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The New Anti-Americanism

How Worries About U.S. Dominance Gave Way to Worries About U.S. Decline

Palestinian protesters burn American flags along with a portrait of Trump, May 2018 Ibraheem Abu Mustafa / Reuters

Anti-Americanism has surged in much of the world since U.S. President Donald Trump took office. New polling from the Pew Research Center shows that global ratings for Trump are similar to those President George W. Bush received near the end of his second term (and considerably lower than the high marks President Barack Obama enjoyed throughout his tenure). And as in the Bush years, the president’s unpopularity has led to a sharp decline in overall favorability ratings for the United States.  

In 2007, the median percentage of respondents who said they had confidence in Bush to do the right thing in world affairs was 21 percent across seven European nations regularly surveyed by Pew: France, Germany, Italy, Poland, Spain, Sweden, and the United Kingdom. In the 2019 survey, the same percentage expressed confidence in Trump, compared to 79 percent who said they were confident in Obama in 2016. And the Trump era decline isn’t limited to Europe: across 24 countries surveyed during the final two years of Obama’s presidency, a median of 74 percent of respondents said they had confidence in Obama to do the right thing in world affairs. Looking at these same 24 countries, just 31 percent said the same about Trump in 2019. The median percentage (meaning that half the countries were above this percentage and half were below) with a favorable opinion of the United States dropped from 64 percent to 53 percent over the same time period.  

The worries driving negative global attitudes toward the United States are different now than they were during Bush’s presidency. When anti-Americanism reached its high point during the Bush administration, the United States was seen as an unchecked superpower, unilaterally pursuing its interests, and unconstrained by the international norms and institutions it had played the lead role in constructing. In the Trump era, by contrast, critics are less concerned about the exercise of unrivaled U.S. power than they are about a U.S. retreat—from both global leadership and liberal democracy.

Rattled by the lingering effects

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