The Index of Leadership Approval is an electorate-weighted international index of the domestic approval rates of the political leaders of the G7-countries. The index gives an answer to the question, what proportion of the adult population in all G7-countries combined do approve of the way the political leader of their own country is doing his or her job. The index has been proposed by Dr. Dr. Jörn Lengsfeld, a german economist, who calculates the index based on data from opinion research institutes in the various countries.
G7 Index of Leadership Approval at 44 percent in May 2022
Bad Waldsee, Germany – June 23, 2022
Dr. Dr. Jörn Lengsfeld has published the current “G7 Index of Leadership Approval” today. Within the G7 countries about 44 percent of the adult population approve of the political leader’s performance in their home country. The index is 8 percentage points lower than in June 2021 (52 percent), when the last G7 summit took place.
The approval rates vary considerable between the countries. Approval of a majority is only observed in Italy and Japan. Mario Draghi scores 63 percent in Italy while the Cabinet Kishida reaches 55 percent in Japan. The lowest approval rate is seen in the United Kingdom with 28 percent. (See table attached below)
How to interpret the index? What are the implications for the upcoming G7 meeting? Dr. Dr. Jörn Lengsfeld comments on major questions.
What is the state of leadership approval in the G7?
Jörn Lengsfeld: The citizens in the G7 countries are not too happy with their national leaders. Only about 44 percent of the voting-age population in the G7 approves of their own domestic leader’s performance. This is not a tremendously bad score, but it is certainly not too good either.
Could you put that in historical perspective?
Jörn Lengsfeld: I calculated the index for a period of more than 15 years on a monthly basis. The median value is about 44, meaning that in about half of the months the index has been higher.
What is the situation in the various G7 countries?
Jörn Lengsfeld: Only in two out of seven countries the leaders have the approval of at least half of the voting-age population. Those are Italy and Japan. In all other countries, only a minority declares its approval. But it must also be emphasized: In most of the countries, there is a fairly stable government, thanks to reliable parliamentary support.
Why is leadership approval important?
Jörn Lengsfeld: The proof of leadership lies in one being followed. Citizens who disapprove of the leaders may also withdraw support. This may reduce the leaders’ leverage in the political process, make it more difficult for them to pursue their agenda and decrease chances to reelection.
Why is the G7 Index of Leadership Approval relevant?
Jörn Lengsfeld: The G7 Index of Leadership Approval is relevant in two regards: First, it can be interpreted as an indicator for political stability and clout within the Group of Seven. Considering the combined economic power of the G7, this is important for the world economy. Secondly, approval may have an impact on the cooperation of the G7 countries.
Why is the G7 Index of Leadership Approval relevant for the success of G7 summits?
Jörn Lengsfeld: Legally, the G7 is an informal forum of intergovernmental cooperation. Informal summits are particularly dependent on the leaders involved. Strong leaders can act together in a different way. Often, it appears that weak politicians are carefully attentive to orchestrating agendas and negotiations in such a way that they can deliver afterwards with ease. When approval is high, it is easier to win support at home. Then they can leverage on that and be more amibitious in the first place.
Regarding the forthcoming G7 summit, what does the G7 Index of Leadership Approval tell us?
Jörn Lengsfeld: We live in a time of multiple deep crises. If there has ever been a time for the G7 to unleash their potential for joint coordinated action, then it is now. But the world leaders gathering in Germany face a challenge: They must do so out of a position of moderate approval. Five out of seven leaders are going into the meeting without the approval of a majority at home. The G7 Index of Leadership Approval has been 8 percentage points higher at the last meeting in June 2021.
Why is the upcoming G7 summit particularly important?
Jörn Lengsfeld: The world is sliding ever closer to great peril. Multiple detrimental developments have begun to take their course. The G7 is in the unique position of being able to exert influence to prevent some of those unfavorable developments from running their course undamped.
Is it at all in the power of the G7 to counteract the current crises?
Jörn Lengsfeld: Together, the G7 has the ability to unleash enormous economic clout. In order to leverage this, unity is the indispensable prerequisite. The magnitude of the current problems is too big for any one country to tackle alone. Multilateralism is the imperative of the time.
What is the one biggest challenge that has to be addressed by the world leaders at their summit in Germany?
Jörn Lengsfeld: The biggest challenge is the multiplicity of challenges, of fundamental crises. In this constellation, the classic approach of prioritization leads astray. Needed is an integrated approach, that addresses the problems in their interplay.
The G7 had to respond to crises before. What is different this year?
Jörn Lengsfeld: No global challange has ever been easy to address. Yet the multiplicity of major intertwined crises increases the complexity immensely. And their magnitude raises the risk to a new level.
How important is it that the G7 summit becomes a success?
Jörn Lengsfeld: This is not the moment to waste an opportunity. This time, nobody has the luxury of taking the easy way out. The price is too high. Too many developments are on the verge of slipping onto a slippery slope. In fact, some are already on the way down. Therefore, time is running out to put a halt to this.
How are the chances that the G7 summit marks a turning point?
Jörn Lengsfeld: One has to be fair: This is not going to be easy. Given the magnitude of the challenges, the G7 leaders are virtually doomed to under-deliver – but they must not allow that to happen because the consequences for all of us might be severe.
What should leaders do?
Jörn Lengsfeld: Leaders have to do, what leaders do: take the lead. If anything can curb the concerning developments, it is concerted strategic action at the level of the highest leadership.
Do leaders pay attention to approval ratings?
Jörn Lengsfeld: Whether they like it or not, politicians have to factor approval ratings into their decisions. And they certainly do so. Approval is the wind beneath the wings of the players in the political arena. Their influence is founded on it. Their ability to act is very much reliant on it.
Is that a problem?
Jörn Lengsfeld: Viewed positively, this can be seen as a mechanism of democratic feedback. But low approval ratings result in weakness within the democratic process. With some politicians this could create a tendency toward a defensive agenda characterized by caution in order not to endanger one’s own political survival. When times require bold action, this can become a serious problem.
Can low approval ratings explain why necessary actions are not taken?
Jörn Lengsfeld: Low approval ratings may be an explanation for insufficient action but should never be an excuse. Put positively, low approval rates can also be an incentive to do what is necessary. Doing what is right is a tried and tested recipe to win approval.
About the Author
Jörn Lengsfeld is a German economist, management expert and communication scientist. He holds a research doctorate in Economics / Business Administration from the University of St. Gallen (doctor oeconomiae) and a further research doctorate in Philosophy / Communication from the Philosophical Faculty of the University of Erfurt (doctor philosophiae).
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