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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