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Worldwide Disapproval for U.S. Eavesdropping and Drones, but Approval Stays High

Predator drone

Predator unmanned vehicle (

19 July 2014. Surveys in 44 countries conducted by the Pew Research Global Attitudes Project show widespread opposition to U.S. eavesdropping and use of drone attacks, as well as a decline in the opinion that the U.S. government respects the freedoms of its citizens. Nonetheless, overall opinions of the U.S. remain largely favorable in the countries surveyed.

Majorities in nearly all countries polled oppose monitoring by the U.S. government of emails and phone calls of foreign leaders or their citizens, but found monitoring terrorist suspects acceptable. Likewise, in 39 of the 44 countries surveyed, majorities opposed the use of drones to target extremists. Only in Israel, Kenya, and the U.S. did half or more of the public support drone attacks.

In nearly two-thirds of the countries surveyed (22 of 36) in 2014, residents are less likely to believe the U.S. government respects the personal freedoms of its citizens. In 6 of the countries surveyed, the decline reached 20 percentage points or more.

Despite these negative findings about American policies, a median of 65%  outside the U.S. express a positive opinion about the U.S., about the same as in 2013. In addition, Barack Obama remains largely popular internationally, where a median of 56 percent say they have confidence in the president to do the right thing in world affairs. While these approval levels are lower than immediately after his election in 2008, there has been very little change in the president’s appeal outside the U.S. in the past year.

The U.S. also remains more popular globally than its rival China, where a median of about half (49%) of the publics surveyed have a positive view of China. While the U.S. is still considered the top economic power in the world, that view is held by fewer people today than before the Great Recession. In addition, a median of half (50%) of those surveyed in 2014 expect China eventually replace America as the dominant world superpower, up from 41 percent last year.

The surveys were carried out with 48,600 people in 44 countries from all parts of the world, including the U.S., with samples of about 1,000 adults in each country, except in India where the poll sampled some 2,500 residents. The samples make it possible to project a confidence internal of +/- 3 to 5 percentage points on the results in each country. Surveys were conducted from March to early June of 2014.


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