The World Likes Obama More Than Trump - Except in Israel and Russia

Israel is the second most supportive country toward Trump's signature travel ban, though Israelis oppose his climate policy and are lukewarm on plans for Mexican wall

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MK Oren Hazan took a selfie with Trump
An Israeli lawmaker takes a selfie with Trump upon the latter's arrival in IsraelCredit: Youtube

WASHINGTON - Israel and Russia are the only two out of 37 countries where U.S. President Donald Trump is more popular than his predecessor Barack Obama, according to a wide-ranging international opinion poll published on Monday.

According to the Pew Research Center survey, Trump's rise to power has caused a dramatic decline in support and appreciation for the United States and the new president is broadly unpopular – but not everywhere. Trump has improved his country's reputation in Russia and his personal popularity in Israel is 7 percent higher than Obama's at the end of his term, 56 percent to Obama's 49. 

Additionally, 69 percent of Israelis consider Trump a "strong leader" according to the poll, while 71 percent consider him charismatic and 54 percent say he is well-qualified to be president. The global median on these questions is 55 percent, 39 percent and 26 percent, respectively. 

The poll's bottom line states that "The sharp decline in how much global publics trust the U.S. president on the world stage is especially pronounced among some of America’s closest allies in Europe and Asia, as well as neighboring Mexico and Canada." 

However, the gaps between Trump's and Obama's ratings were much higher in Western Europe than in the Middle East: In Germany, 86 percent of the population had confidence in Obama at the end of 2016 compared to only 11 percent in Trump today; in Jordan, 9 percent have confidence in Trump, but only 14 percent trusted Obama. 

It should be noted that just a month ago, Trump came to Israel during his first trip abroad as president. The poll was completed before Trump's visit, which was considered a success, meaning that his rating in the eyes of the Israeli public could have possibly improved since then.

On the other hand, if Trump's current numbers are compared to those of Obama after his first presidential trip to Israel, in March 2013, the picture looks different: Today, 56 percent of Israelis have confidence in Trump; back in 2013, 71 percent had confidence in Obama. 

However, the former president's numbers dropped over time as a result of public feuds with Prime Minister Netanyahu over Iran's nuclear program. 

Speaking of Iran: The poll, which included more than 40,000 interviews across the world, found that out of all the 37 countries surveyed, only the citizens of two Middle Eastern countries – Israel and Jordan – support Trump's election promise (yet unfulfilled) to withdraw from the nuclear deal with Iran. Close to two-thirds of Israelis support the idea, but worldwide, 49 percent oppose the idea and only 34 percent back it.

The two most unpopular Trump policies are his withdrawal from the international Paris Accords to combat global warming and his plan to build a wall on the border with Mexico. Seventy-one percent of those surveyed oppose the withdrawal from the climate agreement and 76 percent oppose the wall, which still seems like a distant possibility.

In Israel, 42 percent support Trump's proposed border wall, while 44 percent oppose it. Sixty-nine percent of Israelis oppose Trump's decision to withdraw from the Paris Accords, while only 19 percent approve of it. This is Trump's most unpopular policy in Israel and one that is generally unpopular across the Middle East, an area that could suffer from harsh consequences if global warming intensifies. 

The only other Trump policy popular in Israel, besides "ripping apart" the Iran deal, is his plan to stop immigration from a number of Muslim-majority countries into the United States. Sixty-three percent of Israelis support this idea, while 32 percent oppose it. The global median in the poll is the exact reverse, with 62 percent opposing the idea and 32 percent supporting it. Israel, however, is only the second most supportive country in the world toward this policy. The first place belongs to Hungary, whose far-right leader, Viktor Orban, has been accused of racism over his strong opposition to immigrants and refugees.

The poll also broke down positions on this specific issue according to political affiliation. In Israel, 83 percent of those who consider themselves right-wing support this policy, as do 59 percent of those who identify as centrists. On the left, only 21 percent support the travel ban – a relatively high number on a global level, but far from the highest: 60 percent of left-wing Hungarians, 32 percent of left-wing Italians and 28 percent of left-wing South Koreans hold a similar position.

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