WASHINGTON – Vladimir Putin is more trusted than Donald Trump to do the right thing for the world among citizens of numerous U.S. allies, including Japan, South Korea and seven European NATO members, according to a survey released Wednesday.
Both leaders scored poorly overall in the poll by the respected Pew Research Center. But Trump’s scores in particular point to a stunningly high level of international public distrust in the U.S. president, a position colloquially described as “leader of the free world” as many smaller countries rely on the United States for support and defense.
The United States is obligated to defend all NATO countries under the alliance’s treaty, which was initially aimed at the Soviet Union. The U.S. is also obliged to defend Japan and South Korea, which are threatened by North Korea, under separate defense treaties.
In Greece, Germany, Turkey, Hungary, France, Italy and Spain, more people had confidence in the Russian president than in his U.S. counterpart “to do the right thing regarding world affairs,” according to the poll.
That Trump is so distrusted by the populations of countries historically reliant on the United States for their defense points to the strains with U.S. allies caused by his often erratic international pronouncements. These have included questioning the validity and effectiveness of NATO, delaying affirmation of the alliance’s mutual defense pact, musing about more countries having nuclear weapons and, most recently, threatening “fire and fury” against North Korea if it persists in threatening the United States.
Not all NATO members’ citizens favored Putin.
Trump scored higher than Putin in Britain, Canada, the Netherlands and Poland, according to the survey, which Pew said was conducted in 37 countries earlier this year. Trump also led among non-NATO U.S. allies Australia and the Philippines, as well as in Israel, where he was far more trusted than Putin.
“Although confidence in Putin’s handling of foreign affairs is generally low, in many countries he is more trusted than American President Donald Trump,” the survey found.
Globally, 60 percent of respondents said they lack confidence in Putin, with European nations most skeptical.
Pew released some of its figures for Trump in June. It found only 22 percent of interviewees had confidence in Trump to do the right thing in world affairs. Almost three in four had little or no confidence in him. Trump trailed former President Barack Obama’s tenure-ending confidence levels in all but two countries surveyed: Israel and Russia.
The disparity in favor of Putin over Trump was most dramatic in Greece and Germany — where he outscored the U.S. president by 31 and 14 points, respectively. Half of Greeks surveyed said they had confidence in Putin, while only 19 percent said the same of Trump. Putin had the confidence of a quarter of Germany, and Trump only 11 percent.
In South Korea, Putin’s margin was 10 points. He got 27 percent to Trump’s 17 percent.
Elsewhere, confidence in Putin outpaced that of Trump by 31 points in Lebanon, 21 points in Vietnam and 14 points in Mexico.
Trump only barely came out ahead of Putin in Australia, Canada and Britain. His biggest leads were in in Israel, where he outscored Putin by 29 points, Nigeria and Poland
The results come from Pew’s Spring 2017 Global Attitudes Survey, which interviewed randomly selected adults in countries around the world between February and April. Depending on the country, interviews were conducted by telephone or face-to-face.
The surveys included 852 to 2,464 interviews in each country. Margins of sampling error range from plus or minus 3 percentage points to plus or minus 5.7 percentage points.