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Trump’s wildly unpopular foreign policy, in 2 polls

People in 25 countries have more confidence in Chinese President Xi Jinping and Russian President Vladimir Putin than the American leader.

Demonstrators in the United Kingdom made a “Trump baby” balloon of President Donald Trump on July 13, 2018. It’s one of the many signs that he is unpopular in much of the world.
Demonstrators in the United Kingdom made a “Trump baby” balloon of President Donald Trump for his July visit. It’s one of the many signs he is unpopular in much of the world.
Chris J. Ratcliffe/Getty Images

President Donald Trump’s “America First” approach to foreign policy is wildly unpopular both at home and abroad, according to two polls released over the last two days.

On Monday, the Pew Research Center released a survey of people in 25 countries who were asked what they thought about the US and Trump. It turns out that 70 percent of foreigners surveyed have no confidence in the American president — and he got a lower rating than Chinese President Xi Jinping and Russian President Vladimir Putin.

What’s more, only 50 percent say they have a favorable view of the United States — a lower total than when Barack Obama was in office.

The next day, the Chicago Council on Global Affairs — a foreign policy think tank — released a poll that found 70 percent of Americans want the US to play an “active role” in the world. That’s one of the highest points of support since 1974, and a stinging rebuke to Trump’s approach to foreign affairs: focusing more on issues at home than cooperating with others to solve world problems.

But that’s not all: The survey found that support for the Paris climate accords and Iran nuclear deal actually increased since last year, even though Trump has declared he will withdraw the US from the first and already withdrew the US from the second. And Americans’ desire to trade with other countries jumped 15 points from 70 percent in 2016 to 85 percent today.

Ivo Daalder, the Chicago Council’s president, said on Tuesday that “there is a growing gap between President Trump and the American public on foreign policy.”

Taken together, the two polls point to a troubling trend: The president is leading a foreign policy strategy that few people on Earth want him to pursue.

Trump’s foreign policy record likely explains the divide

Americans, who apparently want closer ties to other countries and more US engagement in the world, bristle at the president’s current approach. A quick look at Trump’s record may explain why:

  • He withdrew the US from the Iran nuclear deal, in which the US and other countries lifted sanctions on Tehran in exchange for a freeze on the country’s nuclear program.
  • He withdrew the US from the Trans-Pacific Partnership trade deal, which would have helped the US strengthen its economic ties to countries in Asia and Latin America in part to push back against China.
  • He withdrew the US from UNESCO, a UN program that aims to eradicate prejudice in the world.
  • He announced that the US will withdraw from the Paris climate agreement, a global deal to reduce carbon emissions and curb climate change.
  • He started a trade war with China — the world’s second strongest economic power — that could threaten jobs for Americans and negatively affect the global economy.
  • He threatened and badgered two allies, Mexico and Canada, until they agreed to make changes to the North American Free Trade Agreement. The new deal is now called the United States-Mexico-Canada Agreement, or USMCA, but some experts say the alterations “are mostly cosmetic” and will hurt relations with both countries in the long run.
  • He moved the US embassy to Jerusalem, breaking with decades of US policy and stalling peace talks between Israelis and Palestinians (although Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu welcomed the decision). He also cut off funding to UNRWA, which supports millions of Palestinian refugees.
  • He has failed to criticize Russia for interfering in the 2016 presidential election.

This is not an exhaustive list, of course. The president has considered removing US troops from allied countries in Europe and Asia while adding he would impose tariffs on some of their goods, among other things — but you get the idea.

Trump has achieved some success on the world stage. The president’s diplomacy with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, for example, has improved ties between Washington and Pyongyang, which are at their strongest in decades.

But Trump seems to want to continue down the path of pulling America back from global matters when the people he leads want to stay engaged. That means this divide is likely to grow in the coming months and years.