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The Guardian

US seen as greater threat to democracy than Russia or China, global poll finds

Belief in the importance of democracy is high in 53 countries in the sample, but inequality and big tech companies seen as the biggest threats The response of more democratic countries to the coronavirus pandemic was rated worse than that less democratic countries. Photograph: Getty Images The United States faces a daunting task of presenting itself as the primary guardian of global democracy, according to a new poll that shows the United States is viewed worldwide as more of a threat to democracy than even Russia and China. The poll reveals that support for democracy remains high even though citizens of democratic countries rate their governments’ management of the Covid crisis less well than those of less democratic countries. Inequality is seen as the biggest threat to global democracy, but in the United States, the power of big tech companies is seen as a challenge as well. The results come from a survey commissioned by the Alliance of Democracies Foundation of 50,000 respondents in 53 countries. The results will be striking reading for G7 foreign ministers as they hold a final day of talks in London in which they collectively assumed the role of bulwarks of democratic values ​​determined to confront autocracy. The survey was conducted by polling firm Latana between February and April, so a hangover effect from Donald Trump’s “America First” foreign policy may linger in the results. Overall, the results show that perceptions of the United States are starting to improve compared to last year. While in the spring of 2020, citizens of more democratic and less democratic countries were also satisfied with their government’s response to the pandemic (70%), a year later approval ratings fell to 65% in less democratic countries, but in more democratic countries. the rating fell to 51%. In Europe, this figure is 45%. Positive ratings reach 76% in Asia. In perhaps the most surprising finding, almost half (44%) of respondents in the 53 countries surveyed fear that the United States is threatening democracy in their country; fear of Chinese influence, on the other hand, is 38%, and fear of Russian influence is lowest at 28%. The results may in part reflect views on the comparative power of the United States, but they show that neither the United States nor the G7 can simply assume the role of defenders of democracy. Since last year, the perception of American influence as a threat to democracy around the world has increased dramatically from a net opinion of +6 to a net opinion of +14. This increase is particularly strong in Germany (+20) and China (+16). The countries still extremely negative towards American influence are Russia and China, followed by European democracies. The study shows a commitment to democracy around the world, with 81% of people around the world saying it is important to have democracy in their country. Only just over half (53%) say their country is truly democratic today – even in democracies. The main threat to democracy is economic inequality (64%). In almost all of the countries studied, with the exception of Saudi Arabia and Egypt, limits on free speech are seen less as a threat to democracy than inequality. China: just the right amount of democracy, according to 71% of respondents. Photograph: Noel Celis / AFP / Getty Images But half of those polled (48%) say the power of big tech companies, as opposed to the mere existence of social media, is a threat to democracy in their country. Among democracies, the United States is most concerned about big tech (62%), but mistrust is increasing in many countries compared to last year, resulting in broad support for more regulation social media. Voters in Norway, Switzerland and Sweden are more convinced that their country is democratic, as are the Chinese, where 71% agree that China has the right amount of democracy. In Russia, only 33% think their country is democratic. Global support for Joe Biden’s plans to hold a democracy summit is high in all countries except China and Russia. The results will also make a disturbing read for democracies in Eastern Europe such as Hungary where only 31% of voters believe their country is democratic – on par with findings from Nigeria, Iran, Poland and Venezuela. Anders Fogh Rasmussen, Chairman of the Alliance of Democracies Foundation, former NATO chief and Danish Prime Minister, said: “This poll shows that democracy is still alive in the hearts and minds of the people. We must now come out of the Covid-19 pandemic by offering more democracy and freedom to people who want to see their country become more democratic. “The positive support for an Alliance of Democracies, whether it’s the UK D10 initiative or President Biden’s Democracy Summit, shows that people want more cooperation in fighting the autocrats. Leaders need to take note of these perceptions and act on them. “

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