Pew Research Center: Global Attitudes

The Pew Research Center just published the latest iteration of an ongoing survey program that reports world perception of the economic strength of countries and the quality of their leaders. Due to pandemic concerns, the current surveys were not done in face-to-face interviews, which had been the previous practice. One might argue that this makes the current results suspect, although I don’t really see why. On the other hand, changes in this year’s assessment of countries and leaders seem to me to be closely linked to views on how a given country has handled the coronavirus. So I wonder how much the emotions of the moment are at play.

In any event, the results are interesting, I think:

–the focus of the Pew report is the battering the reputation of Chinese leader Xi Jinping has taken this year, He has dropped below Vladimir Putin to second-worst in the world as a leader. Donald Trump is the only leader Xi remains ahead of

–most respondents think their own country, the World Health Organization and the EU have done good jobs dealing with the coronavirus. In contrast, 61% believe China has done poorly. This verdict compares favorably only against the US, which a whopping 84% think has done a poor job

–consistently through last year most respondents picked the US as the strongest world economic power. This year the world ranks China ahead of the US. Only South Korea strongly disagrees, with slightly above half in Japan and the US selecting the US as still #1.

Two things jump out at me from this study:

–the IMF estimates that China’s GDP will be 40% higher than that of the US in 2020. This estimate uses the Purchasing Power Parity technique, which factors in the prices of domestically produced and consumed goods in addition to the internationally traded items that form the basis for traditional GDP figures.

In a sense this is old news. China pulled ahead of the US into first place in 2016. But it is not well-understood, even now, I think. Nor is the issue that Trump’s economic incompetence and racism, plus the “raw plunder” attitude of his camp in influencing policy, have all retarded domestic growth and thus substantially increased China’s lead

–it doesn’t seem to me that US citizens realize how genuinely awful Trump’s handling of the coronavirus has been, in the way that observers outside the US have. I don’t know why. Part of this is certainly Rupert Murdoch’s longstanding placement of his media empire at the service of the Republican party in return for political favors. Part may be Mark Zuckerberg following Murdoch’s lead. I read a commentator recently who blamed it all on the French postmodernists.

A mystery, yes. On the other hand, some people still live in a world where GE and IBM are growth stocks and AMZN is a wild speculation.

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