Americans Confident in Biden’s Foreign Policy Chops

While sharp partisan divisions remain, Americans favor President Joe Biden’s foreign policy vision, seeking the good graces of allies and playing a leadership role in the world. 

French President Emmanuel Macron, right, attends a video-conference meeting as U.S. President Joe Biden appear on a screen ahead of a 2021 Munich Security Conference at the Elysee palace in Paris, Friday Feb. 19, 2021. (Benoit Tessier/Pool via AP)

(CN) — As President Joe Biden marks his first month in office, Americans support for his foreign policy views — particularly his emphasis on working cooperatively with allies and restoring America’s role as a global leader, according to a survey released Tuesday by Pew Research Center. 

However, the sharp partisan divides that characterize nearly all polling in the Trump era persist, as 88% of respondents who are Democratic or Democrat-leaning independents expressed confidence in Biden’s ability to handle foreign affairs compared to just 27% of Republican or Republican-leaning counterparts.  

Overall, 60% of Americans expressed confidence in Biden’s ability to handle foreign affairs. The mark falls below that of President Barack Obama (74%) during his first weeks in office. But Obama’s numbers could also reflect the public’s displeasure with his predecessor George W. Bush, who received a 37% approval just before leaving office amid a cloud of questions about whether his invasion of Iraq was one of the nation’s major modern foreign policy blunders.

Trump received a lower mark than Biden at the same period of his presidency, with 46% of the nation expressing confidence in his handling foreign affairs. In fact, Trump never got over 50% approval for foreign policy during his four years in office. 

Regarding Biden, Americans are particularly keen on his prospects for restoring American alliances that were frayed and fractured during the Trump years. About two-thirds (67%) of Americans said they are at least somewhat confident Biden’s ability to restore America’s relationship with global allies. 

The president also got high marks on his ability to deal effectively with climate change (60%), make good decisions about the use of military force (59%) and make good decisions about international trade (59%). 

However, the American public is less bullish on Biden’s ability to handle a rising China, with only 53% of those polled saying they were at least somewhat confident in his ability to do so. 

On the campaign trail, Trump repeatedly hit Biden for being soft on China. 

The number reflects both Republican and Democratic skepticism regarding Biden’s posture toward China. For instance, only 18% of Republicans believe Biden will effectively deal with the rising Asian power, while 37% of them believe Biden will restore alliances. Similarly, 83% of Democrats believe Biden will handle relations with China well, while 93% believe he will restore positive relationships with erstwhile allies. 

While most of the poll tracks with sharp partisan divides, it is notable that 69% of Americans believe the United States will be viewed more positively with Biden in office, including 41% of Republicans. 

Among those with college degrees, 81% said Biden’s presidency will improve the perceptions of America abroad. 

The poll also shows foreign perceptions are important to Americans, with 87% of the public saying it’s important for other countries to respect America. 

And the public appears to have rejected Trump’s America First foreign policy vision, which mandated a withdrawal from global affairs and a reconsideration of traditional alliances, particularly as it related to funding for military protection. 

A full 78% of the public said America should play a shared leadership role in the world with the support of alliances. However, a closer look at the polling also shows Trump’s pitch to stop playing the world police and concentrate on domestic issues enjoys broad and persistent support. 

About 50% of Americans said the nation should pay less attention to world affairs and concentrate on domestic affairs, while 49% of those polled said it’s better for the country’s future to be involved in global affairs. 

Regarding foreign policy priorities, protecting the jobs of American workers won the most support and across largely bipartisan lines. Republicans (85%) ranked it as a higher priority than Democrats (65%). Americans took a generally dim view of promoting democracy in other nations (with 20% saying it should be a top priority) and strengthening the United Nations (22%).

Preventing terrorist attacks (70%) and preventing infectious disease were other issues that received high prioritization from the public, according to the poll.

The Pew Research Center polled 2,596 adults between Feb. 1 and Feb. 7. The survey has a margin of error of 2.7 points.  

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