Outlook Grim in Latin America for Relations Under Trump

Outlook Grim in Latin America for Relations Under Trump

The FINANCIAL -- The image of U.S. leadership took a hit worldwide during Donald Trump's first year in office, but nowhere more so than in Latin America, where the median approval rating dropped from 49% in 2016 to 24% in 2017.

As low as the approval rating was for the U.S. leadership in general, fewer in the region, 16%, approved of Trump's job performance when asked about it specifically. Sixty-three percent in the region disapproved.

Trump's image was poor across the region even before the recent controversy involving the revocation of Temporary Protected Status for hundreds of thousands of Haitian and Salvadoran refugees, and his alleged disparaging remarks about them. The U.S. president's approval ratings were highest in Venezuela at 37%, while his lowest ratings came from Mexico, where only 7% approved of his job performance, according to Gallup.

In comparison, majorities in almost every Latin American country approved of former President Barack Obama when Gallup asked a similar question during his first year in office. Trump's year one approval rating trails Obama's in every country Gallup surveyed in both years, with the largest declines in El Salvador and Costa Rica.

Many Feel Trump Will Weaken Relations Between Countries

In 2017, Gallup also asked Latin Americans about the effect Trump might have on the relationship between their country and the U.S., as it did with Obama in 2009. Across the board, only a small percentage of residents believe that Trump will have a positive influence on the relationship between their country and the U.S.

Residents of Mexico are the most likely of all to expect the relationship to weaken, with nearly two in three (64%) anticipating this. In all 20 countries surveyed, fewer than one in five residents believe that the relationship with the U.S. will strengthen with Trump in office. In many countries, more than 40% of residents feel Trump will negatively affect the relationship between their country and the United States.

In Obama's first year in office, the story was vastly different. Residents from every Latin American country surveyed were more likely to say Obama would strengthen relations with their country than to say he would weaken them. In five countries, majorities said Obama would strengthen relations between their country and the U.S., and several other countries had at least one-third of residents saying this.

Even among the few residents who approve of Trump's job performance, there are many who do not feel he will improve the relationship between their country and the U.S. Less than half of residents who approve of Trump believe he will have a positive influence, while 32% believe the relationship will remain the same, and 14% believe Trump will actually weaken the relationship.

Bottom Line

With its "America First" foreign policy, the Trump administration has made it clear that it will pursue immigration controls and border security measures. However, this region remains an important partner in trade and security for the United States, and striking a balance in years to come may prove difficult when Latin Americans as a whole disapprove of Trump's job performance in his first year.

The same is true for how Latin Americans think the president will affect the relationship between their country and the U.S., with far more residents believing Trump will weaken the relationship compared with those who believed the same about Obama. Given Trump's recent actions and alleged comments regarding refugees and immigrants from Haiti and El Salvador, the future of these partnerships remains tenuous.