Ask US President Donald Trump to rate his federal government’s handling of the coronavirus pandemic and you will get a predictably hyperbolic response.
“We’ve done a fantastic job,” he told supporters in Michigan last week. “I think we’ve probably done the best job of any country – certainly of any major country – anywhere in the world on the pandemic.”
But ask the same question of US allies, and you will get a drastically different and overwhelmingly damning response, a new poll by the Pew Research Centre shows.
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The median percentage of people polled in 13 advanced economies in Europe, North America and Asia who said the US has done a good job dealing with the coronavirus was only 15 per cent, according to the study published Tuesday.
Those polled in each country rated the US response behind that of China and the World Health Organisation (WHO), both of which the Trump administration has sought to portray as culpable for the spread of the coronavirus.
China received a median approval rating of 37 per cent, while nearly two out of three people believed the WHO, from which the US withdrew this year over allegations of a bias toward China, had done a good job.
The study “clearly indicates that around the globe no one is buying the Trump administration’s ardent efforts to pin blame on the pandemic upon China and the WHO,” said Allen Carlson, an associate professor in Cornell University’s government department.
In the Pew study, which canvassed more than 13,000 people, approval of the US response also sat far below that of the European Union, which received a median approval rating of 57 per cent.
Of the countries surveyed, the public in Spain gave Washington’s coronavirus response the highest rating. But even there, only one in five people thought the US government had done a good job.
The lowest rating – 6 per cent – came from South Korea, where an aggressive and early testing regimen has led to low case numbers and a death toll to date of below 400.
Coronavirus deaths are just under the 200,000 marker in the US, where there have been more than 6.5 million confirmed cases, according to Johns Hopkins University’s Covid-19 tracker.
Though cases continue to rise in many states, Trump said last week that the US had “rounded the final turn” on the coronavirus, a claim swiftly rebuked by Anthony Fauci, the federal government’s top infectious diseases expert.
The international community’s dismal rating of Washington’s handling of the coronavirus pandemic dovetailed with a worsening view of the US in general, with favourable views of the country in several US allied countries at their lowest since polling began two decades ago. Among them were Britain (41 per cent), Canada (35 per cent) and France (31 per cent).
Those surveyed by Pew also had less confidence in Trump to “do the right thing” regarding global affairs than many other world leaders, including China’s Xi Jinping, Russia’s Vladimir Putin, and Britain’s Boris Johnson.
In South Korea, the only surveyed country to have a largely favourable view of the US, confidence in Trump stood at just 17 per cent. Similar Pew polls during the Obama administration put South Koreans’ trust in the US leader at around 80 per cent.
“Whatever marginal benefit of the doubt the citizens of other democracies might have given to Trump prior to 2020 has almost entirely disappeared,” Carlson said.
“In its place is pervasive scepticism about the American leader and historically low assessments of the country and its place in the world.”
Conducted between early June and early August, the survey’s dismal rating predated the release of remarks by Trump in which he acknowledged publicly downplaying the severity of the coronavirus earlier this year.
While he was still publicly comparing the virus to the flu and predicting it would disappear “like a miracle”, Trump said in a February interview with Bob Woodward that Covid-19 was deadlier than “even your strenuous flu”, according to a new book by the veteran journalist.
In a later interview with Woodward soon after he declared a national emergency, Trump admitted playing down the severity of the outbreak, adding: “I still like playing it down, because I don’t want to create a panic.”
Carlson said Trump was unlikely to pay much attention to the deteriorating faith in his leadership abroad, given that his administration’s messaging around China and the WHO was largely intended for a domestic audience.
“His sole focus now is to save his failing re-election campaign through playing to his base, and attacking his opponents, in a desperate effort to avoid the humiliation of being a one-term president,” said Carlson.
Among Americans, approval for the Trump’s coronavirus response stands at around 35 percent, according to a new ABC News/Ipsos poll released Sunday. Around two-thirds of those canvassed also believed that Trump had acted too slowly on the pandemic and could not be trusted.
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