The United States is still receiving low approval ratings for its leadership from other parts of the world, according to a new report from Gallup that was compiled even before the coronavirus pandemic tested global leaders.
Gallup released its annual world leadership ratings report on Monday, which found the U.S. receiving historically low leadership assessments for the third year in a row.
While America’s median leadership rating rose slightly for 2019, its approval percentage of 33% puts it on par with the ratings of leadership in China and Russia, which have had scores in that low range for years. The U.S. rating notably dropped from 48% in 2016 to 30% in 2017. Germany, on the other hand, had a rating of 44% for last year — much higher than China, Russia and the U.S.
Gallup does note that the ratings, which are pulled from interviews with 1,000 adults across 135 countries and territories, were collected mostly last year — long before the COVID-19 pandemic started sending shockwaves throughout the globe. How leaders are handling the crisis will likely have a major impact on the survey responses next year.
“All countries may see their global stock rise or fall based on how they have responded to the global crisis, but particularly China where COVID-19 is thought to have originated, and the U.S., which announced its withdrawal from the World Health Organization amid the pandemic,” write the authors of the report.
During a virtual discussion held in conjunction with the release of Gallup’s report, Reva Goujon, a managing director at Martin+Crumpton Group, a global strategic advisory company, noted that global public opinion will likely matter more in a post-pandemic world. She said politically vulnerable governments will be “more constrained by domestic public opinion, which can translate into less flexibility in managing foreign policy goals.”
“We have to appreciate just how much this pandemic has exposed some very deep flaws in the social contract of nations across the globe,” Goujon said. “Every individual, every family, every business is asking a very existential question, which is, ‘What is my government doing for me, for my family, my employees, my customers?’ And this virus has the power to not just paralyze the global economy at that macro level, but also dictate at a very personal level who lives, who dies, who works, who goes to school. And so the macro and the micro effects are smashed together in this crisis, creating the ultimate litmus test for these global leaders.”
Joseph Nye, a political scientist and foreign policy scholar at the Harvard Kennedy School, said during the event that he finds global public opinion polls “very useful” and their importance can depend on whether leaders face an enabling or disabling environment.
He noted, for example, former U.S. President George W. Bush’s efforts to develop a strong relationship with Vicente Fox, the former president of Mexico, near the beginning of the Iraq War. Mexico was a member of the U.N. Security Council at the time and Bush wanted a resolution — and Fox’s vote — to legitimize the U.S. invasion of Iraq. Fox declined, according to Nye, because of Bush’s low popularity in Mexico.
“That’s a good example of a disabling environment,” Nye said.
Gallup’s findings take on additional significance as the leaders of the four countries assessed provide stark contrasts in the handling of the coronavirus pandemic. A new poll released this past weekend by The Associated Press and the NORC Center for Public Affairs Research shows only 32% of Americans support Trump’s handling of the pandemic.
By contrast, Chancellor Angela Merkel has seen her popularity rise with her fellow Germans during the pandemic. A recent poll showed 82% of Germans said Merkel was doing her job “rather well,” marking a stunning turnaround for a chancellor whose support had fallen so far that she announced she would not seek reelection in 2021. Germany has a comparatively low fatality rate from the virus, thanks to a successful test-and-trace system that was installed early on during the pandemic.
Other female leaders are also enjoying high marks from the public, thanks to their handling of the pandemic. In Scotland, where The New York Times recently reported new coronavirus cases are markedly smaller than in the rest of the U.K., 4 out of 5 Scots said in a survey that First Minister Nicola Sturgeon has managed the crisis well. In New Zealand, which has handled the pandemic far better than most countries, Jacinda Ardern has become that country’s most popular prime minister in a century, The Guardian reports.
Indeed, four out of the five countries with the most success in dealing with the pandemic are run by women, according to Nye.
“That’s something for us to think about,” Nye said during Gallup’s panel discussion.
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U.S. Fares Poorly in Gallup’s Latest World Leadership Ratings originally appeared on usnews.com