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Much Of The World Doesn't Trust President Trump, Pew Survey Finds

President Trump speaks during a meeting with Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis in the Oval Office on Tuesday in Washington.
Alex Brandon
President Trump speaks during a meeting with Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis in the Oval Office on Tuesday in Washington.

A clear majority of people living outside the U.S. do not trust President Trump to do the right thing in world affairs, with fewer than one-third expressing confidence in him — an opinion also reflected in attitudes toward America generally, according to a survey by the Pew Research Center.

However, the metrics have improved somewhat for the president since a similar survey two years ago, increasing to 29% expressing confidence from 22%.

The survey published Wednesday was conducted in 33 countries from the spring to early autumn of last year, after relations between the U.S. and North Korea had thawed somewhat but just as tensions were ratcheting up between Washington and Tehran.

The nonpartisan Pew Research Center found that the percentage of those surveyed who expressed "no confidence" in Trump (64%) was a mirror image of the 64% who expressed confidence in President Barack Obama in a survey published in June 2017.

In the earlier survey, favorable views of the United States dropped from 64% at the end of the Obama presidency to 49% when Trump became president. That "favorable" opinion of the U.S. had edged up to 54% in the report published Wednesday.

Trump last among five leaders

The Pew study also sought to gauge respondents' opinions on other world leaders, including German Chancellor Angela Merkel, French President Emmanuel Macron, Russian President Vladimir Putin and Chinese President Xi Jinping.

They were most confident of Merkel (46%), who got the highest marks from respondents in the Netherlands (82%) and the lowest in Greece (22%). Overall, 41% of those surveyed said they were confident of Macron's handling of world affairs. He scored best among Germans (73%) and was viewed least favorably by respondents in Turkey (14%).

"Trump receives the highest negative ratings among the five leaders, though ratings for Putin and Xi are also on balance negative," the authors said.

Anti-Trump sentiment was strongest in Mexico (89% "no confidence") and Western Europe. Just 13% expressed confidence in him in Germany, 18% in Sweden, 20% in France, 21% in Spain and 25% in the Netherlands.

In the United Kingdom, which has experienced a populist wave similar to the one that swept Trump into the White House, 32% expressed confidence in the U.S. leader.

Specific Trump administration policies were also notably unpopular, with large numbers disapproving of U.S. tariffs and fees on goods from other countries (68%) and the U.S. withdrawal from international climate change agreements (66%). A majority of those surveyed also did not approve of a U.S.-Mexico border wall or U.S. restrictions on immigration. They also had a negative view of Washington's withdrawal from the Iran nuclear deal.

The only policy position included in the survey that was viewed favorably by a plurality of those questioned was the Trump administration's approach to North Korea — although the split was still narrow, with 41% approving and 36% disapproving.

Viewed more favorably by right wing

Opinions of the president tended to be more favorable in countries with right-wing or conservative governments and specifically among those people surveyed who identified ideologically with the political right in their countries, although there were exceptions.

For example, in the Philippines, where President Rodrigo Duterte has shown authoritarian tendencies and led a brutal war on drugs in which extrajudicial killings have been common, Trump enjoys a 77% positive rating. Likewise, in Israel, where the president's decision to move the U.S. Embassy to Jerusalem was a popular one and Trump has enjoyed a close relationship with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. The percentage of Israelis expressing "confidence" in the president was a solid 71%.

And in India, which has seen a surge in right-wing Hindu nationalism under Prime Minister Narendra Modi, 56% viewed Trump with confidence. Just over half of people in Poland (51%), where the right-wing populist Law and Justice Party has had an outright majority in parliament since 2015, expressed confidence in Trump.

However, in Hungary, where Prime Minister Viktor Orbán's government has pushed anti-immigrant policies, only a third of those surveyed gave a favorable opinion of Trump. In Brazil, too, under the far-right government of President Jair Bolsonaro, only 28% viewed the U.S. leader that way.

In Africa, a majority also viewed Trump positively in Kenya (65%) and Nigeria (58%).

In 18 nations, those on the ideological right-wing viewed the president more favorably, the study's authors reported.

"For example, more than eight-in-ten Israelis on the ideological right have confidence in Trump, compared with just 37% of those on the left," they said. "Only 14% of Australians from the left give Trump positive marks, compared with a 55% majority among people from the right."

And, among those who self-identify as right-wing, Trump's popularity has increased since 2018 – most notably in Hungary, Spain, France, Brazil and Poland. There were smaller gains among that group in Greece, the Netherlands, Argentina, Italy, and Canada.

Among those who express support for specific right-wing populist parties, 63% of partisans for the United Kingdom's Independence Party (UKIP) have confidence in Trump, as do 37% supporting Germany's AfD, or Alternative for Deutschland.

"Yet even among respondents on the right, confidence in Trump rises to 50% or higher in only six nations," the study's authors note.

The report included 36,923 respondents from 33 countries who were surveyed from May 18 to Oct. 2, 2019, although results from Lithuania were excluded because of processing error.

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Scott Neuman is a reporter and editor, working mainly on breaking news for NPR's digital and radio platforms.