The majority of people in the United Kingdom, France, and Germany have a favorable opinion of President-elect Joe Biden and expect US foreign policy will improve under his administration — a sign of good news for Biden’s plans to rebuild America’s alliances and reestablish trust in America around the world.
According to Pew Research Center survey results released Tuesday, substantial majorities of respondents in Germany (79 percent), France (72 percent), and the UK (65 percent) have confidence in Biden to “do the right thing when it comes to world affairs.” The figures are a dramatic change from President Donald Trump’s low ratings in the summer of 2020, which were under 30 percent among all three countries.
The survey of major US allies and Europe’s three largest economies, which was conducted after the results of the 2020 presidential election, suggests that Biden has significant support and is expected to do better than Trump on foreign policy, climate change, and responding to the Covid-19 pandemic.
Trump’s low approval ratings can be explained by a number of factors. As Richard Wike, director of global attitudes research at Pew, described in a January 19 press conference, respondents found Trump “dangerous, arrogant, and not well-qualified.”
Wike also explained that many people didn’t like that the US had withdrawn from international agreements such as the Paris climate agreement and the Iran nuclear deal. Many in Europe felt the US was putting up barriers between itself and the world, whether they be physical, in the case of the US-Mexico border wall, or logistical, such as by making it more difficult to immigrate to the country.
There was also widespread support among respondents when asked if they are optimistic about their own country’s relations with the United States: 84 percent of respondents in Germany and France felt positive, while a slightly smaller number of people in the UK (72 percent) felt the same.
There’s also a fair amount of optimism among Americans, with 73 percent feeling positive about US relations with its European counterparts.
The survey, which was conducted from November 12 to December 23, 2020, after Biden was declared the winner of the presidential election, asked a nationally representative sample of 3,066 total respondents from the UK, Germany, and France how they felt about the transatlantic partnership and expectations they have for the future. The survey also includes data from 1,003 US adults who were surveyed from November 10 to December 7.
While Biden’s early figures are strong, former President Barack Obama’s confidence rating was even higher during his presidency, never falling below 70 percent.
While ideological differences between political parties determine how US audiences feel about Biden, the report’s authors note that “at this point, there are few significant ideological differences between the left and the right regarding attitudes toward Biden in these three nations.” Biden gets similar support from those on the left, center, and right of the political spectrum in Europe.
However, Biden did receive lower ratings among respondents who also hold favorable views of right-wing populist parties. For instance, 51 percent of Germans who said they had favorable views of the far-right Alternative for Germany (AfD) party said they had confidence in Biden, compared to 84 percent of Germans who don’t support the AfD.
And in the UK, people’s views about Biden align with how they feel about Brexit: 76 percent of people who wished to remain in the European Union had confidence in Biden, but numbers shrank to 52 percent among those who supported leaving.
Many people in all three countries expect improvements in foreign policy under a Biden administration, including US responses to the climate emergency and the pandemic. Just under 60 percent of people in the UK expect US foreign policy to improve under Biden, slightly lower than the 69 percent in Germany and 67 percent in France.
On climate change, numbers were quite similar across the three countries, with about two-thirds expecting Biden to do a better job. Of all three areas, Biden’s response to the pandemic, which Trump has downplayed from the start, received the highest ranking, with 70 percent or better anticipating Biden’s handling of the pandemic would be better.
President-elect Biden has signaled that he plans to return to multilateralism. His foreign policy team, composed of long-time aides and fellow believers in traditional diplomacy such as Tony Blinken, his pick for secretary of state, and Linda Thomas-Greenfield for US ambassador to the United Nations, shows that Biden plans to hit the ground running doing damage control on America’s image abroad.
These survey results suggest Biden will have a receptive audience among America’s strongest allies in Europe.