World

U.S. Leadership Approval Lowest in Europe, Mideast

by Julie Ray

Ratings in single digits among many key allies

This article is the first in series that will examine approval of U.S. leadership around the world and potential areas of focus for the next presidential administration. This article looks at the two regions where approval is lowest.

WASHINGTON, D.C. -- Gallup Polls in 139 countries reveal key allies among the list of nations where the next U.S. administration will need to work hardest to improve the image of the nation's leadership, with many of them in Europe and the Middle East/North Africa.

Gallup Polls show approval of the job performance of the leadership of the United States is generally low worldwide. The world median approval is 32%, and regionally, median approval is lowest in the Middle East/North Africa region and most areas in Europe. The stark exception is sub-Saharan Africa, where the Bush administration is much more popular.

Americans' Fair-Weather Friends?

Counter to what many Americans might expect, key U.S. allies in Europe dominate the list of countries where citizens' approval of U.S. leadership is lowest.

Approval is in the single digits in Spain, Belgium, Germany, France, and EU member Cyprus. In only two Middle Eastern countries, United Arab Emirates and Saudi Arabia, is approval this low.

Other recent polling reaffirms Europeans' cool transatlantic attitudes, but also suggests residents of countries where approval is lowest would be receptive to the next U.S. president's overtures. In a January 2008 British Council survey, 75% of Germans and 67% of Spaniards say they favor closer relations with North America. The French, however, are an exception, as only 39% favor closer ties with North America.

Middle East/North Africa

In the Middle East and North Africa, the next U.S. president will inherit the diplomatic and economic challenges of the war in Iraq, the war on terror, the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, growing tension with Iran, and low approval of U.S. leadership.

Majorities of Israelis (66%) and Moroccans (55%) say they approve of the job performance of the U.S. leadership, but approval is nowhere near as high elsewhere in the region. Approval is in the single digits among residents in two key countries -- the United Arab Emirates (7%) and Saudi Arabia (9%). Yemenis (11%), Palestinians (12%), Egyptians (13%), and Tunisians (13%) are similarly dour on U.S. leadership and approval scarcely breaks the double-digit mark. Substantial majorities in Saudi Arabia, United Arab Emirates, Lebanon, Jordan, Kuwait, and Iran say they do not believe the United States is serious about promoting either economic growth or democracy in the region.

The next article in the series will examine high approval ratings of the U.S. leadership in sub-Saharan Africa.

Survey Methods

Results are based on telephone and face-to-face interviews conducted throughout 2005, 2006, 2007, and 2008. Randomly selected sample sizes typically number 1,000 residents, aged 15 and older, in the 139 countries polled. In Angola and Congo (Kinshasa), surveys were conducted in urban areas. Surveys in Chad and Sudan did not include Darfur. For results based on samples of this size, one can say with 95% confidence that the maximum error attributable to sampling and other random effects is ±3 percentage points. The margin of error in countries in sub-Saharan Africa is ±5. In addition to sampling error, question wording and practical difficulties in conducting surveys can introduce error or bias into the findings of public opinion polls.

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