Friendships Under Fire? Perceptions of U.S.

by Richard Burkholder, International Bureau Chief

While large majorities of Britons and Canadians view the United States favorably (76% in Britain and 78% in Canada), the United States finishes in the middle of the pack relative to a set of other nations evaluated in a recent Gallup survey conducted in these two countries*. Of the 18 nations evaluated, seven currently exceed the United States in overall favorability among Britons, while eight outscore the United States among Canadians. More worrisome, perhaps, is the fact that young adults in both countries now rate the United States less favorably than do their older compatriots.


In Great Britain, at least 9 in 10 adults give predominantly favorable evaluations to Canada (92%), Britain itself (92%), and Australia (92%). Positive sentiment is not restricted to English-speaking nations: strong majorities also rate Spain (87%) and Italy (86%) favorably, as well as World War II foes Japan (81%) and Germany (77%).

The United States is rated favorably by 76% of Britons, finishing slightly ahead of historic British rivals France (70%) and Russia (67%). Of the 18 nations tested, the five eliciting the least favorable evaluation among Britons are the three "axis of evil" countries -- Iraq (11%), North Korea (20%), and Iran (27%) -- followed by Israel (39%) and Cuba (45%).


Among Canadians, seven countries outscore the United States in net favorability: Canada itself (97%), Australia (94%), Italy (91%), Japan (90%), Spain (90%), Britain (88%), and France (87%).

Britain's surprising fifth-place position likely results from the diverging evaluations of that country that English-speaking Canadians (91% favorable) and French-speaking Canadians (77% favorable) provided.

More than three-fourths of Canadians (78%) hold a favorable view of the United States, placing America in a statistical tie with Brazil (77%), and followed by Russia (71%), and China (66%). The nations least likely to be given favorable ratings by Canadians are Iraq (13%), Iran (24%), North Korea (29%), Saudi Arabia (43%), and Israel (52%).

While Britons' and Canadians' evaluations are broadly similar, their greatest divergence concerns perceptions of France, Cuba, and Israel -- all of which are rated significantly more favorably by Canadians than by Britons.

Detailed Evaluations

For simplicity's sake, the results summarized above cite only net positive and net negative evaluations. Gallup's question asked respondents to provide more precise evaluations, using a 10-point scale ranging from -5 (most unfavorable) to +5 (most favorable). The average (mean) ratings appear below.

Twelve nations received positive mean ratings in both Britain and Canada, five received negative mean ratings in both countries, and in Cuba's case, the average assessments were slightly negative in Britain and slightly positive in Canada.

The United States received a mean rating of +1.81 in Britain and +1.86 in Canada. While these are favorable scores, they are well below those given to Australia (+3.07 in each), and somewhat lower than the average ratings of Spain (+2.22/+2.12) and Italy (+2.03/+2.32).

Perceptions of the United States Less Favorable Among Younger Adults

In both Britain and Canada, younger adults hold a somewhat less positive view of the United States than do the populations as a whole. In Britain, those under age 35 gave America a mean favorability rating of +1.25 -- a full point lower than the rating of +2.27 provided by Britons over the age of 65.

Canada's youngest age cohort gave the United States an average rating of +1.28, while Canadians over age 65 gave America an average score of +2.42.

There is also divergence in the ratings of the United States provided by Canada's English- and French-speaking populations. Canada's English-speakers rate America at +2.18, while its French-speakers rate it a rather less enthusiastic +0.77. A major factor in this discrepancy -- as well as in the ratings of France noted above -- may well be French Canada's far less enthusiastic support for U.S.-led military action in Iraq. Gallup's February survey found that just 19% of Canada's French-speakers supported such action, compared with 41% of Canadian English-speakers (see "Unwilling Coalition? Majorities in Britain, Canada Oppose Military Action in Iraq" in Related Items).

*Results from Britain are based on telephone interviews conducted by the Gallup U.K. poll with 1,001 respondents, aged 18 and older, from across Great Britain, conducted Jan. 29-Feb. 10, 2003, and Feb.19-March 5. 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%.

Results from Canada are based on telephone interviews with a randomly selected national sample of 1,008 Canadian adults, aged 18 and older, conducted Feb. 3-9, 2003. 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%.

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