Report: Most of the World Has Dim View of US Leadership

President Donald Trump reacts to laughter from diplomats during his address to the United Nations General Assembly, Tuesday Sept. 25, 2018 at U.N. headquarters. (AP Photo/Bebeto Matthews)

(CN) – Two years into Donald Trump’s presidency, the majority of the world continues to disapprove of U.S. leadership and has more faith in Germany as the world’s top power, according to a new survey released Thursday.

Gallup’s annual “Rating World Leaders” report said that the United States’ leadership approval rating steadied out at 31 percent, compared to last year’s record low of 30 percent. The numbers are a precipitous drop from former President Barack Obama’s final year in office in 2016, when the U.S. held a 48 percent approval rating.

“The image of U.S. leadership abroad is not good right now,” said Jon Clifton, Gallup’s global managing partner, in the report. “Its approval rating is stuck at an all-time low for any of the past three presidential administrations.”

Germany retained the highest approval rating for the second year in a row at 39 percent, among the U.S., China and Russia. For its part, China had the second highest approval rating at 34 percent. Russia stood at 30 percent, putting it on “nearly equal footing” with the U.S. for the first time in the history of report which surveyed adults across 133 countries.

The continuing low approval rating of U.S. leadership likely stems from Trump’s actions to remove the United States from global treaties and agreements, according to Gallup. In 2018, Trump withdrew the U.S. from the Iran nuclear deal, began a trade war with China and ordered the withdrawal of troops in war-torn Syria.

The lack of commitment from the U.S. to honor its agreements likely hurt its reputation by casting doubt on a country led by an unpredictable president, according to the report.

“This was perhaps nowhere more publicly spelled out than in his speech to the United Nations in September, when he said the U.S. rejected the ideology of globalism and embraced the doctrine of patriotism,” Clifton said.

While United States’ leadership has retained low approval ratings since Trump took office, it has also retained its high disapproval ratings as well. More people across the globe, 40 percent, disapprove of the U.S. than any other country, including Russia at 31 percent, China at 28 percent and Germany at 22 percent.

The high disapproval rate for the U.S., Gallup notes, can have an effect on the country’s soft power, its ability to influence other nations without the use of hard power such as economic might or military strength. Scientists at Dartmouth College and the University of Sydney discovered that “public opinion about U.S. foreign policy in foreign countries does affect their policies toward the U.S.” Research conducted at Berkeley also suggests America’s lack of popularity among foreign nation costs the country billions in trade.

“Should anyone really care what the world thinks of the U.S.?” Clifton asked. “The short answer is yes.”

The United States’ reputation within Europe remains low, as only 24 percent of Europeans said they approve of the country’s leadership, down one point from last year. While Russia continues to have a low approval rating of U.S. leadership, 11 percent, this number has jumped since President Trump has taken office. During the final year of Obama’s presidency in 2016, only 2 percent of Russians approved of American leadership.

The continued unpopularity of the U.S. among foreign nations has allowed Russia and China to improve their own standings and better challenge the United States’ influence and wealth, according to Gallup.

“However, as the global balance of soft power continues to shift, it may prove even more difficult for the U.S. to counter this influence and remain relevant in the second half of Trump’s presidency, unless the administration can erase some of the doubts that U.S. partners and allies have about its commitment,” the report said. 

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