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Pew Surveys: Global U.S. Favorability Remains Solid

Numbers and finance

(Ken Teegardin, Flickr)

27 June 2015. Surveys in 40 countries show publics worldwide continue to hold a favorable opinion of the United States as well as confidence in President Obama. The polls were conducted by the Pew Research Center, largely in the Spring of 2015, that include items on political, economic, military, and human rights issues about the U.S. and other countries.

The overall image of the U.S. remains positive, with a median of 7 in 10 (69%) having a favorable opinion of the U.S., while a quarter (24%) have an unfavorable opinion. Favorability ratings, however, vary considerably across countries and regions. Excerpts from the report follow:

The U.S. receives largely positive reviews among many of its key NATO allies. About two-in-three Canadians have a favorable opinion, as do large majorities in Italy, Poland, France, the UK and Spain. The outlier is Germany, where just 50% give the U.S. a positive rating, while 45% express a negative one. America’s image has become more negative in Germany over the last few years – as recently as 2011, 62% of Germans gave the U.S. a favorable review and only 35% assigned a negative rating. …

The conflict [in Ukraine] has led to a dramatic increase in anti-American sentiments in Russia. Only 15% of Russians have a positive view of the U.S. today, down from 51% two years ago, before the outbreak of violence.

Roughly eight-in-ten Israelis see the U.S. in a positive light, although there is a wide gap between Israeli Jews (87% favorable) and Arabs (48%). Elsewhere in the region, America’s image is largely negative, with most Jordanians, Palestinians, Turks and Lebanese registering an unfavorable opinion.

Still, positive ratings for the U.S. in Turkey have increased by 10 percentage points in the last year (from 19% to 29%). And in Lebanon, views divide sharply along religious lines: A slim 55%-majority of the country’s Christians have a positive opinion of the U.S., as do 48% of Sunni Muslims. Only 3% of Lebanese Shia Muslims share this view.

The surveys show publics express support for the U.S. military campaign against Islamic State, where a median of 62 percent are in favor of these efforts in Syria and Iraq, including Middle Eastern nations. Opposition is strongest in Russia, where two-thirds (67%) disapprove of the U.S. policy.

The U.S. is considered the world’s leading economic power by a somewhat larger number than last year, by a median of about half (51%) in the countries surveyed, compared to 44 percent last year. About a quarter (26%) say China is the world’s leading economic power, about the same as the 28 percent expressing this opinion last year. However, a median of about half (48%) say China will eventually replace the U.S. as the world’s leading economic power, or has already, compared to about one-third (35%), who say China will not replace the U.S. as the world’s economic leader.

President Obama remains a popular figure in most of the countries surveyed, with his ratings improving in 14 countries since the last year. About three-quarters of Indians (74%) now express confidence in Obama, compared to about half (48%) a year ago. In Israel, however, confidence in Obama declined from 71% last year to about half (49%) in 2015. Some 8 in 10 Israelis disapprove of the president’s negotiations with Iran over that country’s nuclear program.

The U.S. image continues to suffer from disclosures of torture by the U.S. government after the 9/11 attacks in 2001, with reports of those attacks made public by the Senate in December 2014, as well as continuing disclosures of electronic surveillance by U.S. intelligence agencies. A median of half (50%) of publics in the countries surveyed oppose the use of harsh interrogation methods. In addition, a median of about half of those surveyed (51%) say the U.S. government respects individual freedoms, down from 63 percent last year.

The Pew Research Center surveys are conducted either in-person or over the telephone by interviewers supervised by Princeton Survey Research Associates International. Sample sizes range from 700 to 1,500 per country — with about 1,000 the most common sample size — that aim to represent nationwide public opinion of adults in those countries. Margins of error in the individual countries range from 2.8 to 4.4 percent, with a 95 percent confidence interval (i.e., 19 of 20 samples will generate results within that error range).

More about the surveys:

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