Cruel, Cruel Summer

Cruel, Cruel Summer

As the temperature rose this summer (at least in the Northern Hemisphere) many world leaders started to feel the heat. Here’s a look at five presidents and prime ministers who have seen their approval ratings fall significantly over the past several months.


Vladimir Putin, President of Russia: The world’s shrewdest strongman saw his approval rating plummet 12 points between May and July after his government proposed raising the retirement age and slashing pension benefits. More than 80 percent of Russians opposed the move, prompting the largest one-month polling tailspin in the history of Putin’s tenure. While his current rating of 67 percent is nothing to sneeze at, it’s his lowest since February 2014, just before he launched the wildly popular invasion of Ukraine.

Emmanuel Macron, President of France: The stirring triumph of Les Bleus in the 2018 World Cup did little to buoy President Macron’s popularity back home. After a scandal-plagued summer that saw the release of video footage showing Macron’s former chief bodyguard beating two protesters during the country’s May Day celebrations, France’s political wunderkind faces the biggest test of his presidency so far. Over the past three months, Macron’s approval rating has fallen by 16 points to a record low 27 percent.

Mauricio Macri, President of Argentina: Elected in 2014 in part to clean up years of his predecessors’ economic mismanagement, Macri’s gradualist approach has pleased no one: his reforms have been painful enough to put people on the streets, but not far-reaching enough to spur a fresh investment boom or economic surge. The outside world isn’t helping: higher US interest rates, economic slowdowns in Brazil and China (Argentina’s key partners) and a broader run on emerging market currencies have helped push the Argentine peso down more than 40 percent against the dollar this year, and Macri’s approval has fallen 14 points since June.

Moon Jae-in, President of South Korea: President Moon’s approval rating soared above 80 percent after his historic summit with North Korean leader Kim Jong-un this spring, but it’s fallen steadily since then – in part because of a mishandled minimum wage increase (too fast for employers, too slow for workers) and a summer heat-wave that boosted electricity bills. Still, let’s be serious: 58 percent is the envy of most democratically elected leaders these days, and maybe his planned upcoming visit with Kim Jong-un can give him a fresh boost.

Malcolm Turnbull, (former) Prime Minister of Australia: Ousted last Friday after a political knife fight within his own party, one major reason for the 9-point fall in Turnbull’s approval rating that culminated in his ouster was a botched plan to impose tighter emissions regulations. But there’s also a deeper structural crisis at play in Australia, where political squabbles have paralyzed government for years, and Turnbull’s own governing party is split between a faction drawn rightward by the rise of anti-immigrant populist politics and a more centrist faction that Turnbull represented. If you’re counting, Australia has gone through 6 changes of prime minister in the past ten years.

This time last year, world health experts were speculating about why Africa appeared to have escaped the worst of the global pandemic. Younger populations? Natural immunity created by exposure to past viruses? Something else?

They can stop wondering. Africa is now in the grip of a COVID emergency.

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Listen: Stanford historian Niall Ferguson joins Ian Bremmer on the GZERO World podcast to talk about the geopolitics of disaster. Throughout human history we seem to be unable to adequately prepare for catastrophes (natural or human-caused) before they strike. Why is that? And as we emerge from the greatest calamity of our lifetimes in the COVID-19 pandemic and look to the plethora of crises that climate change has and will cause, what can we do to lessen the blow?

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Get insights on the latest news in US politics from Jon Lieber, head of Eurasia Group's coverage of political and policy developments in Washington:

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi barred two Republican members from serving on the Jan. 6 commission. What's going on?

Well, the Jan. 6 commission was designed to be a bipartisan commission, taking input from members from Democrats and Republicans. House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy had the opportunity to make recommendations but the Speaker of the House, Nancy Pelosi, could always veto those recommendations. In this case, she did, saying no to two members, Jim Banks and Jim Jordan, both of whom are strongly aligned with President Trump and who voted against certifying the election results in 2020. The Republicans for the most part see the Jan. 6 commission as an opportunity to score political points against them, and the Democrats say this is going to be a fair, non-biased, and nonpartisan investigation into what happened on Jan. 6, starting with a hearing next week with some of the police officers who were involved in the battle with the protesters inside the Capitol.

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In his New York Times op-ed, David Brooks says the US is facing an identity crisis — protecting liberal and progressive values at home while doing little to stop autocrats elsewhere. But has the US really abandoned its values abroad just because it's withdrawing from Afghanistan? Ian Bremmer and Eurasia Group analyst Charles Dunst take out the Red Pen to argue that the US can advance democracy without being the world's sheriff.

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When the Tokyo Olympics begin on Friday, Japan watchers will be following more than just the performance of Japan's star athletes, including tennis star Naomi Osaka. They will also be tracking the political fortunes of Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga, who is taking a big gamble by staging the event — amid a raging pandemic — in the face of strong and longstanding opposition from the Japanese public. What are the stakes for Suga, particularly with elections on the horizon? Eurasia Group senior analyst Ali Wyne explains.

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YouTube pulls Bolsonaro's rants: Google-owned YouTube pulled down a series of videos on the channel of Brazil's populist President Jair Bolsonaro, accusing him of spreading misinformation about the pandemic. YouTube removed more than a dozen clips for touting quack cures for coronavirus or claiming, in defiance of scientific experts, that masks don't reduce COVID transmissions. Last year, Twitter and Facebook also removed some content from Bolsonaro's feeds for similar reasons. But critics say that YouTube's move is too little too late, because Bolsonaro has been spreading misinformation about COVID since the pandemic began. Many Brazilians hold him personally responsible for the country's abysmal pandemic response, which has led to almost 550,000 deaths, the second worst toll in the world. Will YouTube's move change Bolsonaro's message? His weekly address to the nation, where he converses not only with government ministers but also various conspiracy theorists and loons, is broadcast on YouTube. Surely he doesn't want to risk losing that — or does he?

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Boycotts! Bans! Protests! Drugs! Think you've got gold medal knowledge about politics at the Olympics? Test what you know with this special Tokyo Olympics Quiz. And to stay current on all the latest political stories at the Games and around the world, subscribe here to Signal, our daily newsletter. Now, without further ado, the first question is...

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