I am getting more and more emails from non U.S. readers warning me that the stature of the United States in their country is dissipating like a morning fog. It is a diminishment with profound geopolitical implications. Here is the data.
After Donald Trump’s election, U.S. allies and adversaries scrambled to evaluate whether his unorthodox rhetoric foreshadowed substantive shifts in U.S. foreign policy. The “America First” agenda raised questions about his administration’s willingness to defend and promote the liberal world order that the U.S. had instrumentally shaped since 1945.
Reflecting this uncertainty, the median approval rating of U.S. leadership fell from 48% in 2016 to a record-low 30% in 2017. To understand where the sharpest declines occurred, we examined salient country-level attributes often associated with key U.S. strategic partners. The most significant declines in U.S. leadership approval occurred in freer nations connected to the U.S. through a dense network of political and economic ties.
Fraying the Ties That Bind
Residents of allied nations (those that have formal alliances with the U.S.) are less likely to approve of U.S. leadership under Trump than are those in non-allied nations (36.8% and 48.1%, respectively). The opposite was true in 2016, when 63.5% of residents from allied nations approved of U.S. leadership, compared with 53.9% from non-allied countries.
This drop suggests Trump’s transactional style and rhetoric — for example, expressing skepticism about the U.S. commitment to NATO to encourage greater alliance burden-sharing — may affect …