Poll: All Eyes on Biden Administration's Follow Through to Rejoin Multilateral Agreements

New polling from FES New York and YouGov shows much of the world has high hopes for Biden's presidency, but also skepticism about US return to the global stage.

NEW YORK -- As President Joe Biden seeks to reinstate US leadership in the world, global audiences are skeptical about the role the United States will play after four years defined by isolation and retreat. New polling from FES New York and YouGov suggests that international audiences are amenable to multilateral cooperation, and that Biden has an opportunity to reestablish the US as a world leader by making clear commitments to key international agreements. However, there has been an erosion of confidence in US leadership, and foreign allies are hesitant to believe Biden will take the steps necessary to rebuild international relationships.

“Multilateral institutions and agreements have faced enormous challenges over the last few years with waning support from the United States and a global community overwhelmed by climate change, inequality, and now COVID-19,” said Michael Bröning, Executive Director of the FES New York office. “The pandemic and its economic consequences exacerbated points of tension in international relations. However, we are seeing encouraging signs that citizens have faith in multilateral cooperation as a solution to global issues. To engage this cautious optimism, it cannot be business as usual. People demand leadership in deeds not only in words. This means confronting  the global health crises, climate change, and oppressive economic structures head-on. As we seek to emerge from the pandemic, and as President Biden steps into office, the encouraging news is that internationally President Biden’s leadership seems notably less contested than at home.”

The poll, conducted in twelve countries -- Brazil, France, Germany, India, Indonesia, Japan, Kenya, Mexico, Russia, South Africa, Turkey, and the United States -- is the first measure of global attitudes toward the new Biden administration and the future of U.S. leadership. The poll asked respondents questions on key issues from the COVID-19 pandemic and climate change to economic inequality and democracy.  

“This is a first of its kind poll helping us understand where attitudes lie in this new, post-Trump era,” said John Ray, Director of Polling at YouGov Blue. “This measure of the global attitudes will allow leaders to translate uncertainty into concrete action, and help understand US standing in the months and years to come. What this poll tells us is that that there is a lot up for grabs for US leaders, and they can capitalize on this chance by engaging with foreign alliances and agreements as soon as possible.”


+++ Press Coverage +++

The World Is Glad to See Biden Take Office (Foreign Policy)

"World Loves Biden But is Losing Faith in the U.S., Survey Says" (Bloomberg)

"Umfrage in zwölf Ländern Biden weckt Hoffnung und Zweifel zugleich" (Der Tagesspiegel)

"Kenyans most optimistic in the world about Biden's presidency" (Business Daily)

"El mundo tiene fe en Joe Biden, pero está perdiendo la confianza en EU, revela encuesta" (El Financiero)

"Anket: Biden'ın uluslararası popülaritesi yüksek ama ABD'ye güven düşük" (Euronews)


Key Takeaways:

Countries around the world give President Biden high net approval ratings. 

  • Countries have high expectations for Biden. Notably, 73 percent of Germans strongly or somewhat approve of President Biden, as well as 62 percent of French respondents and 66 percent of Mexican respondents.
  • Other notable countries include 65 percent approval from India, 79 percent approval from South Africa, 66 percent approval from Indonesia.
  • US approval stands at 50 percent rating the President favorably.
  • Russia was the most conspicuous exception at 23 percent.

However, the world currently does not perceive the US to be showing a great deal of leadership on what were reported to be the top three issues the world currently faces: COVID-19, climate change, and the protection of human rights

  • Majority of respondents in France, Germany and Japan do not believe the US is showing leadership on combating climate change.
  • Majority of respondents in Turkey, Russia, Japan, Germany, and France believe the US is failing to show leadership in dealing with the COVID-19 pandemic.
  • Significant numbers of respondents from all countries rated the US poorly on protecting democratic freedoms, human rights, vulnerable populations and minorities.
  • The US also scored low on remaining key issues including keeping the world safe from terrorism, expanding economic prosperity around the world, and promoting gender equity.

The world has high hopes that President Biden will exert more leadership on these issues than his predecessor

  • The majority of respondents in Germany, France, Mexico, Brazil, India, Indonesia, Japan, and South Africa are optimistic that Biden will show more leadership on the following issues: COVID-19, climate change, human rights, terrorism, WMDs, economic prosperity, and democratic freedoms.
  • Russia and Turkey are the only countries without strong majorities on these issues.
  • Significant portions of each country responded not sure, revealing an opportunity for the new Administration. On the low end, an average of 12 percent of respondents in South Africa were unsure on these issue areas, and on the higher end, 32 percent of respondents in France were unsure.

Though the world believes President Biden will generally show more leadership on global issues, they are skeptical that he will take the concrete steps necessary to fully restore US leadership on the global stage.

  • In every country in the sample, respondents thought Biden should join the Paris Climate Accords -- by a +16 margin in the US, a +64 in South Africa, +61 in France, +60 in Mexico, +59 in Germany, +53 in Brazil, +53 in India, +44 in Japan, +43 in Indonesia, +32 in Turkey, and +10 in Russia.
  • However, those numbers were lower almost across the board for whether respondents believed Biden would rejoin the Paris Climate Accord - about 2 points lower in India; about 4 points lower in Kenya, South Africa, and France; about 5 points lower in Indonesia and Brazil; about 6 points lower in Mexico; about 7 points lower in Germany
  • The same goes for the JPCOA, also known as the Iran Nuclear deal.
    • Notably, however, there is a lot of ambivalence in this question, with an average of 39 percent saying they are unsure of whether the US will or should join the Iran Nuclear Deal.

Certain multilateral institutions, such as the UN and the WHO, enjoy favorable reputations, while others like the WTO do not. Still, most respondents reported having little interest in introducing new global institutions.

  • Majority of respondents globally, outside of Japan, have a favorable opinion of the WHO.
  • Compared to other organizations like the Group of Twenty (G20), the International Monetary Fund (IMF), and other similar organizations, more respondents reported having a “very favorable” or “somewhat favorable” view of the UN than those other organizations.
  • Organizations associated with global financial institutions tend to have lower net approval ratings. For example, generally speaking, approval of the WTO is 8-10 points lower across the sample than organizations with higher name recognition, namely the UN.


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