Is America Becoming “Great Again”?: Background

By Caroline Mathews, Trending Writer

Even the savviest political observers underestimated the rise of Donald J. Trump’s candidacy for president—he set forth a radically different plan for the United States and its international relations. He promised to put “America first,” and his supporters say he has done just that: a military defeat of the Islamic State, increased spending by U.S. allies on defense, and a commitment to transform or ditch international agreements (e.g. NAFTA, the Iran nuclear deal, and the Paris climate accord). While Trump’s unconventional—and unapologetic—approach has been commended by countries such as Israel and Saudi Arabia, it is extraordinarily unpopular worldwide; a Gallup survey of 134 countries exposed a dramatic drop—from just nearly 50 percent under President Obama to fewer than 33 percent under President Trump—of international support for the United States’ leadership.

Domestically, President Trump’s first-year approval ratings are historically low fluctuating between 35 and 45 percent. Partisan bloodletting and governmental dysfunction is to blame with only a third of Americans trusting their government “to do what is right”—a steep decline of 14 percentage points from last year. Only 42 percent of Americans trust the media. Even the trust in non-governmental organizations and businesses has dropped by 10 percentage points. The communications marketing firm Edelman, which has been surveying people about their trust in various institutions for 18 years, has admitted this being an unprecedented drop in trust in the United States.

The “ultimate irony,” according to the firm, is that this the first time a massive drop in trust has been recorded at a time of prosperity: the stock market and employment rates are on the rise at record heights for the United States. These facts, however, beg the question: is the bottom line really the bottom-line anymore?

Perhaps the United States’ “informed public” is undergoing a radical change in vision for the nation: a vision that does not justify the economic bottom-line as the solitary factor of national well-being—a vision in which the nation also prioritizes human rights, democracy & international development.


A version of this article appeared in the Tuesday, January 30th print edition.

Contact Caroline at


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