European public optimistic on Biden, concerned on US democracy

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Washington (AFP)

The European public is strongly supportive of US President-elect Joe Biden but is increasingly concerned about democracy in the United States following Donald Trump's tumultuous tenure, a survey said Tuesday.

On the eve of Biden's inauguration, the Pew Research Center said 79 percent in Germany, 72 percent in France and 65 percent in Britain were confident that Biden would make the right decisions in world affairs.

It was a dramatic turnaround from Trump, who enjoyed the confidence of a mere 10 percent of Germans, 11 percent of French and 19 percent of Brits when the same question was asked in mid-2020.

But the survey also found widespread concerns about the overall health of US democracy after Trump contested his defeat with false allegations of voter fraud, culminating in a January 6 mob attack on the US Capitol and ultra-tight security for Biden's inauguration.

Some 73 percent of Germans, 64 percent of French and 62 percent of the British think the US political system needs major changes or complete reform, said the survey, which polled 3,066 adults from November 12 to December 23 -- before the Capitol attack.

Richard Wike, the director of global attitudes research at Pew, said the findings showed that the US image can bounce back -- much as Barack Obama enjoyed glowing approval in Europe after widespread criticism of his predecessor George W. Bush.

"There's something of a reservoir of goodwill, I think, in these countries toward America that remains there even during times when people aren't very happy with the US or the president's foreign policies," he told reporters.

"But what's going to happen this time around -- do these concerns about the health of American democracy start eroding the overall perception of the United States? I think those are open questions."

Trump smashed through diplomatic protocol by openly criticizing the leaders of close allies -- especially German Chancellor Angela Merkel, whose welcome to migrants he denounced.

The survey, however, found that even a narrow majority of supporters of Germany's far-right AfD party had a favorable view of Biden.

Biden's ratings were slightly lower in Britain than in Germany and France, which survey analysts said may be attributable to his open criticism of the country's exit from the European Union and firm stance on Northern Ireland.