PRINCETON, NJ -- For the first time, more Americans think President Barack Obama is not respected by other world leaders than believe he is. Americans' opinions have shifted dramatically in the past year, after being relatively stable from 2010 to 2013.
The results are based on Gallup's annual World Affairs poll, conducted Feb. 6-9. Although opinions about a president's perceived world standing often track with his job approval rating, a majority of Americans still thought world leaders respected Obama in 2010 and 2011, when his job approval was similar to what it is now. Thus, the recent decline may be more tied to specific international matters from the past year, such as the revelation the U.S. was listening in on foreign leaders' phone calls, the situation in Syria, increased tensions with Russia, and an uneasy relationship between Obama and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.
Though the current data represent a personal low for Obama, they are not the lowest Gallup has measured since the question was first asked in 1994. That was reached in 2007, when 21% of Americans thought world leaders respected President George W. Bush. President Bill Clinton's ratings in 1994 and 2000 were similar to Obama's current ratings.
Democrats and independents are mainly responsible for the slide in Obama's ratings. Independents now, by a wide margin, believe world leaders do not respect Obama. Republicans were already largely convinced world leaders don't respect the president.
Slim Majority Still Thinks U.S. Viewed Favorably
At the same time that Americans think other world leaders view Obama more negatively, Americans still think the international community views the U.S. as a country favorably (51%) rather than unfavorably (47%).
Americans have been more optimistic about the United States' worldwide image since 2010 than they were from 2005 to 2009, years when more thought the world viewed the U.S. unfavorably than favorably. Americans were much more likely to think the rest of the world viewed the U.S. favorably in the early 2000s. Opinions began to change in the lead-up to the 2003 Iraq war.
Americans Still Dissatisfied With U.S. Position in the World
Sixty-one percent of Americans are dissatisfied, and 37% are satisfied, with the position of the United States in the world today. That level of dissatisfaction has generally persisted since 2007. The last time a majority of Americans were satisfied was in 2003, just after the U.S. toppled Saddam Hussein's regime in Iraq. By 2004, once it was clear the U.S. would be in a long-term engagement in Iraq, a majority became dissatisfied.
Americans' perceptions of how other nations view the U.S. have not changed in the past year, but their opinions of how world leaders view the president have. Now, Americans believe other world leaders generally do not respect Obama. This could be related to a series of tense moments in the past year between Obama and prominent foreign leaders, many of whom are close U.S. allies.
Americans themselves are not overly positive about the way the president is handling foreign affairs specifically, with 40% approving of his job in that area, one percentage point above his low last November.
Obama has had some success in foreign policy lately, most notably the progress the U.S. and other nations are having in getting Iran to agree to limits on its nuclear capabilities. But Obama faces several challenges, including winding down U.S. involvement in Afghanistan, the ongoing civil war in Syria, and North Korea's continued actions. To the extent Obama manages these challenges successfully, Americans' views of his competence on international matters, and of world leaders' opinions of him, could improve.
Results for this Gallup poll are based on telephone interviews conducted Feb. 6-9, 2014, with a random sample of 1,023 adults, aged 18 and older, living in all 50 U.S. states and the District of Columbia.
For results based on the total sample of national adults, the margin of sampling error is ±4 percentage points at the 95% confidence level.
Interviews are conducted with respondents on landline telephones and cellular phones, with interviews conducted in Spanish for respondents who are primarily Spanish-speaking. Each sample of national adults includes a minimum quota of 50% cellphone respondents and 50% landline respondents, with additional minimum quotas by time zone within region. Landline and cellular telephone numbers are selected using random-digit-dial methods. Landline respondents are chosen at random within each household on the basis of which member had the most recent birthday.
Samples are weighted to correct for unequal selection probability, nonresponse, and double coverage of landline and cell users in the two sampling frames. They are also weighted to match the national demographics of gender, age, race, Hispanic ethnicity, education, region, population density, and phone status (cellphone only/landline only/both, and cellphone mostly). Demographic weighting targets are based on the most recent Current Population Survey figures for the aged 18 and older U.S. population. Phone status targets are based on the most recent National Health Interview Survey. Population density targets are based on the most recent U.S. census. All reported margins of sampling error include the computed design effects for 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.
For more details on Gallup's polling methodology, visit www.gallup.com.