Americans Pessimistic About U.S. Role in World

by Jeffrey M. Jones

Only 1 in 5 think world leaders respect Bush

GALLUP NEWS SERVICE

PRINCETON, NJ -- Gallup's annual update on Americans' views of world affairs, conducted earlier this month, finds the public taking a dim view of the United States' place in the world. More Americans today say they are dissatisfied with the United States' position in the world, believe that other nations have an unfavorable view of the country, and believe other world leaders do not respect George W. Bush than have said this in any previous Gallup Poll. Trust in the federal government to handle foreign affairs has declined in recent years and has matched its low point in the last decade. Nevertheless, Americans' continue to believe that the United States should play a major role in world affairs, and the public still believes the United States is the world's No. 1 military power.

The Feb. 1-4, 2007 Gallup Poll finds just 37% of Americans saying they are satisfied with the position of the United States in the world today -- the lowest reading Gallup has recorded on this measure, which dates back to 1962. Seventy-one percent were satisfied in the months following the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks, and 69% were satisfied just after the Iraq War began in March 2003.

Most Americans, 54%, now think the United States rates unfavorably in the eyes of the world, the third consecutive year a majority have held this view. From 2000 to 2004, most Americans believed the opposite -- that other nations regarded the United States favorably.

Moreover, only 21% of Americans believe that foreign leaders have respect for Bush, while 73% say they don't respect him. This is the worst reading on this measure since the question was first asked (about Bill Clinton) in 1994, and is down 12 percentage points from last year's 33%, which had been the previous low. The decline is even steeper when considering that 75% of Americans thought foreign leaders respected Bush several months after the 9/11 terrorist attacks.

The Iraq war is likely a major contributor to Americans' increasingly negative views of the United States' world standing. All of these ratings have declined significantly since the onset of the war, now entering its fourth year. Americans' frustration with the war is evident in the fact that they are nearly three times as likely to disapprove as to approve of Bush's handling of the war, 72% to 26% -- the worst rating Bush has gotten on Iraq to date.

An analysis shows that those who are pessimistic about the war in Iraq (disapprove of how Bush is handling it) are also quite negative in their assessment of the United States' position in the world. Those who are optimistic about the war hold a generally positive outlook on how the United States is faring on the world stage. Because so many more Americans disapprove than approve of the war, it is clear that Iraq is dragging down the public's views of the United States' position in the world more generally.

View of United States Position in World by Approval of Bush Handling Iraq War

Approve of Bush Handling Iraq

Disapprove of Bush Handling Iraq

%

%

Satisfied With U.S. Position in World

76

22

Think U.S. Rates Favorably in Eyes of World

63

38

Think World Leaders Respect Bush

51

11

Trust Federal Gov't to Handle Int'l Problems

79

43

Think U.S. No. 1 Military Power

77

53

One consequence of the Iraq War and the effect it is having on Americans' overall foreign policy attitudes is a decline in trust in the federal government to handle international problems. The poll finds 53% of Americans saying they have "a great deal" or "fair amount" of trust in the government to handle international problems, the worst it has been in the past decade, when Gallup began tracking it regularly. Gallup recorded a similar 52% reading last fall. One month after the 9/11 terrorist attacks, 83% expressed trust in the government to deal with international matters.

When asked about Bush specifically, only 31% of Americans say they approve of the way he is handling foreign affairs, the worst rating of his presidency.

Despite a lack of confidence in the government and Bush on foreign affairs, Americans still believe the United States should play a major role -- if not the leading one -- in trying to solve international problems. According to the poll, 15% believe the United States should play a leading role, 58% say a major role, and 25% say a minor role or none at all. While the percentage that believes the United States should take at least a major role in world affairs has not changed much in recent years, what has changed is the percentage that thinks the United States should take the leading role. Currently, 15% say the United States should take the leading role; in 2002 and 2003, 26% said this.

The war apparently has not done much to shake Americans' confidence in the United States' military might. Sixty percent say the United States is "number one in the world militarily," while 39% say it ranks only as one of several leading military powers. When last measured in 2000, 56% said the United States was the top military power, and in 1993 63% said so.

Americans are much more likely to view the United States as a greater military than economic power. In the current poll, only 25% say the United States rates number one economically, while 73% say it is one of several leading economic powers. In 1999 and 2000, during the economic boom, roughly 4 in 10 Americans believed the United States was the top economic power. The current figure is similar to what Gallup found in 1993.

Survey Methods

These results are based on telephone interviews with a randomly selected national sample of 1,007 adults, aged 18 and older, conducted Feb. 1-4, 2007. For results based on this sample, one can say with 95% confidence that the maximum error attributable to sampling and other random effects is ±3 percentage points. 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.

10. Do you think leaders of other countries around the world have respect for George W. Bush, or do you think they don't have much respect for him?

Respect him

Don't have much respect

No opinion

%

%

%

2007 Feb 1-4

21

73

5

2006 Feb 6-9

33

63

5

2005 Feb 25-27

38

57

5

2005 Feb 7-10

35

60

5

2004 Jul 19-21 ^

43

52

5

2004 Feb 9-12

39

57

4

2003 Apr 14-16

46

48

6

2003 Mar 22-23

44

48

8

2003 Feb 17-19

40

55

5

2003 Feb 3-6

46

48

6

2002 Apr 29-May 1

63

31

6

2002 Feb 4-6

75

21

4

2001 Jul 19-22 ^

45

47

8

2001 Jun 8-10

40

46

14

2001 Feb 1-4

49

38

13

Trends for Comparison: Bill Clinton: Do you think leaders of other countries around the world have respect for Bill Clinton, or do you think they don't have much respect for him?

Respect him

Don't have much respect

No opinion

%

%

%

2000 May 18-21

44

51

5

1994 Sep 23-25

41

55

5

^ = Asked of a half sample

11 . In general, how closely do you follow news about foreign countries around the world, including relations between the United States and other countries -- very closely, somewhat closely, not too closely, or not at all?

Very closely

Somewhat closely

Not too closely

Not at all

No opinion

%

%

%

%

%

2007 Feb 1-4

27

52

19

3

*

2006 Feb 6-9

27

53

17

3

*

2005 Feb 7-10

27

54

17

2

*

2004 Feb 9-12

28

53

16

3

*

2003 Feb 3-6

30

52

14

4

*

2002 Feb 4-6

26

56

15

3

*

2001 Feb 1-4

16

55

25

4

*

2000 May 18-21

15

50

27

7

1

* = Less than 0.5%

12. On the whole, would you say that you are satisfied or dissatisfied with the position of the United States in the world today?

Satisfied

Dissatisfied

No opinion

%

%

%

2007 Feb 1-4

37

61

2

2006 Feb 6-9

43

54

3

2005 Feb 7-10

48

51

1

2004 Oct 9-10

42

56

2

2004 Feb 9-12

47

51

2

2003 Apr 14-16

67

30

3

2003 Mar 22-23

69

29

2

2003 Feb 17-19

48

50

2

2003 Feb 3-6

55

43

2

2002 Feb 4-6

71

27

2

2001 Feb 1-4

67

30

3

2000 May 18-21

65

33

2

1966 Sep 8-13

44

46

10

1965 Aug 5-10

43

48

8

1962 Jul 18-23

44

45

12

13. How much trust and confidence do you have in our federal government in Washington when it comes to handling [ITEMS A-B READ IN ORDER] -- a great deal, a fair amount, not very much, or none at all?

A. International Problems

Great deal

Fair amount

Not very much

None at all

No opinion

%

%

%

%

%

2007 Feb 1-4

7

46

36

10

1

2006 Sep 7-10

13

39

33

14

1

2006 Feb 6-9

10

49

31

8

2

2005 Sep 12-15

14

42

33

11

*

2005 Feb 7-10

14

48

31

7

*

2004 Sep 13-15

18

45

28

8

1

2004 Feb 9-12

14

48

29

9

*

2003 Sep 8-10

16

47

27

9

1

2003 Jul 18-20

17

52

25

5

1

2003 Feb 3-6

17

56

20

6

1

2002 Sep 5-8

18

53

22

6

1

2002 Jun 17-19

21

54

18

6

1

2002 Feb 4-6

21

60

14

4

1

2001 Oct 11-14

36

47

13

3

1

2001 Sep 7-10

14

54

25

6

1

2001 Feb 1-4

12

63

19

4

2

2000 Jul 6-9

17

55

21

6

1

2000 May 18-21

8

45

34

12

1

1998 Dec 28-29

9

52

30

7

2

1997 May 30-Jun 1

10

58

23

7

2

1976 Jun

8

48

33

7

4

1974 Apr

24

49

18

4

3

1972 May

20

55

20

2

4

* = Less than 0.5%

B. Domestic Problems

Great deal

Fair amount

Not very much

None at all

No opinion

%

%

%

%

%

2007 Feb 1-4

8

44

38

10

1

2006 Sep 7-10

8

44

34

13

1

2006 Feb 6-9

8

45

36

10

1

2005 Sep 12-15

10

43

35

11

1

2005 Feb 7-10

9

47

35

8

1

2004 Sep 13-15

13

48

31

7

1

2004 Feb 9-12

9

50

30

10

1

2003 Sep 8-10

9

49

32

9

1

2003 Jul 18-20

14

50

29

7

*

2003 Feb 3-6

11

52

28

7

2

2002 Sep 5-8

11

52

28

7

2

2002 Jun 17-19

13

54

23

8

2

2002 Feb 4-6

12

59

23

5

1

2001 Oct 11-14

24

53

17

4

2

2001 Sep 7-10

6

54

31

8

1

2001 Feb 1-4

7

56

28

8

1

2000 Jul 6-9

10

48

30

10

2

2000 May 18-21

11

54

26

7

2

1998 Dec 28-29

11

54

26

7

2

1997 May 30-Jun 1

6

45

36

11

2

1976 Jun

5

44

42

7

3

1974 Apr

9

42

36

8

4

1972 May

11

59

26

3

2

* = Less than 0.5%

14. In general, how do you think the United States rates in the eyes of the world -- very favorably, somewhat favorably, somewhat unfavorably, or very unfavorably?

Very favorably

Somewhat favorably

Somewhat unfavorably

Very unfavorably

No opinion

%

%

%

%

%

2007 Feb 1-4

5

40

38

16

1

2006 Feb 6-9

7

41

37

13

2

2005 Feb 7-10

7

41

39

12

1

2004 Feb 9-12

10

44

34

11

1

2003 Apr 14-16

12

49

28

9

2

2003 Feb 17-19

7

47

34

11

1

2003 Feb 3-6

11

46

34

7

2

2002 Mar 8-9 ^

20

46

26

5

3

2002 Feb 4-6

20

59

17

3

1

2001 Feb 1-4

18

57

20

4

1

2000 May 18-21

20

53

22

4

1

^ Asked of a half sample

15. Next we would like you to think about the role the U.S. should play in trying to solve international problems. Do you think the U.S. should -- [ROTATED: take the leading role in world affairs, take a major role, but not the leading role, take a minor role, (or) take no role at all in world affairs]?

Leading role

Major role

Minor role

No role

No opinion

%

%

%

%

%

2007 Feb 1-4

15

58

21

4

2

2006 Feb 6-9

19

55

20

4

1

2005 Feb 7-10

19

53

21

5

2

2004 Feb 9-12

21

53

21

4

1

2003 Feb 3-6

26

53

16

3

2

2002 Feb 4-6

26

52

16

4

2

2001 Feb 1-4

16

57

21

4

2

16. Do you think the United States is number one in the world economically, or that it is only one of several leading economic powers?

U.S. is number one

U.S. is one of several

NEITHER (vol.)

No opinion

%

%

%

%

2007 Feb 1-4

25

73

1

1

2000 May 18-21

39

60

*

1

1999 May 7-9

40

56

1

3

1993 Mar 29-31

21

76

*

3

* = Less than 0.5%

(vol.) = Volunteered response

17. Do you feel that it's important for the United States to be number one in the world economically, or that being number one is not that important, as long as the U.S. is among the leading economic powers?

Important

Not that important

No opinion

%

%

%

2007 Feb 1-4

39

60

1

2000 May 18-21

43

56

1

1999 May 7-9

41

56

3

1993 Mar 29-31

46

53

1

18. Do you think the United States is number one in the world militarily, or that it is only one of several leading military powers?

U.S. is number one

U.S. is one of several

NEITHER (vol.)

No opinion

%

%

%

%

2007 Feb 1-4

60

39

*

1

2000 May 18-21

56

41

*

3

1999 May 7-9

51

46

1

2

1993 Mar 29-31

63

34

1

2

* = Less than 0.5%

(vol.) = Volunteered response

19. Do you feel that it's important for the United States to be number one in the world militarily, or that being number one is not that important, as long as the U.S. is among the leading military powers?

Important

Not that important

No opinion

%

%

%

2007 Feb 1-4

61

38

1

2000 May 18-21

70

29

1

1999 May 7-9

59

39

2

1993 Mar 29-31

61

37

2

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