World loves Biden but is losing faith in US, survey finds

United States President Joe Biden speaking about his administration's response to Covid-19 at the White House on Thursday. He is joined by Vice-President Kamala Harris and National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases director Anthony Fauci.
United States President Joe Biden speaking about his administration's response to Covid-19 at the White House on Thursday. He is joined by Vice-President Kamala Harris and National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases director Anthony Fauci. The multi-nation survey by a German think-tank said that trust is low both in the US as a nation and Mr Biden's ability to deliver.PHOTO: EPA-EFE

LONDON • President Joe Biden is popular across much of the world and expected to provide greater United States leadership on issues such as fighting Covid-19, terrorism and climate change, a new multi-nation survey shows.

But trust is low both in the US as a nation and Mr Biden's ability to deliver.

"We wanted to know: If there is a change of administration and if the US is ready to lead again, will anyone follow?" said Dr Michael Broening, executive director of the New York office of the Friedrich-Ebert-Stiftung, the German think-tank that commissioned the poll.

The answer from the survey's 12,400 respondents in Brazil, France, Germany, Japan, Kenya, India, Indonesia, Mexico, Russia, South Africa, Turkey and the US itself: "Yes, but..."

"Whatever was here in terms of US trust has really dissipated a lot," said Dr Broening, adding that US scores on international trust had fallen towards the levels of Russia and China. "That's a very far stretch from the shining city on a hill."

Asked by polling agency YouGov whether they approved of Mr Biden, and separately if they thought he would provide more global leadership than predecessor Donald Trump, respondents showed almost as much enthusiasm as similar polls in 2009 - when Mr Barack Obama replaced Mr George W. Bush, another internationally unpopular US president.

Eighty-nine per cent of Kenyans, 73 per cent of Germans and more than 60 per cent of French, Indians, Indonesians, Mexicans and South Africans said they approved of Mr Biden.

Even in countries Mr Trump courted while in office - such as India and Brazil - Mr Biden was seen as a welcome change.

Only in Russia did more respondents disapprove of the change of guard in Washington.

Yet, asked whether the new US President should - and would - make good on specific goals such as reviving the 2015 Iran nuclear deal or the Paris Agreement on climate change, the survey showed scepticism as to whether he can succeed.

Mr Biden signed an order to rejoin the Paris Agreement as soon as he was inaugurated on Wednesday.

The results chime with those of another recent survey, this time limited to European nations, published on Tuesday by the European Council on Foreign Relations, a Brussels think-tank.

That poll found Mr Biden's popularity abroad was undermined by pessimism, including beliefs that the US political system is broken, that Washington can no longer be relied on to provide allies with security and that China will be the stronger global power within a decade.

"Past polling suggested that the changing of a president really presaged similar changes in attitudes to the US," said Mr John Ray, director of polling at YouGov Blue, which carried out the poll. He added: "That's no longer the case."

The poll for the Friedrich-Ebert-Stiftung was carried out online last month, after Mr Biden's election victory had become clear, according to Mr Ray.

YouGov surveyed roughly 1,000 respondents from each of the 12 countries.

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A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on January 23, 2021, with the headline 'World loves Biden but is losing faith in US, survey finds'. Subscribe