Jan 19, 2021 - World

Europeans have high hopes for Joe Biden

Data: Pew Research Center; Chart: Andrew Witherspoon/Axios

Joe Biden's inauguration will be greeted with enthusiasm in Europe, with three new polls making clear that most Europeans can't wait to bid Donald Trump adieu.

The big picture: Europeans generally expect brighter days ahead under Biden, according to the polls, but his election has not fully assuaged doubts about U.S. democracy and global leadership.

By the numbers: Pew Research Center finds that 79% of Germans have confidence in Biden to do the right thing regarding world affairs vs. just 10% for Trump. The jumps in France (11% to 72%) and the U.K. (19% to 65%) were nearly as sharp.

  • Flashback: The spike in confidence from one president to the next mirrors the transition from George W. Bush to Barack Obama in 2009, though initial confidence in Obama was even higher.

Meanwhile, a poll of four countries shared with Axios by strategic consulting firm Kekst CNC finds that Europeans are most optimistic about what Biden's election will mean for efforts to tackle climate change, as well as for global stability and security.

  • Views of Biden were largely positive across the political spectrum in France, Germany, Sweden and the U.K. (supporters of Germany’s far-right AfD were the lone exception) — but lower-income respondents in those countries were less optimistic about Biden’s arrival than wealthier ones.
  • Most respondents said they would view the U.S. more positively under Biden than they did under Trump.

But a third poll of 11 European countries, published Tuesday by the European Council on Foreign Relations, finds that while Europeans generally view Biden positively, many think he'll be unable to reverse America's trajectory.

  • 61% of all respondents — including 81% of Brits and 71% of Germans — believe the U.S. political system is "completely" or "somewhat" broken.
  • And while 49% believe the U.S. will be able to overcome its internal divisions and help solve global problems, 59% believe China will become the world's leading superpower within the next decade.
  • On the one hand: Europeans still generally see America as crucial to their own security, according to the poll.
  • On the other: They also overwhelmingly agree that Europe must invest in its own defenses as a hedge against U.S. unreliability.

The big picture: The optimism surrounding Biden's arrival in Europe comes after a year in which international views of the U.S. plunged precipitously, according to another Pew poll.

Data: Pew Research Global Attitudes and Trends; Chart: Danielle Alberti/Axios
  • That poll was conducted in July, as the U.S. struggled to control the COVID-19 pandemic, faced widespread protests against racial injustice, and endured a brutal election campaign.

The bottom line: Biden can expect a wave of goodwill from Europe, but those issues will continue to cast a shadow.

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