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Americans have more confidence in Zelenskyy than Biden when it comes to world affairs

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky virtually addresses the US Congress on March 16, 2022, at the US Capitol Visitor Center Congressional Auditorium, in Washington, DC. (Photo by J. Scott Applewhite / POOL / AFP) (Photo by J. SCOTT APPLEWHITE/POOL/AFP via Getty Images)
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy addresses the U.S. Congress on March 16, 2022, at the U.S. Capitol in Washington, DC. Since the war began, he has been appealing to world leaders for more support for Ukraine and sanctions on Russia.

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy and his iconic green T-shirt have become recognizable figures on the world stage in the weeks since Russia invaded Ukraine. The television star-turned-wartime president has used social media to boost his country's morale and won standing ovations at virtual addresses to governments around the world.

Now, a new survey puts a finer point on just how much support he has from the American public.

Some 72% of Americans have either some or a lot of confidence in Zelenskyy to do the right thing regarding international affairs, according to the Pew Research Center — a much higher number than for other world leaders, including U.S. President Biden.

Within that group, 33% have the highest level of confidence in Zelenskyy's leadership abilities. Older Americans are much more likely to hold those views than younger generations, as are those with more education (especially postgraduate degrees). There are faint divides along partisan lines, with Democrats and Democrat-leaners slightly more likely than Republicans and Republican-leaners to have confidence in Zelenskyy (80% vs. 67%).

Notably, Zelenskyy's domestic approval rating had dropped in the leadup to Russia's invasion, but a poll from inside Ukraine shows it has risen sharply in recent weeks.

Americans are more divided over Biden's handling of international affairs, with 48% saying they have confidence in this area and 52% having either not too much or none at all. Pew notes that this is a downturn since the start of his term, when that number was closer to 6 in 10 American adults. Three-quarters of Democrats and Democrat-leaners say they have confidence in Biden's international abilities, compared to just 16% of Republicans and Republican-leaners.

The survey also took Americans' temperatures on other world leaders, including Russian President Vladimir Putin, Chinese President Xi Jinping, French President Emmanuel Macron and German Chancellor Olaf Scholz.

More than half of Americans have confidence in Macron and Scholz, while ratings for the Chinese leader remain unchanged from the past year at 15%.

Putin fared the worst of any head of state included in the survey, with only 6% of U.S. adults expressing confidence in him following his decision to invade Ukraine. Pew calls this an "all-time low" in surveys going back nearly two decades.

Some 92% of Americans have little or no confidence in the Russian leader's handling of world affairs, while 77% have none at all. The sentiment is shared nearly equally by Democrats and Republicans, even though Republicans have been much more likely to express confidence in Putin's leadership in recent years.

"Partisan divides are more evident when it comes to assessments of world leaders other than Putin," Pew says. "For instance, about two-thirds of Democrats voice confidence in Macron and Scholz, while only about four-in-ten Republicans say they have confidence in each European leader."

Read more here about the study's findings and methodology.

This story originally appeared in the Morning Edition live blog. Copyright 2022 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.