Presidential Campaign

Nationalist movements abroad wouldn’t even vote for Trump

Donald Trump
Donald Trump

Over recent weeks pollsters and commentators have been keenly poring over the presidential preferences of early voters. Another group of early voters, the 2.65 million Americans who live abroad, have never enjoyed this kind of attention — not even in 2000 when they swung Florida and the presidency to George Bush, nor in 2006 when they nudged the Senate to the Democrats.

{mosads}An even larger group commands even less attention: The 7.1 billion non-Americans who are inevitably affected by who ascends to the Oval Office. Surveys of how non-Americans would have voted serve to powerfully refute the conventional wisdom that Donald Trump is America’s token surfer on the global wave of anti-establishment and nativist fervor. 

This year non-Americans have been portrayed as part of that anti-establishment movement, yet simultaneously bewildered by the rise of Trump.

The American media’s rush to rationalize Trump as part of a worldwide upsurge in nativism belies the consistent polling that shows him to be uniformly rejected by the rest of the world by astonishing margins, even in nations whose own nativist anti-establishment candidates poll strongly. 

According to a WIN/Gallup poll of 45 countries, covering about 75 percent of the world’s population, only Russians would vote for Trump over Hillary Clinton:

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WIN poll




And this poll was taken in August-September, before the series of October scandals that put Trump on the defensive and increased Clinton’s lead in the domestic U.S. polls. 

An earlier January-February poll by YouGov likewise found Russians the only citizens of a G20 nation who would vote for Trump over Clinton.

Despite being conducted over six months apart, both the YouGov and WIN/Gallup polls returned similar country-by-country results. Among them is the surprising finding that the second-best nation for Trump is China, where he would still lose handily to Clinton (by 12 points in the former poll and 9 points in the latter).      

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YouGov poll




Trump’s claim to be an anti-establishment candidate has clearly not resonated beyond U.S. borders. Even as much of the world embraces anti-establishment candidates, the international preference for Clinton is so crushing as to almost defy belief. 

This year my homeland of Australia elected four One Nation party senators to our 76-seat federal Senate on a platform of banning Muslim immigration and putting mosques under surveillance.

A national poll found that 49 percent of Australians would support such a ban. Tony Abbott, our previous Prime Minister who still sits in parliament, believes that “many of the Trump positions are reasonable enough.”

Despite such indications that Australia would be fertile ground for Trump support, the polls show he would be a staggering 52 points behind Clinton if Australians could vote in the U.S. election.

This puts Australia in the middle of the global anti-Trump pack. During the same period there was just a seven-point margin between Clinton and Trump in the U.S. polls.         

Unlike in the U.S., where Trump’s supporters cluster according to gender, age and education, WIN/Gallup found the rest of the world is uniform in its disapproval of him. When divided by gender there is just a two-point gap — a statistical quibble between Trump being crushed by 35 percent or just 33 percent.


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Interestingly, the larger figure reflects slightly greater preference for Clinton among men than women. Even more interesting, the older the non-American respondents, the more anti-Trump they are. Though Clinton enjoys a 32-point margin among non-Americans under the age of 34, the gap rises to 39 points for respondents over the age of 55.      

More than a decade of polls of international respondents on U.S. presidential elections show a consistent preference for the Democratic Party candidate. 

In 2004 just three of 35 countries polled would have voted for Bush over Kerry, though the vote was close in several countries, and even in those pro-Bush nations the respondents preferred Kerry’s foreign policy.

Four years later, the global confidence in the U.S. that plummeted to historic lows during the Bush years immediately rocketed to historic highs upon Obama’s election. That confidence remained relatively unchanged throughout Obama’s presidency. 

In 2012, respondents from 20 nations preferred Obama, and only one — Pakistan — preferred Romney. Or, according to a different poll of over 30 nations, Romney was favored over Obama among only Israelis.

The preference for Democratic candidates is not because they are perceived as less hawkish. On the contrary, the data show that non-Americans prefer a more assertive U.S. role in the world than domestic U.S. citizens do. Foreigners simply prefer the “smart power” approach espoused by Democratic administrations and candidates.   

Since discussion has already turned to how the U.S. might heal the deep wounds that this campaign has exposed, it might be some consolation to know that the world approves of the tilt towards the Democratic candidate.

Canada’s well-received “Let’s Tell America It’s Great” campaign might even spark a deluge of foreign-made, self-esteem boosting, “get well soon” cards for an election-weary and jaded American public.

Goodin is a postdoctoral fellow in U.S. history at the Smithsonian Institution.

The views expressed by contributors are their own and not the views of The Hill.

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