LONDON -- "Our great country is respected again in Asia," tweeted U.S. President Donald Trump on returning from his first tour of the region in November last year. A look at some data, however, shows his statement might have been wide of the mark.
One of the U.S. president's favored methods of communication reveals a fairly coherent, if not entirely expected, picture of his views on Asia.
A sentiment analysis of Trump's tweets, which measures the numbers of positive and negative word choices, shows fairly constant levels of upbeat language -- not least in reference to his own country.
When focusing on tweets that directly relate to Asia, on the other hand, there is a consistent trend of negative vocabulary before his election, which switches to positive and rises sharply immediately after he enters office.
In contrast, a Gallup World Poll survey found that approval ratings for the U.S. leadership among Asian citizens fell sharply when Trump was elected, reaching lows not seen since the Bush administration.
On the campaign trail, Trump made no secret of his feelings toward Asian countries on subjects like trade pacts and military alliances.
Since his inauguration in January 2017, Trump's tweets have ranged from gushing praise for his Chinese counterpart, with whom he will "always be friends," to less than flattering references to Kim Jong Un.
Approval ratings for the U.S. leadership in Asian countries excluding China dropped by 21% between 2016 and 2017.
The decline was most pronounced in East Asia, where it fell by 32%. In Singapore alone the figure plummeted 54%, while in New Zealand it fell by 34%.
In South Asia, by contrast, there was a more muted drop of just 5%. In Pakistan, the U.S. leadership's approval rating had fallen from 24% to 14% even before Trump described the country as a "safe haven" for terrorists and Washington suspended aid to Islamabad.
In the Philippines, the figure fell by 17%, yet remained comfortably above 50%. Trump stated that President Rodrigo Duterte was doing an "unbelievable job on the drug problem" shortly after entering office.
Julie Ray, a researcher at Gallup Analytics, argued that Asian attitudes toward the U.S. were affected by two main features of the Trump presidency, namely leaving the TPP and the escalating rhetoric regarding the situation in North Korea.
With Trump now touting the "great relationship" he struck up with Kim in Singapore, yet also erecting more and more barriers to free trade, the disparity could grow even wider.
Datawatch is a series jointly produced by the Nikkei Asian Review and FT Confidential Research.