How Do Canada, U.S., Britain Look Through a Global Lens?

by Darren K. Carlson, Government and Politics Editor

Canadians perceive positive image

As Americans have seen firsthand, a nation's international image can transform in the face of a devastating terrorist attack or a controversial war. And the consequences of negative opinions can be serious -- so much so that the U.S. State Department has a bureau devoted to counteracting negative perceptions of the United States. Recent Gallup polling* of U.S. residents and residents of two of the United States' closest allies, Canada and Great Britain, shows that in only one of the three countries -- Canada -- does a majority of residents feel satisfied with their homeland's role on the world stage.

Position in the World Today


Gallup asked Americans, Canadians, and Britons whether they are satisfied with the position of their respective countries in the world today. In Canada, about two-thirds (65%) say they are satisfied with the position of their country in the world, while a third (34%) are dissatisfied. In Great Britain, opinions are evenly divided -- 49% of Britons are satisfied with the position of their country, and 49% are dissatisfied. A February poll found Americans were also split; 48% satisfied, 51% dissatisfied.

It's possible the lower responses in Britain and the United States result from their primary roles in the Iraq war, a war with which many Britons and Americans disagree. Canada opposed the war and did not take part in the U.S.-led invasion.

Gallup first asked this question in the United States in the 1960s, and began re-asking it consistently in 2000. The percentage of positive responses has varied from a low of 42% in October 2004 (likely resulting from the Iraq war) to a high of 71% in February 2002 (shortly after the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks).

Is Your Country Viewed Favorably in the Eyes of the World?

Gallup also asked residents of the three countries whether they think their country is viewed favorably in the eyes of the world. Canadians overwhelmingly believe that the world views their country in a positive light, Britons are less inclined to say this about their country, and Americans are more likely to believe the world views the United States unfavorably than favorably.

The February poll found Americans evenly divided; 48% thought the world views the United States very or somewhat favorably, while 51% thought the United States is viewed very or somewhat unfavorably. Gallup has been asking this question in the United States since 2000, and the most recent results are the most negative to date. Americans were most positive in 2002, months after the Sept. 11 attacks, when 79% thought the world viewed the United States favorably.

A majority of Britons say their country is currently viewed favorably by the world. (Note: This survey was conducted before the July terrorist attacks in the London Underground, in which about 50 were killed and hundreds were injured, which may cause opinions to become more positive or negative.) Sixty-one percent of Britons think the world sees them very or somewhat favorably, while a little more than a third (36%) think Great Britain is viewed unfavorably.

In Canada, a substantial majority of residents (88%) think the world views their country favorably, including 27% who say "very favorably." Just 11% of Canadians think their country is viewed unfavorably.

*Results in the United States are based on telephone interviews with and 1,005 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.

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