The 2-Minute Thought: Whither global leadership?

Gallup has been asking people for decades if they approve or disapprove of the leadership of the U.S. and other nations around the world.

Always take surveys with a grain of salt, but the results for 2018 must be saying something (Gallup, “Rating World Leaders: 2018”).  Among the interesting findings:

  • Around the world, approval of U.S. leadership has plummeted.  Only 30% of the world approves of the job performance of the U.S.’s leadership, versus 48% in 2016.  That’s a historic low.
  • European approval of U.S. leadership has taken a particularly large nosedive.  In Europe, the number of respondents who approve of U.S. leadership has plunged from 44% in 2016 to 25% now.  But in the Americas it’s worse.  Approval here has gone from 49% to 24%.
  • Ratings on Germany and China’s leadership have stayed stable in recent years, giving both an advantage over the U.S. in terms of leadership image.   In fact, globally, Germany seems to be replacing the U.S. as the top-rated world power.
  • Disapproval rates for the leadership of many major powers are pretty high.  Outright disapproval came in at 43% for the U.S., 36% for Russia, 30% for China, and 25% for Germany.

And for an interesting aside, here are some results from the Gallup Korea survey:

  • Kim Jong-Un, the leader of North Korea, actually got rated higher as a leader than Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe. . .
  • But most world leaders still came out looking pretty poor.  Out of about 1000 respondents, positive ratings for key world leaders were as follows: Donald Trump, 24%, Xi Jinping, 19%, Vladimir Putin, 13%, Kim Jong-Un, 10%, and Shinzo Abe, 5% (thanks to Korea Exposé for highlighting these results). 
  • In contrast, 74% of South Koreans surveyed said that their president, Moon Jae-In, was doing a good job.  (What a difference!)

And lest we forget, the Gallup report notes how political scientist Joseph Nye argued for the importance of soft power -- the incredible strength than can come from “the ability to get countries to act because they want to, not because they have to.”  Reputation, projecting an image of goodwill -- these have effect.   Have the world’s leaders forgotten that it’s not just military and economic power that matter?