World

Worldwide Approval of U.S. Leadership Tops Major Powers

by Jon Clifton

U.S. also remains top desired destination for potential migrants

WASHINGTON, D.C. -- The United States continues to achieve higher global approval ratings than China, Russia, Japan, France, the United Kingdom, and Germany. Gallup's worldwide surveys document a noticeable change in the U.S. global leadership position from 2007 and 2008, when the U.S. trailed other major powers. The increases the U.S. saw in 2009 did not necessarily carry over into 2010, and approval suffered double-digit declines in 14 countries, including Egypt, Japan, and the United Kingdom.

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Gallup asks respondents in more than 100 countries each year whether they approve or disapprove of the job performance of the leadership of the United States and the same question about the leadership of six other major countries. In many cases, high percentages of respondents say they don't know enough to rate the leadership of the country, meaning that low approval does not necessarily signal high disapproval.

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China's 31% median leadership approval rating in 2010 is easily lower than the United States' 47% rating. In contrast, approval of China's leadership was similar to that for the U.S. in 2007 and 2008. Worldwide, opinion of China's leadership in 2010 is mixed, and a median of 33% don't have an opinion. Like most countries, China's highest approval ratings come from Africa, but some of its lowest approval ratings come from Europe and India.

World citizens tend to give Russia the lowest approval ratings of the seven countries that Gallup measures. A median of 27% approve, while 31% disapprove and 33% don't have an opinion. Russia's approval ratings have been relatively flat over the past several years. Russia is viewed favorably by its neighbors, with high approval ratings in Mongolia, Ukraine, and most Commonwealth of Independent States countries.

The image of the leadership of France, Germany, and the United Kingdom has not changed much in the past several years. France, Germany, and the U.K. have similar global ratings ranging from the mid-30s to the low 40s. Approval of Japan's leadership in 2007 was among the highest; however, its approval ratings have slightly declined, placing it on par with ratings for France, Germany, and the U.K. in 2010. Despite Japan's changing leadership over that period, the percentage worldwide who do not have an opinion hovered around 37% each year.

U.S. Steady as the Most Popular Destination for Potential Migrants

Another way to look at the image of a country's leadership is by the percentage of people who would like to move to that country permanently. From year to year, even when global ratings of U.S. leadership were lower, people worldwide who said they would like to leave their country permanently if they had the opportunity most frequently named the U.S. as their desired destination. Gallup calculates that based on surveys between 2007 and early 2010, roughly 166 million people would like to move to the U.S. permanently -- more than would like to move to any other nation. People who would like to leave their countries permanently also mention Canada, the United Kingdom, France, Spain, Saudi Arabia, Germany, and Australia all as places they like would to move.

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Implications

Princeton economist Alan Krueger's recent analysis in Science magazine of 19 countries in the Middle East and North Africa suggests there is a statistical link between global leadership approval ratings and terrorist attacks. The findings should not be misconstrued to mean that lower approval ratings equal more terrorist attacks. The main takeaway is that the "…results are inconsistent with one hypothesis: that public opinion is irrelevant for terrorism because terrorists are extremists who act independently of their countrymen's attitudes toward the leadership of the countries that they attack."

Although global approval ratings of the United States lost some momentum in 2010, the U.S. still achieved higher ratings than China, Russia, Japan, France, the United Kingdom, and Germany. As leaders in the U.S. and in other major countries worldwide look to use their soft power for global policy and partnerships, they should do so with an understanding of how the people within these countries feel about their leadership and the visibility of their country in general.

See all countries worldwide for which 2010 U.S. approval data are available.

Read the complete findings from the U.S.-Global Leadership project.

Visit Real Clear World's Top 5s feature to learn more about the countries where residents have soured the most on U.S. leadership.

For complete data sets or custom research from the more than 150 countries Gallup continually surveys, please contact SocialandEconomicAnalysis@gallup.com or call 202.715.3030.

Survey Methods

Results are based on face-to-face and telephone interviews with approximately 1,000 adults, aged 15 and older, conducted in 2007, 2008, 2009, and 2010. In Algeria, Comoros, Egypt, Iraq, Lebanon, Mauritania, Morocco, Palestinian Territories, Somaliland region, Tunisia, and Yemen, measures are aggregated based on two surveys conducted in 2009 and 2010. Data from Austria, Bulgaria, Czech Republic, Libya, and Russia in 2010 are based on aggregated data from two surveys that year. Results in Bahrain, Djibouti, Kuwait, Poland, Qatar, and Saudi Arabia in 2009 are based on aggregated data from two surveys that year. Results in Pakistan are based on aggregated data in 2008 and 2009. Results in Germany and Japan in 2008 are based on aggregated data for multiple surveys that year. For results based on the total samples, one can say with 95% confidence that the maximum margin of sampling error ranges from ±1.7 percentage points to ±5.7 percentage points. The margin of error reflects the influence of data weighting. 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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