DAVOS, Switzerland — President Trump promised to "Make America Great Again." The rest of the world thinks he is having the opposite effect.
Just one year into office, Trump has fueled perceptions the United States is “becoming less progressive and trustworthy” and “more politically unstable,” according to a report published Tuesday by U.S. News & World Report.
The survey found 58% of global citizens disapprove of his presidency, making Trump more unpopular than any other world leader. Russian President Vladimir Putin came in second in the survey, with 44% disapproval.
Germany’s Chancellor Angela Merkel and Canada’s Prime Minister Justin Trudeau had the highest approval ratings in the survey. Eric Schmidt, executive chairman of Google’s parent company Alphabet, was the most respected CEO among business leaders.
The findings were released as part of U.S. News & World Report's 2018 Best Countries survey, published as Trump prepares to travel this week to the World Economic Forum’s annual meeting in Davos, Switzerland. The forum that runs Tuesday to Friday is a gathering for business and political leaders who often extoll the benefits of international collaboration and trade integration — initiatives Trump has disparaged.
Trump pulled the U.S. out of the Paris Climate Accord and the Trans-Pacific Partnership trade deal. He wants to renegotiate the North American Free Trade Agreement with Mexico and Canada. He has threatened to withdraw from an international accord with Iran that freezes its nuclear weapons program. He has also criticized the NATO military alliance and the European Union.
Switzerland, a country the report said balances the “economic costs of capitalism and the value of human rights,” claimed the top spot in the best countries survey for the second year in a row. It was followed by Canada, Germany and the United Kingdom. The U.S. dropped one spot to No. 8, overtaken by Australia.
“For the countries that rose to the top of this year’s rankings, it is once again clear that military vigor and economic power are no longer the key determinants to a country’s brand success,” said David Sable, CEO of Y&R, one of the communications consultancies that along with BAV Group and the Wharton School at the University of Pennsylvania helped produce the study.
“The Best Countries rankings continue to show us that just as brands must focus on a wide range of attributes to raise profiles and win over audiences, nations that are multidimensional and that reflect a wider range of qualities, such as innovation and compassion, have the brand appeal that propels them on the global stage,” he added.
A separate report published by Freedom House, a watchdog organization, found that under Trump’s White House there has been an “accelerating withdrawal of the United States from its historical commitment to promoting and supporting democracy.”
Among the reasons for the acceleration, Freedom House cited:
— “Growing evidence of Russian interference in the 2016 election campaign and a lack of action by the Trump administration to prevent a reoccurrence of such meddling.”
— “Violations of basic ethical standards by the new administration, including the president’s failure to divest himself of his business empire, his hiring of family members as senior advisers, and his appointment of cabinet members and other senior officials despite apparent conflicts of interest.”
— “A reduction in government transparency, including an unusual pattern of false statements by the administration, the president’s failure to disclose basic information such as his personal tax data, policy and other decisions made without meaningful input from relevant agencies and officials, and the removal of information on issues of public interest from government websites for political or ideological reasons.”
For the third year in a row, the U.S. News & World Report survey found that the U.S. is considered to be the most powerful country in the world, edging out Russia by less than one point on a 100-point scale.
Other findings in the Best Countries survey: Denmark is the best country for raising children and for women; Sweden takes the top spot for environmentally-friendly living; and Norway ranks at the top for citizenship, defined as a country that "cares about human rights, cares about the environment, gender equality, progressive, religious freedom, respects property rights, trustworthy and well-distributed political power."