Almost 16 years after she first became Germany’s chancellor, Angela Merkel’s approval ratings in five major European countries and the United States remain higher than those of any other current world leader, a new poll shows.
Asked by YouGov whether they had a favourable or unfavourable opinion of Merkel, who steps down next month after four terms in office, more respondents delivered a positive verdict than a negative one in all six countries surveyed.
The veteran chancellor, who since her election in 2005 has worked with four US and French presidents, five British prime ministers and eight Italian heads of government, scored net positive ratings of +61 in Spain, +49 in France and +30 in Germany.
Opinions in Italy, the US and UK were slightly less positive at +23, +17 and +15, but of other world leaders, only Joe Biden – just eight months into his presidency and still benefiting from a “not Trump” effect, with polling carried out before this month’s chaotic events in Afghanistan – was even remotely close.
Canada’s Justin Trudeau also scored positively, while France’s Emmanuel Macron was rated positively in only two countries: Germany and Spain. Other major figures, including China’s Xi Jinping, Russia’s Vladimir Putin, Narendra Modi of India and Britain’s Boris Johnson, recorded net negative ratings in all six countries surveyed.
The UK prime minister scored net negative ratings of -22 in Britain, -40 in Italy, -53 in Germany, -24 in France, -48 in Spain and -2 in the US. The least popular world leader was Xi, with an average net negative approval rating of -55.
Variously described as the world’s most powerful woman and de facto leader of the EU, Merkel – measured, cautious, methodical, pragmatic, frequently noncommittal – was most appreciated for her handling of Germany’s economy.
Among people who had heard of her, the poll showed a net positive rating of +46 across the six countries for Merkel’s economic management, along with average positive ratings of +44.5 for improving Germany’s reputation abroad and +34 for her impact on German society.
Her action on climate change and response to the coronavirus crisis also got favourable reviews, but her efforts in dealing with Brexit were viewed less positively, particularly in the UK and her handling of the Greek debt crisis and Europe’s 2015 migration crisis was rated negatively in most countries.
On the eve of her departure and with Germany’s post-Merkel future looking increasingly uncertain, most respondents who knew who Merkel was in Germany, France, Spain and Italy ranked her among the five most powerful global figures, compared to about a third of Britons (31%) and Americans (36%).
The survey was carried out between 9 July and 10 August with representative national samples of more than 1,000 people.