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Canada's opinions of U.S. markedly higher with Biden in White House, poll suggests


WASHINGTON — Canadians have a far more positive view of the United States and its place in the world now that Joe Biden is president, a new poll suggests — the polar opposite of how they felt at the end of Donald Trump's tenure in the White House. 

The global Pew Research Center study released Thursday points to strikingly similar shifts in sentiment elsewhere around the world in the months since Biden took over the Oval Office. 

Among the 1,011 Canadians who took part in the survey, the percentage of those with a favourable view of the U.S. hit 61 per cent, up from 35 per cent last year — a finding that largely mirrors the median result across 12 countries that were surveyed in both years. 

Some 77 per cent of Canadian participants also said they were confident Biden would do the right thing regarding world affairs, compared with just 20 per cent who felt the same way about Trump last year. Again, that result was in line with the broader international findings. 

The Canadian portion of the telephone survey was conducted in English and French between March 15 and May 3 and carries a margin of error of 3.8 percentage points, 19 times out of 20. 

But just because Biden has taken over from Trump doesn't mean that faith in the U.S. has been completely restored, said Richard Wike, the centre's director of global attitudes research. 

"People embrace the ideas of multilateralism, they want to see the United States act more multilaterally in international affairs; that's part of what they like about Biden administration," Wike said Thursday after the poll was released. 

"But people still believe the U.S. doesn't always really listen to them or take their interests into account when it's making foreign policy."

The survey was released just as world leaders were gathering in the United Kingdom for the first G7 summit of the Biden era, which begins Friday, and marks Prime Minister Justin Trudeau's first foreign trip since before the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic in March 2020.

That summit will include two other leaders whose foreign-policy favourables are comparable to Biden's: German Chancellor Angela Merkel, who earned a positive impression from 77 per cent of respondents across 16 countries, and French President Emmanuel Macron, at 63 per cent. 

By way of comparison, Russian President Vladimir Putin earned the confidence of just 23 per cent of respondents, while only 20 per cent said the same of China's Xi Jinping. 

More than 80 per cent of participants in Canada also gave a thumbs up to several Biden foreign policy initiatives, including rejoining the World Health Organization and the Paris climate agreement, as well as his plan to host a summit on the future of democracy. 

Allowing more refugees into the U.S. found favour with about three-quarters of Canadian respondents.  

And where a whopping 93 per cent of Canadians described Trump as arrogant in a 2017 survey, only 11 per cent felt the same way about Biden in 2021. Similarly, where 72 per cent described the previous president as dangerous four years ago, 15 per cent say the same of his successor.

When asked about the U.S. as an international partner, 68 per cent of Canadians surveyed described it as very or somewhat reliable, while 32 per cent called the Americans "not too reliable" or "not at all reliable." 

Predictability and consistency have played a significant part in fuelling that confidence in the wake of Trump, said Mark Green, president and CEO of the D.C.-based Wilson Center and a former U.S. ambassador to Tanzania under then-president George W. Bush. 

Biden's predecessor actively made unpredictability a cornerstone of U.S. foreign policy, while the current president has adopted a much more familiar approach, Green said. 

"What we've seen from President Biden is something that's much more traditional in foreign policy, including American foreign policy: the notion that when you are a superpower, everyone in the world — friend and foe — has to know that if they do X, you will do Y," he said. 

"That, to me, powers the Biden foreign policy, at least early on. And that's something else that I think is probably very comforting to the nations that have been surveyed here."

Only 39 per cent of respondents in Canada described the U.S. political system as working very or somewhat well, compared with 60 per cent who said the opposite. 

"Democratic ideals are also popular around the world, and the U.S. has often been seen in some ways as a model of democracy," Wike said. "What we see in this survey is that the prevailing view, by far, is that the U.S. used to be a good model for democracy, but no longer is." 

This report by The Canadian Press was first published June 10, 2021.

James McCarten, The Canadian Press

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