-style policies pursued by his predecessor.
As the President sees it, this boneheadedly selfish posture threatened to destroy the network of international institutions and above alliances that – consistent with the globalist approach to world affairs he has always supported – considers crucial ingredients for foreign policy success.
But Mr. Biden hasn’t convinced many Americans of these related propositions, reports Gallup. During time in the White House so far, between 48 and 49 percent of American adults said that their country is viewed either “very favorably” or “somewhat favorably” “in the eyes of the world,” with the “verys” coming in at just seven percent in early 2021, 2022, and 2023 alike.
The total unfavorablys ranged from 50 to 51 percent in these years, with the “very unfavorablys” standing at 14 percent, 16 percent, and 17 percent in 2021, 2022, and 2023, respectively.
Although not terrific, these numbers are hardly a disaster, either. But the funny thing is that they’re a good deal worse than the results recorded during the presidency of America First-y, selfish, xenophobic etc Trump.
In Trump’s first year as President (2017), the share of respondents stating that the United States was viewed either “very” or “somewhat favorably” by the rest of the world totaled only 42 percent – a big drop from the 54 percent reported in the final year of Barack Obama’s administration (2016). But in the next three Trump years, the overall favorably percentages rose to 55, 58, and 60 percent.
Moreover, the “very favorably” responses in 2018, 2019, and 2020 stood at seven, 12 and 13 percent, respectively. – also higher than those of the Biden years.
Also awfully interesting: During Trump’s four years in office, the share of American respondents telling Gallup that they believed foreign leaders “had respect” for him increased from 29 percent to 37 percent. The third reading for Biden’s administration showed that 37 percent of respondents also believed that foreign leaders respected him. But that 2023 result is down from 58 percent in early 2021, at the outset of his presidency.
In addition, these Gallup statistics need to be seen in some noteworthy context. For on top of that evidence that Americans aren’t impressed with the payoff of Mr. Biden’s globalist campaign to repair a national reputation supposedly shredded by Trump, there’s considerable evidence that the rest of the world isn’t, either.
The most revealing sign is the international reaction to the President’s efforts to rally global support against Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. Long-time security allies, even in neighboring Europe, continue free-riding, with this widely followed scorecard revealing that overall U.S. aid to Ukraine still exceeds that provided by all European Union countries combined. Developing countries, meanwhile, keep displaying indifference – at best – despite Mr. Biden’s repeated insistence that global security, prosperity, democracy, and the liberal global order are all stake.
In other words, as opposed to taking seriously the evident Biden assumption that popularity matters decisively in international affairs, practically every other country is acting as if its own particular national interests are paramount. That can only reasonably be read as a major hint that this administration should stop harping so much on America being back (especially for others’ benefit) and revive more of an America First mindset.