For the year’s first Mid-Month Public Diplomacy Forum, the USC Annenberg Center on Communication Leadership and Policy (CCLP) welcomed Richard Wike, Director of Global Attitudes Research at Pew Research Center, to discuss the latest data on global perceptions of newly inaugurated President Joe Biden.
Sponsored by CCLP in association with the Public Diplomacy Council and the Public Diplomacy Association of America, the virtual event took place on Tuesday, January 19, only minutes after the data was released in the international report titled, “British, French and German Publics Give Biden High Marks After U.S. Election.”
The report aimed to gather initial perceptions of president-elect Joe Biden from three of the United States’ top allies: France, Germany, and the United Kingdom. The Pew Research Center conducted the surveys from November 12th to December 12th and included a total of 3,066 participants.
“This is clearly an important time in terms of America’s international reputation,” Wike remarked, citing a tumultuous election season, a violent storming of the Capitol, and the inauguration. Wike and researchers at Pew are well aware that “the world is paying attention to all of those things.”
During the Trump era, global confidence in United States leadership took a blow. Wike brought up several key factors that contributed to the previous president’s low ratings, from personal characteristics to policies that distanced the United States from the rest of the world. Such disruptive decisions included withdrawing from the Paris Climate Agreement and building a wall at the Mexico-US border.
However, Biden’s victory seemed to mark a turning of the tide for survey participants in France, Germany, and the United Kingdom.
As the data shows, there are high expectations for the bilateral relations between the United States and the three European nations. Domestically, most Americans share this hopeful sentiment, with 73% feeling “generally optimistic about their country’s future relations with European countries.”
The majority of international survey participants predicted that the United States will improve not only its foreign policy, but also its approach to climate change and the Covid-19 pandemic. France, Germany, and the United Kingdom recognize that such a future is not possible without action. Most interviewees expressed that the U.S. political system needs major changes or complete reform.
This attitude does not come as a surprise. In 2008, the majority of people in the same three nations felt that the U.S. government respects the personal freedoms of its people. In 2018, those holding this belief became a minority. Today, hope is higher than it has been in the past four years. People around the globe are looking to Biden to strengthen American policies, international cooperation, and democracy at large.
In the spring of 2021, the Pew Research Center hopes to conduct a larger survey involving more countries and questions once the Biden administration is in full effect. With global approval ratings toward the US on the rise, it will be interesting to see whether or not the new Commander in Chief can live up to the world’s optimistic expectations.