Pew poll finds strong support for global cooperation

WASHINGTON – A poll conducted amid the coronavirus pandemic found strong support for global cooperation across 14 advanced economies, with a majority believing that cooperating more with other countries would have reduced the number of infections at home.

People also generally approve of the United Nations and World Health Organisation’s handling of the Covid-19 outbreak, according to the poll released on Tuesday (Sept 22) by the nonpartisan Pew Research Centre, although there were large differences in attitudes driven by age and political leanings.

Younger respondents and those who were more highly educated were more likely to have positive views of international organisations, while the support was strongly partisan in some countries, including the United States.

Taken together, the results offer a snapshot of persisting support for the UN, which turns 75 this year, along with some scepticism of its effectiveness.

Support for cooperation rather than competition also remains the dominant view, albeit one held less strongly by supporters of right-wing populist parties in Europe and Republicans in America.

“In the countries surveyed, people generally agree that it is important to take other countries’ interests into account when dealing with major international issues, even if it means making compromises,” wrote the poll report’s authors.

From June to August, researchers surveyed 14,000 adults in 14 top UN donor countries: Australia, Belgium, Canada, Denmark, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, the Netherlands, South Korea, Spain, Sweden, the United Kingdom and the United States.

Asked about cooperating in the fight against Covid-19, 59 per cent said that greater international cooperation would have lowered case numbers at home, while 36 per cent said no amount of cooperation would have reduced the pandemic’s impact in their country.

Similarly, 58 per cent agree that their country should take into account the interests of other countries even if it means making compromises with them. But 40 per cent said their country should follow its own interests even in the face of strong disagreement from other nations.

The survey found favourable, if mixed, views of the UN. About three-quarters of respondents say the UN promotes human rights and peace, while two-thirds think it promotes economic development.

But just over half reckon it deals effectively with international issues or cares about the needs of ordinary people, a finding in line with past surveys that show doubts about multilateral organisations persist despite the public viewing them favourably, said the Pew researchers.

PARTISAN GAPS

Views on multilateralism and global cooperation were linked to ideology, with left-leaning respondents more likely than those on the ideological right to approve of the WHO and UN, and say that countries should act as part of a global community.

Americans were the most ideologically divided. Some 90 per cent of liberals favoured acting as part of a global community, compared with 56 per cent of conservatives, the largest gap in all 14 countries surveyed.

This divide was consistently present. Democrats were significantly more likely than Republicans to say that the UN advances the interests of America, in line with their much higher approval of the UN. This year, 85 per cent of Democrats are positive on the UN, compared with 39 per cent of Republicans.

On the pandemic, 83 per cent of those who lean Democrat say the number of Covid-19 cases in America would have been lower if the US cooperated more with other countries, compared to 27 per cent of Republican-leaning respondents.

The views of Republicans appeared to back those of President Donald Trump, whose administration has consistently advocated an America First approach to foreign policy, and disparaged international organisations and allies as taking advantage of American largesse.

About two-thirds, or 68 per cent, of Republicans and independent voters who lean Republican say the US should follow its own interests, while 19 per cent of Democrats and Democrat-leaning independents say the same.

Similar inclinations were seen in Europe, where right-wing populist party supporters are more likely to favour their country following its own interests even when other countries strongly disagree.

Nonetheless, the overall American view of the UN remains consistently positive, the report noted. Two in three Americans have a positive view of the UN, a marked increase in approval from 2007, when only half had a favourable view of the UN.

“While Americans’ views of the UN have remained generally stable overall since 2007, Democrats and Republicans consistently express differing views about the organisation, and the size of the partisan gap has increased over time,” the report said.

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