April 22 (UPI) — Asia’s approval of U.S. leadership rose to its highest level in years in 2021, according to a survey released by pollster Gallup on Friday, jumping by 10 percentage points during the first year of the administration of President Joe Biden.
The median approval rating of U.S. leadership across 33 Asian countries shot up from 31% in 2020 to 41% in 2021, the Gallup World Poll reported.
The 2021 favorability rating is significantly higher than at any point during the administration of former president Donald Trump, the survey showed, but remained below a 2013 peak of 45% reached during the presidency of Barack Obama.
A number of large swings were recorded by traditional American allies in the region, with South Korea jumping from 30% favorability in 2020 to 59% in 2021, Australia from 29% to 51% and New Zealand from 26% to 48%.
Tiny Laos recorded the biggest gain, a 30-point swing from 4% approval in 2020 to 34% in 2021. Southeast Asian neighbor Vietnam also vaulted from 21% to 45%.
At the same time, opinions of Chinese leadership across Asia continued a yearslong downward drift, as Beijing rattles many of its neighbors with an increasingly assertive military presence in the region. The country sank to a 27% approval rating in this year’s poll, a new low.
The report’s authors highlighted that the U.S. rating was “based largely on data collected during or after the withdrawal of U.S. forces from Afghanistan in August 2021 and before Russia’s invasion of Ukraine in early 2022.”
While the Ukraine crisis has dominated Washington’s attention, the Biden administration is looking to return its focus to the Asia-Pacific region as it seeks to shore up support to counter China.
President Biden will host a summit of leaders from the Association of Southeast Asian Nations at a summit in Washington on May 12-13, the White House announced last week.
Biden has also said that he will make his first presidential visit to Asia later in the month to attend a Quadrilateral Security Dialogue meeting in Tokyo with Japan, India and Australia, expected to be held around May 24. South Korean news agency Yonhap reported Thursday that Biden will likely also visit Seoul during the trip and meet with newly inaugurated President Yoon Suk-yeol.
On the Gallup poll, Iran held the lowest approval rating of U.S. leadership, at 7%. The Philippines, home to a strongly pro-U.S. population, recorded the highest favorability rating in 2021, at 71%.