Biden’s Early Tenure Has Improved America’s Image Abroad

Across 14 countries, favorable views about the United States increased by an average of 9 points since Biden’s inauguration
President Joe Biden delivers remarks on April 23 during Day 2 of the virtual Leaders Summit on Climate. New polling among adults in 14 countries shows perceptions of the United States have broadly improved since Biden's inauguration on Jan. 20. (Anna Moneymaker-Pool/Getty Images)
April 27, 2021 at 12:01 am UTC

Key Takeaways

  • 46% of Germans view the United States favorably, up 22 percentage points since Biden’s inauguration.

  • The American brand has gotten worse in China, where 74% hold unfavorable views.

  • Favorable opinions about the United States remain underwater in Canada, but they have improved both there and in Mexico over more than three months.

President Joe Biden inherited a tarnished American image abroad when he took office on Jan. 20 following four years of President Donald Trump’s “America First” foreign policies and the Jan. 6 Capitol riot that called into question the status of the world’s oldest continuous democracy.

Nearly 100 days later as the United States and the world meets a symbolic milestone of Biden’s presidency, the Oval Office’s current occupant is overseeing a sizable improvement to the American brand across many allied countries, according to Morning Consult Political Intelligence tracking of global sentiment.

The latest surveys of adults in 14 other nations found that favorable views rose by an average of 9 points since Biden’s inauguration, with the largest improvement in international sentiment about the United States over the past three months occurring in Germany. Since Jan. 20, America’s favorability rating increased 22 percentage points in the country, with 46 percent of Germans now holding favorable views and 37 percent holding unfavorable views, down 25 points.

“Most Western Europeans, and Germans are most emblematic here, dislike a hawkish U.S. foreign policy, for which reason George W. had pretty bad approval ratings. With Trump, this effect just exponentiated,” said Dr. Christian Welzel, vice president of the World Values Survey Association and chair in political culture research at the Center for the Study of Democracy at Leuphana University Lüneburg in Germany. “Biden is widely considered as a more than welcome relief, especially with the return to the Paris Accord and his administration's attempt to recover the transatlantic bond.”

Biden’s message to the world since taking office has been “America is back,” as he put it in remarks at the State Department just two weeks after he took office, declaring diplomacy would be at the center of U.S. foreign policy. That new tone for the world, joined by his traditionalist approach to governing at home after four years of Trump’s volatility, appears to be resonating positively in much of the West.

Along with Germany, favorable views about the United States improved strongly in Japan (up 19 percentage points, to 55 percent) and France (up 17 points, to 46 percent) after dipping below water following America’s Trump-fueled turmoil over the results of the November election. 

And across Australia, Japan and many of the other European countries surveyed, America’s reputation – which had generally been on the upswing between Biden’s Nov. 7 victory and the Jan. 6 Capitol riot – has recovered from the weakening it experienced in the wake of the insurrection in Washington. 

“International opinion of the United States, in many nations, is genuinely contingent on American actions,” said Dr. David Farber, a University of Kansas professor who edited the book, “What They Think of Us,” on post-9/11 international perceptions of the United States. “People in many nations around the world are, I think, hopeful, that the election of Joe Biden marks a rejection of Trump’s ‘America First’ bullying and go-it-alone international policies and a return to a more collaborative, pro-democracy approach to international affairs.”

Sentiment about the United States has improved on a smaller scale since Biden’s inauguration in Brazil (where 74 percent hold favorable views), while it has been less responsive to America’s domestic situation in India and Russia, with the latter being targeted with some of Biden’s most aggressive international actions so far.

Perceptions about the United States got significantly worse in just one country: China. Nearly 3 in 4 Chinese adults hold unfavorable views of the United States, up 9 points since Biden’s inauguration. The figure is driven by 47 percent of Chinese adults who hold “very unfavorable views,” up 7 points over the same time period.

Closer to home, 68 percent of Mexican adults view the United States favorably – up 8 points since Biden’s inauguration, while the share with unfavorable views dropped by a similar amount, to 18 percent. In Canada, sentiment about the United States remains underwater, though the share with favorable views has increased 14 points, to 40 percent, over the past three months. 

Correction: The bar chart in a previous version of this story misrepresented the proportions of U.S. favorability ratings in some countries.

A headshot photograph of Eli Yokley
Eli Yokley
U.S. Politics Analyst

Eli Yokley is Morning Consult’s U.S. politics analyst. Eli joined Morning Consult in 2016 from Roll Call, where he reported on House and Senate campaigns after five years of covering state-level politics in the Show Me State while studying at the University of Missouri in Columbia, including contributions to The New York Times, Politico and The Daily Beast. Follow him on Twitter @eyokley. Interested in connecting with Eli to discuss his analysis or for a media engagement or speaking opportunity? Email [email protected].

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