Global Leadership Poll 2017

Download Executive Summary


PHILADELPHIA, February 1, 2017 – A poll of 552 Eisenhower Fellows from more than 71 countries finds racial, religious and ethnic intolerance and its expression in U.S. immigration policy as the top challenges facing President Donald Trump.

Fewer than one in four of these global leaders believe their country is headed in the right direction, finds a poll from the Eisenhower Fellowships available online at Less than one-half of global leaders polled trust their country’s media, government or financial institutions to do the right thing.

The Eisenhower Fellowships’ poll looks at the opinions of Eisenhower Fellows, an active global network of more than 1,500 influential leaders that includes former heads of state, ministers, legislators, business executives, nonprofit heads, prominent scientists, urban planners, educators, artists and journalists from more than 100 countries.

Queried a month after the U.S. presidential election, during the transition period before President Donald Trump assumed office, the global leaders were surveyed before the recent controversy over the Trump administration’s suspension of visas for travelers from seven majority-Muslim nations. But their responses reflected prominent themes from the recent U.S. presidential campaign.

More than one-third of the leaders said they expected the relationship between their country and the United States would roughly stay the same under a Trump presidency, but few believe it will improve. Nearly one-quarter said relations with the U.S. would worsen and another one in four leaders said they did not know. European leaders were the most pessimistic, but in no region of the world did more than one in six leaders believe relations would improve.

“The year 2016 marked a time of spreading populism and significant geopolitical upheaval. In this poll, we see concern spreading among global leaders and a distrust of traditional institutions to solve the world’s challenges,” said John Della Volpe, an Eisenhower Fellow, founder and CEO of SocialSphere and Director of Polling at Harvard Kennedy School’s Institute of Politics. “But we also see hope, opportunities for cooperation, and in many countries, optimism for future generations.”

The poll was conducted online by invitation to 1,493 Eisenhower Fellows between December 14 and 31, 2016.


Intolerance and Immigration Viewed as Top Challenges Facing President Trump

These two related issues topped the list of challenges that faces the new U.S. president, according to leaders in every region of the world, led by Africans and Americans. Only European leaders placed any other issue above these two, saying that combating climate change was the single most important challenge facing the new U.S. chief executive. Questioned further, some leaders said the immigration challenge facing the U.S. is to remain seen as a welcoming society to refugees caught up in conflict and political turmoil.

Education, Income Inequality and Climate Change Top List of Global Concerns

Education and income inequality ranked the top two concerns for leaders globally. On a scale of 1 (not at all important) to 7 (extremely important), education received a 5.9 across all leaders polled and income inequality a 5.4. In the U.S., American leaders said the most important issues facing President Trump are religious, racial or ethnic intolerance (5.6) and immigration (5.6), followed by climate change, safety and security and trade/globalization issues (All: 5.4).

Few Global Leaders Think Their Country Is On The Right Track

Less than one-quarter of global leaders polled believe their country is headed in the right direction. In total, 22% of those polled said things in their country are generally on the right track, 28% said wrong track and 47% said the situation is mixed. In the U.S. alone, about one in ten leaders said the country is on the right track (11%) and 43% said the US is on the wrong track. Nearly half (46%) said it’s mixed.

Fewer than Half of Global Leaders Polled Trust Media, Government, Financial Institutions

Globally, the military is the most trusted institution on each continent, with 62% of leaders trusting their country’s military all or most of the time. On the other hand, 30% of respondents trust their country’s media all or most of the time, 40% trust the government all or most of the time and 42% trust banks and financial institutions all or most of the time.

Plurality of Leaders See Country’s Relationship Remaining Same Under President Trump

A month after the U.S. presidential election, the poll asked leaders about their expectations for their country’s relationship with the U.S. under President Trump. Globally, 22% of respondents thought the relationship would worsen, 10% thought it would improve and 34% thought it would stay the same. Roughly one-quarter (24%) said they don’t know. European leaders were the most pessimistic, with 44% saying their country’s relationship with the U.S. would worsen, 13% saying it would improve and 34% saying it would stay the same. Nearly one in ten (9%) said they don’t know.

A Call for Collaboration with No Consensus on Who Can Solve Global Challenges

Across the world, there is little consensus about whether solutions will come from the public or private sectors. In the U.S., 25% of leaders trust the government most to solve the world’s challenges, while 28% look to the private sector, 29% trust NGOs the most and 19% trust multilateral institutions. Outside of the US, 28% trust their government, 24% trust the private sector, 18% trust NGOs and 21% would turn first to multilateral institutions.

Obama, Pope Francis Most Admired People in the World

Former U.S. President Barack Obama garners the admiration of 13% of respondents, and leads among leaders in North America and Africa when asked which living person they admire most in the world. Pope Francis receives 12% of leaders’ admiration, and takes the top spot in South America, Europe, Asia, and Oceania (where he is tied with German Chancellor Angela Merkel).

See the full results from the Eisenhower Fellowships Survey of Global Leaders at

For Media Inquiries, please contact:

Erin Hillman,, 215.965.1978