Never have the leaders and citizens of the world been more aware of the global community than now. Nearly every act made by one country's government directly or indirectly affects another. And in an age in which citizens around the globe have unprecedented access to foreign news and events, more are likely to develop opinions about countries outside of their own. Recent Gallup Polls in the United States, Great Britain, and Canada* reflect public sentiment concerning three other countries that routinely make the world news headlines -- Iraq, Iran, and North Korea.
Public Opinion of Iraq
Gallup asked American, British, and Canadian respondents whether they have a favorable or unfavorable opinion of several countries, including the three that President George W. Bush designated as "the axis of evil" in his 2002 State of the Union address.
Ratings of Iraq are clearly negative, although not as negative as one might expect. In the United States, 29% express a favorable opinion of Iraq, while 66% have an unfavorable opinion. The results from Great Britain and Canada are comparable. In Canada, 25% have a favorable opinion and 69% have an unfavorable one. In Great Britain, 31% view Iraq favorably and 57% unfavorably.
This is the first time Gallup has asked these questions in Great Britain and Canada, but the trend in the United States shows a recent spike in favorability toward Iraq. Between 1991 and 2003, the percentage of Americans with a favorable opinion of Iraq never reached double-digits. That changed in 2004, when the percentage with a favorable opinion jumped to 21%. The most recent survey shows a further eight-point increase.
Iran and North Korea Not Viewed Favorably
Iran and North Korea are both infamous for their repressive governments and their refusal to adhere to the global Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty. Not surprisingly, these two countries do not fare well in the eyes of Americans, Canadians, or Britons. In fact, both are viewed no better (and usually worse) than Iraq in all three countries.
Iran has never been rated positively by Americans since Gallup began measuring favorability toward that nation in 1989. Just 12% of Americans now have a favorable opinion of Iran, while 82% have an unfavorable opinion. This trend has fluctuated little over the past 16 years.
In Canada and Great Britain, opinions about Iran are also overwhelmingly negative, but not as negative as in the United States. Twenty-one percent of Canadians and 22% of Britons have a favorable opinion of Iran, and 74% and 66%, respectively, feel unfavorably.
North Korea is unpopular in the three Western nations, but again more so in the United States than Britain or Canada. Just 13% of Americans express a favorable opinion of North Korea, while 80% express an unfavorable opinion. Two in 10 Britons (20%) have a favorable opinion of North Korea, and 63% have an unfavorable one. Canadians are a shade more positive about North Korea, as slightly more than a quarter (27%) have a favorable opinion of the country and 66% have an unfavorable opinion.
Iran, North Korea, and Iraq are among the lowest rated in all three countries surveyed, but not necessarily the lowest. Only 21% of Britons rate Syria positively, putting in on par with North Korea and Iran and below Iraq in terms of the percentage with a favorable rating. Only 25% of Americans rate Syria positively, compared with the 29% who give Iraq a favorable rating. The Palestinian Authority is also rated rather negatively in all three countries.
*Results in the United States are based on telephone interviews with and 1,007 national adults, aged 18 and older, conducted Feb. 7-10, 2005. For results based on the total sample of national adults, one can say with 95% confidence that the maximum margin of sampling error is ±3 percentage points. The survey was conducted by Gallup USA.
Results in Canada are based on telephone interviews with 1,006 national adults, aged 18 and older, conducted April 11-17, 2005. For results based on the total sample of national adults, one can say with 95% confidence that the maximum margin of sampling error is ±3 percentage points. The survey was conducted by Gallup Canada.
Results in Great Britain are based on telephone interviews with 1,012 national adults, aged 18 and older, conducted April 5-18, 2005. For results based on the total sample of national adults, one can say with 95% confidence that the maximum margin of sampling error is ±3 percentage points. The survey was conducted by Gallup UK.
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.