Numbers That Make You Think: Public Opinion of the United States is on the Rise

By Hannah Quinque

Pho­to Cred­it: Air Force 1 CC0 1.0, NASA

Dear Read­er,

What has most sig­nif­i­cant­ly affect­ed your view of the U.S. with­in the last year? Black Lives Mat­ter protests, maybe? Well, they might have changed, but the same fights are fought still. Dis­as­trous ways to deal with Covid-19? Vac­ci­na­tion might have saved many lives, but 50,000 Amer­i­cans have died from Covid-19 since Octo­ber, and the rate of new infec­tions is still at 70,000 new cas­es each day. But hey, one major change can’t be dis­put­ed even by the most cyn­i­cal blog­ger: There’s a dif­fer­ent POTUS (Pres­i­dent of the Unit­ed States)! And although he faces obsta­cles at home, a recent study sug­gests that Joe Biden’s pres­i­den­cy made America’s image abroad take off again after a Trump-induced dive.

The think tank Pew Research Cen­ter released a study of 16,254 adults from 16 so-called advanced economies in June 2021. It marks a steep upturn of trust for­eign­ers place in the U.S. and its for­eign pol­i­cy. 75% per­cent of par­tic­i­pants from the twelve coun­tries where data is avail­able for this and last year express con­fi­dence in Pres­i­dent Biden. Grant­ed, the bar could hard­ly have been low­er: Don­ald Trump’s pres­i­den­cy showed his­toric lows with only 17% of the same coun­tries’ par­tic­i­pants express­ing trust in him in 2020. This steep change from a Repub­li­can to a Demo­c­rat mir­rors results from the last time this shift occurred. A gen­er­al­ly well-beloved Barack Oba­ma had brought the con­fi­dence rat­ings back on inter­na­tion­al track after George W. Bush’s rat­ings had gone from low to low­er. What we see now is a mere recov­ery of America’s inter­na­tion­al pre-Trump image.

How­ev­er, there’s a big ‘but’ in the study’s sub-head­ing: “But many raise con­cerns about health of U.S. polit­i­cal sys­tem.” Over­all, 57% of the study’s par­tic­i­pants think that the U.S. has actu­al­ly lost its sta­tus as a mod­el democ­ra­cy in recent years. Giv­en Obama’s his­tor­i­cal­ly high favor­a­bil­i­ty rates, one could argue that Don­ald Trump’s elec­tion, even just for one term, has neg­a­tive­ly impact­ed con­fi­dence in the U.S. beyond his pres­i­den­tial term. For bet­ter or worse, the Biden admin­is­tra­tion will have to proac­tive­ly counter this devel­op­ment if the U.S. wants to stake its claim as an exem­plary democracy. 

Of course, views dif­fer among nations, age groups, and polit­i­cal stand­points. For exam­ple, peo­ple right-of-cen­ter polit­i­cal­ly tend to have more con­fi­dence in the U.S. as a democ­ra­cy; old­er peo­ple see Joe Biden in a more favor­able light; and only in New Zealand do par­tic­i­pants hold gen­er­al­ly unfa­vor­able views of the U.S. Appar­ent­ly, the world’s trust in Amer­i­ca is frag­ile, and mis­takes in pulling out Amer­i­can troops from Afghanistan didn’t help mat­ters much. It seems that con­fi­dence in the Amer­i­can gov­ern­ment will take some time to develop. 

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