Biden, Trump
Caption for the landscape image:

US election: Kenyans support Joe Biden in race against Trump

Scroll down to read the article

US President Joe Biden (left) and Donald Trump.

Photo credit: AFP

Kenyans are supporting US President Joe Biden in a significant show of confidence in a leader who has recently suffered a fall in global ratings.

No, it's not about casting a ballot for which they are ineligible when Biden and Trump face off in the election. But given the global interest in the US elections, new data from the Pew Research Center shows that Kenyans are among the few countries on the continent that see the American leader as continuing to play a positive role in world affairs, even as he has struggled with several crises over the past year.

The centre is an affiliate of the Pew Charitable Trusts in the US, and is mainly funded by it.

Biden's favourable rating in Kenya is consistent with majorities of respondents in ten countries, including a high of 77 per cent in the Philippines and 89 per cent in Tunisia. The Centre polled a total of 34 countries, but Biden's support had actually fallen over the past year.

The data was collected before Kenya's President William Ruto made a state visit to Washington last month. But it was also in the midst of crises, including the ongoing war in Gaza, for which Biden had come under fire for failing to stop its ally Israel from committing atrocities.

The data was collected before Trump's condemnation and before Biden proposed a ceasefire deal between Israel and Hamas in Gaza. It was also collected before the conviction of Biden's son, Hunter. Either conviction could be a crisis for either side to deal with.

In Kenya, however, 75 per cent of respondents said they had a favourable view of Biden, compared to 59 per cent of those who liked his rival Donald Trump. Ghana (61 to 51) and Nigeria (66 to 61) followed suit.

Support for Biden in Kenya is higher than in traditional US allies such as Sweden, Germany, the Netherlands, Japan, South Korea, the United Kingdom, France, Canada, the Netherlands, Australia and the United States. But these allies also show the largest gap between support for Biden and Trump. It is also where Biden has lost the most points in the world.

In Africa, outside sub-Saharan Africa, Biden's least positive ratings come from Tunisia (89 per cent).

But majorities in six out of ten European countries surveyed have no confidence in him, ranging from 56 per cent in France to 72 per cent in Hungary. Majorities in Australia, Malaysia and Singapore feel the same way.

Low confidence in US leaders is not surprising, however, according to Richard Wike, director of Global Attitudes Research at the Pew Research Centre.

"Over the past two decades, we have often found that attitudes toward US presidents are more positive in Kenya than in many European nations or other countries that are traditional US allies. This was true during the George W. Bush, Obama and Trump administrations, and it is true today in terms of confidence in President Biden," Wike told the Nation on Wednesday.

Trump was the least popular president in Kenya since the Pew Research Centre began tracking confidence in American presidents. But low ratings do not always mean support for a rival.

"While 75 per cent of Kenyans express confidence in Biden, he gets significantly lower ratings in most of the other countries we surveyed.  Overall, a median of 43 percent across the 34 countries in the study have confidence in Biden to do the right thing in world affairs. And in several countries, his ratings have declined over the past year.

"One of the issues affecting perceptions of Biden is the Israel-Hamas war. A median of just 31 per cent of the 34 countries we surveyed say they approve of the way he is handling the conflict," Wike added.

Wike said it was difficult to determine whether the announcement and preparations for the state visit had influenced public opinion in Kenya, although the researchers agree that it could be a reason for the positive assessment of relations between the two countries.

Biden receives relatively positive ratings in most of the sub-Saharan African countries surveyed, but generally negative ratings in most of the Latin American countries surveyed.

However, South Africans don't seem to be enthusiastic about either leader. The survey found a low trust rating of 36 per cent for Biden and 31 per cent for Trump in South Africa; Biden had enjoyed 53 per cent last year, making it the African country where his support has fallen the most.

Biden is particularly unpopular for his handling of the Russia-Ukraine conflict (50 per cent against 39), the Gaza conflict (57 per cent against 31) and China (45 per cent against 39). Biden enjoys better support on climate change policy, although he is still rated below 50 per cent and almost as many people disapprove of him, as they do of his attempts to solve global economic problems.

Trump's highest level of trust in Africa is among Nigerians (63 per cent), although his highest score is in the Philippines (68 per cent), where Biden also scores well and better than Trump. He is equally popular in Ghana, Israel, Kenya and Thailand.

But Biden isn't the only world leader to struggle with trust. When asked whether they trust these leaders to 'do the right thing in world affairs', Biden, China's Xi Jinping, France's Emmanuel Macron and Russia's Vladimir Putin all score below 50 per cent.

Macron (44 per cent) enjoys the highest rating. This is followed by Biden (43 per cent), Trump (28), Xi (24) and Putin (21). However, the researchers did not survey opinion in Russia and China. Traditionally, however, Biden's popularity in Western Europe has often been below 50 per cent, although he enjoys a 63 per cent rating in Germany. The researchers did not clarify what 'doing the right thing' in world affairs means.

The US itself is viewed favourably in these countries, which may explain the high ratings of American leaders or candidates. In Kenya and Ghana, 78 per cent of respondents have a positive view of the US. In Nigeria, 72 per cent say the US is an important player in geopolitics and side with it. In South Africa, however, more people are sceptical. There, only 49 per cent said they had a positive view of the US, while 31 per cent had a negative view.

At least 77 per cent of Israelis view the US favourably, although this is down from 87 per cent last year. One reason for this may be that the US has faced a barrage of criticism over its handling of Israel, forcing Washington to reverse some of its decisions, including delayed arms deliveries and a public call for a ceasefire, which it initially failed to do when the war broke out last October.

Overall, at least half of people in most of the countries surveyed had a favourable view of the US.

The Pew Research Center survey polled 40,566 people in 34 countries. It did not include the US, Russia or China, although the leaders of these countries, as well as Emmanuel Macron of France, were also asked about their confidence. The survey was conducted by Gallup, Langer Research Associates, Social Research Centre and Verian between January 5 and May 21, 2024 via telephone, face-to-face and online interviews. Results are based on national samples.