Aspen Ideas: American is losing world’s popularity contest |

Aspen Ideas: American is losing world’s popularity contest

Rick Carroll/The Aspen Times

A global survey released Monday by the Pew Research Center shows the United States has an image problem under the Trump administration.

A near full audience Tuesday at Paepcke Auditorium digested reams of new data presented by Michael Dimock, president of Pew Research, before political pundits weighed in on what it means during a session at the Aspen Ideas Festival.

One of the statistics popping out in the survey, which was administered in 37 countries with some 40,000 respondents, showed that 22 percent had confidence in Donald Trump at the onset of his presidency, compared with a 64 percent rating for Barack Obama when his administration was drawing to a close.

Survey respondents also showed lessening support for American customs, an indicator that the U.S. is falling out of favor with the rest — or much of — the world.

“I think this says to me we still matter a great deal in the world,” said Wendy Sherman, who is senior counselor at Albright Stonebridge Group. “But we’re sort of teetering on the edge of whether America is seen not as the only power in the world, but indispensable leaders in the world.”

Despite the overall numbers, Trump pulled favorable showings in Israel and Russia.

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Israel, of which 49 percent said they were confident in Obama during polls from 2014 to 2016 by Pew, showed a higher confidence level — 56 percent — in Trump. Russia, where just 11 percent of respondents showed confidence in Obama from 2014 to 2016, boosted that number nearly five times with 53 percent exhibiting confidence in Trump.

And in terms of the image of the United States, 64 percent had a favorable view toward the country at the end of Obama’s final term, while 49 percent expressed the same sentiment at the start of Trump’s first term.

Trump’s 22 percent confidence rating also was lower than Vladimir Putin’s 27 percent rating, Xi Jinping’s 28 percent mark and Angela Merkel’s 42 percent showing.

Despite America’s and Trump’s showing in the survey, the study also said, “In many countries, a majority or plurality believes relations will remain about the same.”

Yet panelist Richard Haass, president of the Council on Foreign Relations who once was the senior Middle East adviser to George H.W. Bush, said he wasn’t convinced America’s foreign relations won’t take a dent.

“I’d be curious to see if the alienation continues or deepens,” he said. “Does it continue to have as little impact as this poll suggests? I think not.”

Blame some of that on the so-called recession of democracy worldwide, noted moderator James Fallows, a national correspondent for The Atlantic.

Sherman noted the younger Bush president had similar ratings near the end of his last term to the ones Trump currently has. Yet Trump’s are even “deeper” than George W. Bush’s, she said.

She attributed that to an administration that failed to clearly state its policy mission on both the national and global stages.

“I am deeply, deeply worried,” she said while criticizing Secretary of State Rex Tillerson. “Look, I love the State Department, but they have no leaders.”

Trump, while having a tendency to escalate situations, “didn’t walk into a situation of global harmony and peace,” Haass argued.

“This was about as tough an inbox as any president has had in a while,” he said, but added that Trump has steadily added to that inbox of issues.

Dimock attributed America’s and Trump’s waning favor on a global scale to what the survey determined was his policy decisions on the travel ban to mainly Muslim countries, building a border wall between Mexico and the U.S., withdrawing from the Paris climate accord, and his approach toward U.S. trade agreements.

While 75 percent of the survey respondents also found Trump to be arrogant, 55 percent deemed him a strong leader.