Public Confidence in U.S. Image Slips in Past Year

by Lydia Saad

Smaller majority thinks United States is viewed favorably

GALLUP NEWS SERVICE

PRINCETON, NJ -- Americans' impression of their country's image abroad has grown less positive over the past year, although it remains generally upbeat. According to Gallup's annual World Affairs poll, conducted Feb. 3-6, a majority of Americans, 57%, believe other countries view the United States favorably and 55% are satisfied with the role the United States is playing internationally. Attitudes are more mixed about whether President George W. Bush is respected by world leaders; just 46% of Americans believe he is respected, while 48% disagree.

Bush's "world respect" rating is similar to President Bill Clinton's in his final year in office (in 2000), but is markedly lower than the 75% Bush received after Sept. 11. The other two measures of public confidence in the United States' world image show not just a decline from post-Sept. 11 peaks, but a longer-term decline when compared with pre-Sept. 11 readings.

  • In May 2000, 73% of Americans believed the United States rated favorably in the eyes of the world and only 26% thought it rated unfavorably. This level of confidence was maintained until last March, when it dropped to 66%, and then further, to 57% in the latest poll.
  • Roughly two-thirds of Americans in annual polls conducted from 2000 to 2002 were satisfied with the position of the United States in the world. The comparable figure today is 55%.


Trend in Positive Evaluations of U.S. World Image

Think world leaders respect U.S. President

Satisfied with position of U.S. in world

Believe U.S. rates favorably internationally

%

%

%

2003 Feb 3-6

46

55

57

2002 Mar 8-9

--

--

66

2002 Feb 4-6

75

71

79

2001 Feb 1-4

49

67

75

2000 May 18-21

44

65

73

One intriguing finding in the trend on perceptions of United States' favorability in the world is the sharp drop, from 79% to 66%, between February and March of 2002. A possible explanation for this decline is the widely reported release in late February 2002 of Gallup's major study of the Muslim world, which showed great enmity for the United States in many Islamic countries. As reported at the time, residents of the nine countries included in the project – Lebanon, Kuwait, Saudi Arabia, Jordan, Turkey, Pakistan, Iran, Morocco, and Indonesia – had strongly unfavorable opinions of the United States and U.S. President George W. Bush.

Eleven months later, the current poll finds that public perceptions that the United States is viewed favorably are lower still, at 57%. Four in 10 Americans now believe it is viewed unfavorably, double the number who said this a year ago.

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?

Republicans and Democrats Diverge

Perceptions of Bush's reputation among world leaders are predictably partisan. While Bush's current overall rating is essentially the same as Clinton's in 2000, the percentages of Republicans, independents, and Democrats who believe Bush is respected today are nearly the inverse of the ratings of Clinton by party in May 2000.

Percentage Who Think President Is Respected by World Leaders: By Party ID

Republicans are also more likely than Democrats to have a rosy view of America's position in the world. Four in five Republicans (81%) say they are satisfied with the United States' position, compared with only 38% of Democrats. In fact, Republican satisfaction on this measure has grown considerably over the past 3 years (up 24 points from 57% in May 2000), while Democrats' satisfaction has plunged 40 points, down from 78% in 2000. Satisfaction among independents has dropped slightly over the same period, from 57% to 45%.

Attitudes about how the rest of the world views the United States are far less partisan. Majorities of both Republicans and Democrats (66% and 54%, respectively) believe the United States rates favorably internationally.

The sharpest differences on this measure are by education, with highly educated Americans (those with postgraduate degrees) tending to believe the United States is viewed unfavorably (57% hold this view), while majorities of all other education groupings think the country is viewed favorably.

Perceptions of U.S. Image by Education

Postgraduate

College grad only

Some college

High school degree or less

How U.S. is seen by the world:

%

%

%

%

Favorably

40

61

55

62

Unfavorably

57

36

43

35

Survey Methods

These results are based on telephone interviews with a randomly selected national sample of 1,001 adults, 18 years and older, conducted Feb. 3-6, 2003. For results based on this sample, one can say with 95 percent 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.

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 for him

No
opinion

%

%

%

George W. Bush

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

Bill Clinton

2000 May 18-21

44

51

5

1994 Sep 23-25

41

55

5

^

Asked of a half sample



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

%

%

%

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



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
favor-
ably

Some-
what
favor-
ably

Some-
what
unfavor-
ably

Very
unfavor-
ably

No opinion

%

%

%

%

%

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



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