By Pam Martens: March 4, 2019 ~
In what has to be the most diplomatic understatement of the year, Jon Clifton, the Global Managing Partner of the polling organization, Gallup, had this to say with the release of the company’s 2019 “Rating World Leaders” report: “The image of U.S. leadership abroad is not good right now.”
In reality, the U.S. had a 48 percent global approval rating in President Obama’s last year in office and that rating plunged to 30 percent in Trump’s first year in office. It now sits at 31 percent median approval across the 133 countries surveyed by Gallup.
One of the most dangerous takeaways from the new Gallup report is that our closest allies think so little of the U.S. right now. The report notes that “Regionally, the image of U.S. leadership fared worst in Europe, where approval remained low and stable, dropping one percentage point from the previous year to 24%.” The current 24 percent approval rating compares to a 44 percent approval rating in Europe in Obama’s last year in office.
The 24 percent overall approval rating in Europe disguises the deep distrust of the U.S. by some European countries where approval of the U.S. is far lower: Norway 12 percent; Sweden 13 percent; Austria and Portugal 14 percent; Belgium and Switzerland 16 percent; and Germany 17 percent.
Equally disturbing, the disapproval of the U.S. by Europeans, at 59 percent, puts the U.S. in the same league as Russia, which also received a 59 percent disapproval from Europeans in the current Gallup report.
Obviously, the U.S. pulling out of the Paris Climate Accord and the Iran nuclear deal, together with Trump’s insults toward European leaders and his trade battles have played a significant role in the plunging approval ratings of the United States in Europe.
The Gallup report concludes that “the main challengers to U.S. influence, values and wealth — China and Russia” have gained ground in approval ratings while the U.S. has declined. The report notes further that “…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 day after the U.S. Presidential election in 2016, Germany’s Deutsche Welle digital front page carried a brutal assessment by Michael Knigge of Trump’s rise to power. Knigge wrote:
“Trump’s success is a victory for an inflammatory, partly dehumanizing, vulgar populism. It is a sharp slap in the face to the establishment and the political elite in the United States and its representative, Hillary Clinton. As an opponent, Clinton was almost equally as unpopular as Trump. Through her own carelessness, her use of a private email server provided her critics with the ammunition they needed for their constant attacks. But Clinton’s unpopularity alone does not explain Trump’s dramatic election victory.
“Trump’s victory brings to light a long-term and deep dissatisfaction — if not actual hate — present in large sections of the populace. It is a hatred of the status quo, of globalization and the political system in Washington. In numerous polls, many Americans have repeatedly stated that they believe their standard of living and future prospects are worse than they were in their parents’ generation. Trump was the right vehicle and outlet to harness such views, which were especially held by the white working class. And Hillary Clinton was the right opponent.”
Just four months into Trump’s presidency, Der Spiegel, one of the most influential and widely read news magazines in Europe, published a breathtaking assessment of Trump. Written by its Executive Editor, Klaus Brinkbäumer, the editorial sent a chilling message across Europe:
“Donald Trump has transformed the United States into a laughing stock and he is a danger to the world. He must be removed from the White House before things get even worse…
“Donald Trump is not fit to be president of the United States. He does not possess the requisite intellect and does not understand the significance of the office he holds nor the tasks associated with it. He doesn’t read. He doesn’t bother to peruse important files and intelligence reports and knows little about the issues that he has identified as his priorities. His decisions are capricious and they are delivered in the form of tyrannical decrees…
“Crises, including those in Syria and Libya, are escalating, but no longer being discussed. And who should they be discussed with? Phone calls and emails to the U.S. State Department go unanswered. Nothing is regulated, nothing is stable and the trans-Atlantic relationship hardly exists anymore…”
That editorial ran on May 19, 2017. Just days later, the Chancellor of Germany, Angela Merkel, reinforced the growing isolation of America in a speech with the comment that after spending a few days with President Trump, Europe “really must take our fate into our own hands.”
The new Gallup report takes comfort in the fact that while global approval ratings of the U.S. plunged in Trump’s first year, they have stabilized for the most part around those low levels – the lowest in the past three U.S. presidential administrations. That assessment is, in itself, an epiphany. We now expect so little of our country that an abysmal world view of us is seen as comforting because the ratings have stopped plunging further.
Is this really the country that we want to leave to our children and grandchildren?