Donald Trump’s tenure in the White House and his handling of the COVID-19 pandemic have dragged Canadians’ view of the United States to its lowest level in nearly 20 years, a new poll suggests.
The Pew Research Center report released Tuesday finds a favourable view of the U.S. among only 35 per cent of Canadians surveyed, the lowest level recorded since Pew began polling north of the Canada-U. S. border in 2002.
The finding tracks an identical trend among all 13 countries involved in the poll — record lows were also recorded in the U.K., France, Germany, Japan and Australia.
“Overall, what we see in Canada fits in with the broader pattern of what we see with a number of these other key allies and partners,” said Richard Wike, Pew’s director of global attitudes research.
“It’s really reactions to American policies that have been a key driver of what people in Canada and elsewhere think of the United States.”
As for Trump himself, only 20 per cent of the poll’s 1,037 Canadian respondents expressed confidence in the president, the lowest rating Pew has ever recorded in Canada and a precipitous drop from the 83 per cent support for Barack Obama they found in 2016.
While past polls have shown a preoccupation with Trump’s personal attributes, the policies pursued by his administration during a tumultuous first term have coloured perceptions as well, Wike said.
In 2017, “people said he was intolerant, they said he wasn’t well-qualified, they said he was arrogant, they said he was dangerous,” he said.
Now, signature policies like pulling out of the Paris climate accord, abandoning trade agreements and fomenting bilateral tensions, building a wall along the U.S.-Mexico border and restricting immigration are also being reflected in the data.
“When the U.S. withdraws from international commitments, that’s something that’s often frowned upon by foreign publics,” Wike said.
“When the U.S. builds walls between itself and the rest of the world whether that’s a literal wall on the border with Mexico, or maybe a figurative wall, in a way, in terms of making it difficult for people to immigrate to the United States, those kind of things are also driving these negative views.”
When compared to a handful of other world leaders on the question of handling of world affairs, respondents to the poll ranked Trump at the very bottom, below even Russian President Vladimir Putin and China’s Xi Jinping.
Driving the numbers is Trump’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic, which was panned in every country surveyed including Canada, where it gets a passing grade from only 16 per cent of respondents.
“In no country surveyed do more than a fifth think the U.S. has done at least a somewhat good job dealing with the virus, and a median of only 15 per cent across the 13 countries polled consider the country’s handling of the virus to be effective,” the centre said.
Out of the 83 per cent of Canadian participants unimpressed with the U.S. response, 57 per cent rated it as “very bad” and 26 per cent as “somewhat bad.”
“In every country surveyed, roughly eight-in-ten or more say the U.S. has handled the virus badly. And, in 11 of the 13 countries surveyed, half or more say the U.S. has done a very bad job dealing with the coronavirus outbreak.”
The Canadian portion of the poll was conducted by telephone between June 15 and July 27, and carries a margin of error of 3.7 percentage points, 19 times out of 20.
Pew acknowledged in the survey that the racial tensions and public fury over the police killing of George Floyd, whose death in May on a Minneapolis street with an officer’s knee on his neck triggered a tidal wave of outrage that washed over the world throughout the summer, could have affected the results as well.
The centre conducted a separate survey on 2020s global reckoning on race during the same period it was gathering data on international impressions of the United States. That study examined how Black Lives Matter was reflected in the social media feeds of lawmakers and legislators in four countries, including Canada.
About 44 per cent of Canadian members of Parliament tweeted references to Floyd and Black Lives Matter during the period of the latest survey was conducted, the centre said.
“Concerns about racial injustice fit into a broader pattern of decline in the belief that the U.S. government respects the personal freedoms of its people.”
James McCarten, The Canadian Press
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