China’s Leadership Unknown to Many

by Julie Ray

Europe only region where residents more likely to disapprove than approve

This article is the first in a two-part series that will examine views of China's leadership around the world. This article looks at the two regions where approval of China's leadership is lowest: Europe and the Americas.

WASHINGTON, D.C. -- Gallup Polls conducted worldwide reveal that many citizens around the globe do not know enough about China to rate its leadership, especially in the Americas and Europe.

Between 2005 and early 2008, Gallup asked people in 139 nations whether they approve of the performance of the leadership of China. Worldwide, approval was lowest in Europe and the Americas and highest in sub-Saharan Africa. However, in Europe and the Americas remarkably high percentages of respondents had no opinion of China's leadership.

The Americas and Europe

Despite China's growing economic and political influence in Latin America over the past several years, many residents in the Americas have no opinion on its leadership: the median "don't know" percentage was 51%. In Europe, where the EU has strong economic and trade ties with China, the median "no opinion" percentage was 42%.

In the Americas, median approval (24%) was essentially on par with median disapproval (21%). At the country level, Americans (66%) and Canadians (54%) surveyed in August and September 2007 were the most likely to say they disapprove of China's leadership. Urban Cubans (59%) interviewed in 2006 were the most likely to approve of the leadership of their longtime fellow communist comrade.

However, in Europe, which has been the backdrop of several recent demonstrations over China's handling of Tibetan protests, residents were more likely to disapprove than approve of China's leadership. In fact, Europe was the only region in the world where residents were more likely to disapprove than to approve. Median approval of China's leadership is 21%, compared with a 34% median disapproval.

Of the 11 countries around the world where majorities said they disapprove of China's leadership, 6 are in Europe. Majorities in Sweden (51%), Kosovo (51%), France (53%), Switzerland (55%), Germany (61%), and Slovakia (83%) said they disapprove of China's leadership. Respondents in 17 of the 25 EU member countries surveyed were more likely to disapprove than approve of the job performance of China's leadership.

Approval of China's leadership is much higher in Asia, the Middle East and North Africa, and in sub-Saharan Africa. The next article in the series will examine these views.

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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