After a survey, the Pew Research Center came to a conclusion: U.S. Image Suffers as Publics Around World Question Trump’s Leadership. In 37 countries the question was asked if they had confidence in the US president regarding world affairs. A staggering low median of 22% was the outcome. In contrast, Obama scored a 67% in his first year.
Now, correlation isn’t causation, and we can’t say at all that the president is the only factor responsible for the image of the U.S.
It is however interesting to see how the image of the U.S. developed over the years in correlation with the most powerful man in the country and perhaps in the world (debatable).
Popularity of U.S.A. sank after inauguration Trump
When delving deeper into the data, some trends afloat the surface. From 2013–2015 a steady favourable view appears except for Russia. Under Obama, US’s favourability in Russia dropped like a roller-coaster. When Trump came to power, the median almost tripled with 26 percentage points (from 15% in 2015 to 41% in 2017).
Another thing that stands out is that 2016 has a lower median than its previous years. However, when looking at the blue dots that represent individual countries in Figure 1, the reason can be that there are a lot fewer countries polled that year (17 in contrast to 30, 32 and 31).
So we can say that the favourable few of the U.S. has dropped 16 percentage points in 2017. They came from a median of 65% under four years Obama to a 49% under Trump in 2017.
When we take a closer look at the 2017 data, it’s interesting to see the difference in popularity between Trump and the U.S.A.
So what stands out?
- In South Korea and Poland, there’s a big difference in how they see Trump and the U.S.
South Korea is a powerful ally to the U.S. mainly because of their enemy North Korea. South Korea is home 28.000 U.S. military forces in various bases. We need further investigation for the Poland story.
- Only in Russia Trump is more popular than the U.S.
It’s clear that Trump has a much softer approach towards Russia than Obama did when he took office. Both the Federal Bureau of Investigation and the press (a.o. the Washington Post and the New York Times) are investigating collaboration ties between the Trump administration and Russia.
- For me at least it was striking to see that the U.S. was most popular in Vietnam.
Why is the U.S. so popular in Vietnam after a devastating war?
Why surprising? Well, because of the devastating war between the two countries during the 60’s (when the U.S. send a lot of troops to Vietnam) till 1975.
After looking for this answer, I stumbled upon a Washington Post article (May 2016): Vietnam and America’s surprising turn from foes to friends.
Main reasons for the tight relationship between US and Vietnam according to the Post’s article:
- Economic ties between Vietnam and the United States have blossomed between 1994–2015 because of the numerous trade embargoes that got lifted.
- The war ended more than 40 years ago. Vietnam is a so called young nation with a median age of 29. Economic relations are more important than a war most people haven’t experienced.
- The same Pew Research survey (2016) shows that 79% of the Vietnamese are in favour of the U.S. opposed to a low 19% that thought positively about their giant neighbour China. Do Vietnam and the US have a mutual enemy?
This information is not enough. We need help from an expert
I contacted Dr John Kleinen from the Amsterdam Institute for Social Science Research. “Kleinen taught anthropology and history of Southeast Asia, including Vietnam, and visual anthropology at the University of Amsterdam.
He has replied to me comprehensively, so I thought this is worth another post. Read: Why the U.S. is so insanely popular in Vietnam even after a devastating war
Click the banner below ⬇️ for more data related stories. You can also find the code behind the two graphics on the Colourful Facts Github repo.