President Trump will be the first one to tell you that he doesn’t really care about how the rest of the world views the decisions he’s making. His “America First” mantra is specific in the importance he assigns to other nations. America, first; everything else tied for last.
It’s still remarkable, though, the extent to which Trump’s approach to foreign policy is held at arm’s length by the rest of the world.
Many countries, we’ll note, still view the United States favorably. Australia, Brazil, Britain, Japan, South Korea — a majority of residents in each of those countries views the United States positively, according to newly released data from the Pew Research Center. The United States is still seen as the preferred leading global partner over China in every country Pew polled with the exception of Tunisia.
But that’s the United States, not Trump. Pew’s data found that, of the 25 countries surveyed, in only four did a majority have confidence in Trump’s handling of international affairs. Pew didn’t poll the United States, but recent Gallup polling showed that about 4 in 10 Americans similarly approved of Trump’s handling of foreign affairs.
Of 26 countries, then, only a majority in Israel, Nigeria, Kenya and the Philippines have confidence that Trump will do the right thing internationally or approve of his handling of foreign affairs.
It’s a weird mix. One might assume that Russia, for example, would be at or near a majority, given Trump’s stated interest in building a relationship with that country. But only 1 in 5 Russians have confidence in him. Or one might assume that our European allies would be more likely to back Trump’s strategies. Instead, the European countries surveyed are about as favorably inclined toward him as the Russians.
The most striking chart included in Pew’s report to that end is this one, showing how support for Trump compares unfavorably with support for George W. Bush — when Bush was deeply unpopular, thanks to the war in Iraq. Trump is outperforming Bush in Britain in 2008 but not in other key European countries.
Fine, one might argue: But Trump is frustrating the international community to the benefit of Americans. One point of rebuttal on that, though, is that 39 percent figure from Gallup. Americans don’t generally approve of this strategy.
Perhaps, then, Americans think they don’t like Trump’s foreign policy efforts but really embrace the fruits of his thinking, such as his criticisms of NATO. Other new polling from the Chicago Council on Global Affairs, though, finds that Americans don’t approve of specific parts of Trump’s foreign policy efforts. Three-quarters of Americans approve of our current level of involvement in NATO or think it should be expanded. Two-thirds think foreign trade — the deficits from which have been a frequent target of Trump’s ire — creates jobs in the United States. More than 8 in 10 Americans think international trade is good for them personally. Most Americans support the two international agreements that Trump has rejected: the Paris climate agreement (68 percent support) and the Iran nuclear deal (66 percent).
Specifically, 7 in 10 Americans think the country should be an active participant in world affairs. Trump doesn’t explicitly advocate isolationism, but his administration’s withdrawal from the U.N. Human Rights Council, criticisms of the World Trade Organization and disparagement of the International Criminal Court bolster the idea that it sees the United States' role as distinct from that of the world at large.
Most Americans view Trump’s portfolio of foreign policy actions with skepticism. So, too, it seems, do most non-Americans.