On April 4, after being indicted on 34 felony counts in a courtroom in New York, Donald Trump headed back to Mar-a-Lago, Florida. “I never thought this could happen in America,” he said in a rally after becoming the first former president in U.S. history charged for a crime.
His statement came days after Republican commentators compared the indictment – and what they call a “persecution” of the former president – with political situations in Latin American autocracies, such as Cuba or Venezuela. Even that day, Daniel Raisbeck, a Colombian policy analyst at the Cato Institute in Washington, D.C., wrote in an op-ed for The Wall Street Journal: “In Latin America, political persecution remains as varied as the landscape. If there’s an example for the U.S., it’s only a cautionary one.”
This made me think: Does this indictment change the perception of the United States abroad? Or was actually Trump’s chaotic presidency, culminating in a unprecedented and violent end, the real wound to the U.S. image in other countries?
There are still no surveys to answer the first question. But a Pew Research survey answered the second one.
According to the latest survey about the global image of the United States, published in June 2022, the nation had its lowest record of favorability abroad during the Trump presidency. The only country in the study where Biden receives lower ratings than Trump is Israel. The analysis focused on 17 countries in North America, Europe, the Middle East and the Asia-Pacific region.
In the question regarding the confidence in the U.S. president in relation to world affairs, the ratings of Biden fell from his first year in office to the second one. But they remain considerably higher than the ratings of Trump. This graphic about the answers in Europe is clear about that:
Thomas Friedman is a veteran reporter of The New York Times with 40 years of experience covering global events. I asked him about the impact of Trump’s administration on the image of the United States in other countries. “We are so unserious after everything Donald Trump has done,” he answered.
Andrés Oppenheimer, an Argentinian journalist that has been reporting on U.S. and Latin American affairs for decades, said: “Trump has done historic damage to the image of the United States in the world.”
“Trump’s political presence and the possibility of him being president again puts the United States in a very uncomfortable situation when it comes to preaching the defense of democracy and human rights in the world,” said Oppenheimer, who has a TV show in CNN en Español and is a columnist for the Miami Herald. “When the former president and presidential candidate of the United States did not accept the electoral result of the 2020 elections and encouraged a coup on January 6, 2021, the message of the United States as a champion of democracy in the world is seen as a bit hypocritical.”