The FINANCIAL — Winston Churchill took the view that there is “No such thing as public opinion. There is only published opinion”. Many world leaders would agree with Mr. Churchill’s opinion, since according to the Gallup International Association’s End of Year Survey, in 2018 the favorability ratings of all major world leaders have dropped significantly compared to 2017. Nevertheless, this column aims to shape public view, and provide a published opinion, to show our readers what the world thinks about different global actors.
Among today’s political world leaders the Chancellor of Germany, Angela Merkel, has the highest favorability rating while Donald Trump, President of the United States, finds himself among the most unfavorable. Nevertheless the Chancellor’s favorability ratings are down by 6 points compared to 2017.
Even Pope Francis, who remains the most trusted leader in the world with a net score of +28, has lost points since last year. The story that these numbers tell is quite pessimistic. If in 2017, on average, world leaders’ favorability ratings had net score of 41, in 2018 their net score is -59 on average. It certainly seems that globally people are losing faith in world leaders.
Kancho Stoychev, President of the Gallup International Association, notes that: “Tensions across the world are growing and leadership is in crisis almost everywhere. Are those tensions growing because of bad leadership or is bad leadership leading to growing tensions is not a productive question. Many point out that the gap between elites and masses is reaching intolerable levels and post WW2 global order is falling apart. Mistrust in politics and political systems is on the rise and the fundamental question is not about how to find better representation of the will of the people but how the people can control their elected representatives more effectively. More direct democracy may be the answer which means that the right thing to ask is how to achieve it following recent negative experiences with the French referendum on the EU constitution, the Dutch one after it and the Brexit challenge”.
The survey was carried out by Gallup International Association in 49 countries, representing the populations of all G20 countries (except China) and about 57% of the global population. GORBI has been a part of the project since the mid-1990s and is the exclusive data provider for Georgia.
As Table 1 demonstrates, last year’s number one – President Emmanuel Macron of France – has seen his favorability on the global stage fall significantly from +21 to +6%. The turmoil caused in France by the yellow vest movement have likely contributed to decreasing favorability towards Mr. Macron. This is a great example of how swiftly public opinion towards world leaders can change due to disorder in the country. Russian President Vladimir Putin’s favorability ratings have also fallen as he lost 16% of the positive opinion he was enjoying last year. Putin’s favorability in his own country is also in decline driven primarily by economic challenges at home, and this was recently also documented by Russian polling firms. Not surprisingly, the Georgian population is one of the most hostile towards the Russian president Putin, where among 49 surveyed countries Georgia stands 38th with 18% favorability rating towards him.
It is interesting to note that even though Mr. Trump is perceived to be the most unfavorable political world leader according to the global average net score, for Georgians he is one of the best perceived politicians. Among 49 surveyed countries Georgia stands 4th with 59% favorability ratings towards Donald Trump. Such favorable attitudes towards Mr. Trump of course have to do with Georgian’s historically favorable attitude towards the U.S and its Presidents. In addition, Trump’s neo-conservative attitudes, where he explicitly promotes nationalism, patriotism, family values and traditions, while also being seen to take measures and sanctions against Russia and Mr. Putin, can also be contributing factors in winning the hearts of Georgians. The schism between two leaders, Mr. Putin and Mr. Trump, is very well demonstrated in Georgian public opinion where 59% of Georgians hold a favorable opinion of Mr. Trump while only 18% of the Georgian population favors Mr. Putin. It is even more interesting to see attitudes towards these two leaders among Georgian population broken down by age.
As Graph 1 shows, public opinion of Mr. Trump does not vary a lot by age in Georgia. For Mr. Putin, on the other hand, it seems that younger Georgians have far more unfavorable attitudes towards the Russian President than older ones. One of the underlying reasons behind this could be that all people over 55 years old were born in USSR, spent their youth in USSR, speak and understand the Russian language, and watch Russian media (and according to TMI Kantar Media licensed television audience measurement office, Russian TV viewership is steadily increasing in Georgia over the last four years). Therefore Russia and the President of Russia might not seem as distant for them than for younger Georgians.
Having the US president at the bottom of the list is neither good nor typical if we look at historic global trend data on presidential approval ratings. But it has a strong logic behind it. As my boss Merab Pachulia joked a few days ago, “The US is perhaps technologically 23 years ahead of China, but they are lagging 23 centuries behind in the construction business (The Great Wall ) “
To summarize, the world is losing confidence in global leaders and in my opinion this downward trend will continue in the next year as well if leaders do not demonstrate that they can actually solve, rather than aggravate, conflicts around the world.
GORBI is an exclusive member of the Gallup International research network and has more than two decades of experience in survey research (gorbi.com)