Global Census Poll 2021

New polling shows global support for international cooperation, favorable views of Biden, and optimism about a "return to normal" after Covid.

NEW YORK - As world leaders convene at the 76th session of the United Nations General Assembly (UNGA) this week, the Friedrich-Ebert-Stiftung (FES) New York Office and YouGov released the second annual Global Census poll.

Conducted in 19 countries across 5 continents, the poll reveals a world eager for multilateral institutions to take the lead on pressing issues from climate change to terrorism to human rights. Survey respondents from around the world generally favor greater leadership from international organizations on certain issues and they believe the United Nations (UN) should be given more power to do so. 

As the world navigates the COVID-19 pandemic and other crises, support for the UN, the World Health Organization (WHO), and other global institutions remains strong. Though respondents around the globe express doubts about the UN’s preparedness to handle imminent threats in the coming years. Following a chaotic and devastating year, the results are nevertheless an encouraging sign of support for the role of global cooperation. As people demand global solutions from the international institutions they trust, organizations like the UN have a unique opportunity to step up and show leadership in this time of crisis. 

Beyond the role of multilateral institutions, the poll also tracks global attitudes toward U.S. leadership and President Joe Biden, as well as worldwide opinions on government responses to the COVID-19 pandemic. 

After last year’s poll showed high expectations for U.S. leadership following President Biden’s election win, the new survey shows general approval of how the new administration has performed since taking office. Outside the U.S., 16 out of 18 nations surveyed view Biden favorably. However, the poll also captures notable criticism and skepticism around U.S. leadership in specific policy areas - such as Afghan refugee resettlement and climate change - from both U.S. allies and adversaries. Though results have improved since Biden took office, 11 out of 19 countries surveyed believe the US is failing to show leadership on climate change. 

Regarding COVID-19, respondents express remarkably positive views of their own country's handling of the COVID-19 pandemic, with majorities not only requesting that emergency measures be lifted after the pandemic comes to an end but also expecting such a "return to normal" in due time.

The survey was conducted in Argentina, Brazil, Canada, France, Germany, India, Indonesia, Japan, Kenya, Mexico, Nigeria, Poland, Russia, South Africa, South Korea, Tunisia, Turkey, the United Kingdom, and the United States, including about 1,000 respondents in each country (except for Tunisia, where the sample is approximately 500). 

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Key Takeaways

Faith in international cooperation remains remarkably strong in the wake of global crises:

  • Remaining static from last year’s poll, the United Nations (58 percent favorability) and the World Health Organization (62 percent favorability) continue to be viewed most positively among multilateral organizations
  • When asked which country or institution respondents would trust most in an emergency, the United Nations and the United States stood out
    • Respondents from European countries tend to place highest trust in the EU
  • Across the sample, respondents agree that it is important to retain membership to international organizations, even if the rules aren’t ideal for their country 
    • 58 percent of respondents in the US, 67 percent in the UK, 70 percent in Russia, 63 percent in Germany and 60 percent in France note the importance of their country’s cooperation in global governance
  • Countries support multilateral solutions over individual power for several issues including climate change, preventing the proliferation of nuclear weapons, and countering terrorism
    • Notably, countries are not as likely to favor support for global involvement in dealing with COVID-19
  • Most countries believe the United Nations upholds aspects of its mission including promoting peace, human rights, and democracy
    • Results are more mixed on the question of whether the United Nations promotes economic equality among countries, or cares about the needs of ordinary people
    • There is widespread skepticism that the United Nations is well-prepared for the challenges of the next decade

Global opinion toward Biden Administration is positive, but foreign policy missteps risk U.S. reputation:

  • The Biden Administration receives net positive reviews from all countries in the sample, excluding Russia and Turkey.
    • Notably, U.S. approval ratings of Biden are on the lower end of the spectrum at 47 percent.
  • On average, Biden scored approximately 15 percentage points lower on the question of foreign policy than on general approval overall
    • The UK scores Biden with a positive +11 percentage point approval rating overall, but a strikingly negative -24 percentage point rating on foreign policy
  • Several countries respond that the U.S. is failing to show leadership on the issue of refugees, such as those from Afghanistan
  • 11 out of 19 countries believe the U.S. is failing to show leadership on climate change
  • Views of U.S. leadership on COVID-19 have improved over the last year, but it is still a weak spot for the U.S. government 

Respondents are optimistic pandemic rules and restrictions will soon be lifted:

  • Most countries sampled evaluate their own country’s handling of the COVID-19 pandemic positively
    • Notably, respondents in India report the highest satisfaction, 64 percent, with their country’s performance regarding COVID-19
  • Respondents around the world are ready for an end to pandemic regulations
    • On net, seventeen of the nineteen countries in our sample believe their respective emergency COVID-19 measures will be lifted in the near future, and fifteen of nineteen countries agree they should be lifted
  • Countries in the Global North are pessimistic about the effect COVID-19 has had on the global order, but countries in the Global South feel the opposite 
  • Respondents generally believe their country should stockpile vaccines and medical supplies for their country rather than share them with the world 

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