It's no secret that President Joe Biden's foreign policy vision prioritized re-engaging with the world and improving the United States' global reputation. A new Gallup report suggests those efforts are working.
Six months into Joe Biden's presidency, approval ratings of U.S. leadership around the world had largely rebounded from the record-low ratings observed during the Trump administration. A new Gallup report shows that as of early August 2021, across 46 countries and territories, median approval of U.S. leadership stood at 49%. This rating is up from the 30% median approval at the end of Donald Trump's presidency.
The 49 percent approval rating for U.S. leadership ties the high point reached in the first year of Barack Obama's presidency 12 years ago.
The results are not without caveats. For example, while our disapproval rating of 36 percent is a significant improvement, it's still higher than under Obama, suggesting Trump left a stain that has not washed off. What's more, support for the U.S. varies greatly by nation, and in a handful of countries, the rebound is less pronounced. Our standing in Russia, for example, slid more over the last year than in any other country.
That said, the overall trend is unmistakable: The United States enjoyed solid global backing under Obama; that support collapsed under Trump; and it's rebounding under Biden.
What's more, Gallup's findings aren't the only relevant piece of evidence. Four months ago, the Pew Research Center released a related report documenting "dramatic" improvements in the United States' international stature following the Democrat's inauguration. With Biden in the White House — and with Donald Trump out of it — global confidence in the presidency has soared; the U.S. is now more respected; and people abroad have greater confidence that the U.S. can be counted on to do the right thing.
Circling back to our earlier coverage, one of the striking elements of this is the degree to which the international surveys shatter Trump's assumptions. At a campaign event last summer, the then-president turned his attention to one of his very favorite falsehoods: "You know, we're respected again. You may not feel it, although I think you do. You may not see it. You don't read about it from the fake news, but this country is respected again."
As regular readers know, it has long been foundational to the Republican's worldview: The United States was an international laughingstock for decades, Trump believes, but thanks to how awesome his awesomeness is, he singlehandedly restored the nation's global stature. It was a ridiculous idea he brought up constantly, seeing it as one of his most important accomplishments.
Even in his strange farewell address, Trump found it necessary, one last time, to boast to Americans, "The world respects us again." In an apparent message for Biden, the outgoing president added, "Please don't lose that respect."
It was a bizarre challenge from a failed leader who'd done extraordinary harm to the United States' international reputation. As the findings from Gallup and the Pew Research Center show, everything Trump said about his successes in improving the United States' standing was wrong, and it's Biden who's actually accomplishing what his predecessor felt compelled to lie about.
What's more, these circumstances are oddly familiar. As we've discussed, Obama's GOP detractors were absolutely convinced that the Democratic president had done real damage to the United States' international reputation. The opposite was true, but Republicans nevertheless argued, with unnerving vigor, that America had forfeited the admiration of the world — and it was Obama's fault.
During the 2016 Republican presidential primaries, for example, Jeb Bush insisted that during the Obama era, "We have lost the trust and confidence of our friends." Around the same time, Scott Walker and Trump had a chat about "how poorly" the United States was "perceived throughout the world." (In 2014, Trump also tweeted, "We need a President who isn't a laughing stock to the entire World. We need a truly great leader, a genius at strategy and winning. Respect!")
Mitt Romney added, "It is hard to name even a single country that has more respect and admiration for America today than when President Obama took office."
In reality, the United States' reputation soared under Obama, repairing the damage done during the Bush/Cheney era. Now, it's déjà vu all over again, as Biden restores confidence in the wake of Trump.
All of this matters in ways that go well beyond bragging rights. As Rachel explained on the show in June, Biden is determined to show the world that the United States is back, it's ready to lead responsibly, and it's eager to prove that liberal democracy is the superior model that should endure against its authoritarian critics.
The latest evidence suggests the world is listening anew.