July 13, 2011

China Seen Overtaking U.S. as Global Superpower

Chapter 2. Views of the U.S. and American Foreign Policy

America’s image remains positive in most of the nations surveyed, and favorable ratings are particularly high in Europe. In most predominantly Muslim countries, however, views of the United States continue to be overwhelmingly negative.

For the most part, opinions of the U.S. have changed little, if at all, in most countries for which trends are available. However, America’s image is far more negative than it was in 2010 in China, while the Japanese give the U.S. considerably higher marks. The rise in favorable views of the U.S. in Japan is undoubtedly driven in part by highly positive reactions to American relief efforts following the March 11th earthquake and tsunami in that country.

In most countries, there is a perception that the U.S. acts unilaterally in world affairs. Only in seven countries do majorities say the U.S. considers the interests of countries like theirs when making foreign policy decisions.

When asked whether their governments cooperate with the U.S. government too much, not enough, or the about the right amount, people in most countries say they are satisfied with the amount of cooperation. In most Muslim nations, however, many say their countries cooperate too much with the U.S.; this is also a common opinion in Britain and Mexico. Only in Poland and Kenya is there a desire for more cooperation with the U.S.

The survey also finds that, while there is support for U.S.-led efforts to fight terrorism in many parts of the world, the war in Afghanistan, a cornerstone of these efforts, remains unpopular. Majorities or pluralities in 17 of 22 countries believe the U.S. and NATO troops should remove troops from Afghanistan as soon as possible.

U.S. Image Remains Largely Positive In the Obama Years

Majorities in 14 of 23 countries have a very or somewhat favorable opinion of the United States. In Europe, at least seven-in-ten in France (75%), Lithuania (73%) and Poland (70%) give the U.S. high marks; 64% in Spain, 62% in Germany, 61% in Britain, 60% in Ukraine and 56% in Russia also express positive opinions.

America’s image is most positive in Japan, where more than eight-in-ten (85%) have a favorable view of the U.S. Favorable ratings for the U.S. have improved markedly since last year, when 66% of Japanese expressed a positive view. This improvement is due at least in part to American relief efforts following the earthquake and tsunami that struck Japan in March; 57% in Japan say the U.S. has done a great deal to assist their country with the impact of the twin disasters. (For more on Japanese views of the effect of the March 11 earthquake and tsunami, see “Japanese Resilient, but See Economic Challenges Ahead,” released June 1, 2011.)

In contrast, in China, the image of the U.S. is more negative than it was in 2010. Currently, Chinese respondents are nearly evenly split; 44% have a favorable view and 46% have an unfavorable opinion of the U.S. A year ago, Chinese opinion of the U.S. was decidedly positive, with 58% offering a favorable assessment and 37% giving the U.S. a negative rating.

The U.S. favorability rating is, on balance, positive in India. About four-in-ten (41%) offer a favorable assessment while just 10% have a negative view of the U.S.; however, 49% of Indians do not offer an opinion.

Kenyans continue to give the U.S. high marks, as was the case during George W. Bush’s presidency, although fewer now have a favorable opinion than did so a year ago. About eight-in-ten (83%) Kenyans give the U.S. a positive evaluation, compared with 94% in 2010. Ratings are also largely positive in Brazil, where about six-in-ten (62%) offer a favorable assessment of the U.S. A slim majority (52%) of Mexicans also express positive opinions of the U.S.; 41% have an unfavorable view.

The U.S. receives its most negative ratings in the predominantly Muslim countries surveyed. Only about one-in-ten in Turkey (10%) and Pakistan (12%) have a favorable opinion of the U.S.; 13% in Jordan, 18% in the Palestinian territories and 20% in Egypt offer positive assessments. Opinions of the U.S. are more positive in Indonesia, where 54% have a favorable view, and Lebanon, where about half (49%) give the U.S. high marks. (For a more detailed analysis of America’s image in predominantly Muslim countries, including religious and sectarian divisions in Lebanon, see “Arab Spring Fails to Improve U.S. Image,” released May 17, 2011.)

Rating the American People

The American people continue to receive positive ratings in most of the countries surveyed. Majorities in 14 of 22 countries say they have a favorable opinion of Americans, including at least eight-in-ten in Japan (87%) and Kenya (81%).

Attitudes toward Americans are also overwhelmingly positive in Europe. Nearly eight-in-ten (78%) in France and about three-quarters in Poland (74%), Britain (73%) and Lithuania (73%) view the American people favorably. Seven-in-ten in Germany, 68% in Ukraine, 64% in Spain and 63% in Russia also express positive opinions of Americans.

Majorities in Israel (75%), Lebanon (62%), Brazil (58%) and Indonesia (52%) give Americans favorable ratings; in India, a 49%-plurality shares this view.

In five of the seven predominantly Muslim countries surveyed, however, few express positive opinions of the American people. This is especially the case in Turkey and Pakistan, where only 12% have a favorable opinion of Americans; 24% of Palestinians, 36% of Egyptians and 37% of Jordanians hold a positive view.

U.S. Unilateralism

The perception that the U.S. does not take the interests of other countries into account when making foreign policy decisions remains widespread. Only in Kenya (74%), Israel (67%), India (57%), China (57%), Germany (56%), Japan (51%) and Brazil (51%) do majorities say the U.S. takes a multilateral approach.

Germans are more likely than they were a year ago to say the U.S. considers their interests; 47% said that was the case in 2010. In the other Western European countries surveyed, fewer than half currently say the U.S. takes a multilateral approach, although this opinion is now more common in Britain than it was in 2010. Four-in-ten British say the U.S. considers other countries’ interests, compared with 35% a year ago. About a third (32%) in France and just 19% in Spain share this view, virtually unchanged from 2010.

Eastern Europeans also give the U.S. low ratings on this issue, and this is especially true in Lithuania and Ukraine. Just 9% of Lithuanians and 15% of Ukrainians say the U.S. considers the interests of countries like theirs when making foreign policy decisions; about a quarter (23%) in Russia and one-third in Poland share this view. Russians and Poles were more likely to say the U.S. took a multilateral approach a year ago (30% and 38%, respectively); in Ukraine, 28% said the U.S. considered their interests in 2007, when the question was last asked in that country.

The opinion that the U.S. acts multilaterally when making foreign policy decisions is also far less widespread in China; 57% say the U.S. takes their interests into account, compared with 76% in 2010. In contrast, Japanese respondents are much more likely to say the U.S. considers the interests of other countries than they were a year ago, when just 31% said that was the case.

In the predominantly Muslim countries surveyed, fewer than a quarter in Lebanon (23%), Jordan (23%), Egypt (21%), Pakistan (20%) and Turkey (17%) say the U.S. takes into account the interests of other countries. The U.S. receives more positive marks in Indonesia; 43% believe the U.S. takes a multilateral approach, but about half (49%) say the U.S. does not consider the interests of other countries when making foreign policy decisions.

Americans offer a much different assessment of their country’s approach to foreign policy than any other public surveyed. About three-quarters (76%) say the U.S. considers the interests of other countries around the world a great deal or a fair amount.

Cooperation With the U.S.

Majorities or pluralities in 11 of 21 nations are satisfied with the amount of cooperation between their countries and the U.S. In six countries, more say their government cooperates too much than say it cooperates about the right amount or too little. Only in Poland and Kenya would pluralities like to see more cooperation with the U.S.

About seven-in-ten (72%) in Germany, 65% in France and 59% in Spain say their governments cooperate about the right amount with the U.S. government. In Britain, however, a 45%-plurality believes their country cooperates too much with the U.S.; another 40% are satisfied with the amount of cooperation between the two countries and 10% say the British government does not cooperate enough with the U.S.

Opinions about cooperation with the U.S. are more mixed across the Eastern European countries surveyed. While a 45%-plurality in Poland believes their government does not cooperate with the U.S. enough, pluralities in Russia (45%) and Lithuania (42%) say their countries cooperate about the right amount. In Ukraine, the same number express satisfaction with the amount of cooperation between their country and the U.S. as say Ukraine does not cooperate enough (35% each); 9% say their country cooperates too much with the U.S. government.

In Mexico, 44% say their country cooperates too much with their neighbor to the north, while about a quarter say Mexico does not cooperate enough (25%) or that it cooperates about the right amount (27%) with the U.S.

Majorities in Jordan (57%), Lebanon (54%) and Pakistan (52%) and a plurality (39%) in Egypt believe their countries cooperate too much with the U.S. In Indonesia, however, a majority (54%) is satisfied with the amount of cooperation between their country and the U.S. Views are more mixed in Turkey, where the same number say there is too much cooperation with the U.S. as say there is not enough (26% each); 32% say their country cooperates with the U.S. about the right amount.

Views of U.S. Anti-Terrorism Efforts

Majorities in 14 of 22 countries support U.S.-led efforts to fight terrorism. This is especially the case in Kenya, where about three-quarters (77%) favor American anti-terrorism policies, and in Israel, where 72% share this view.

About seven-in-ten (71%) in France and two-thirds in Germany say they favor U.S. anti-terrorism efforts, as do about six-in-ten in Britain (59%) and Spain (58%). In Eastern Europe, majorities in Lithuania (61%), Poland (60%), Ukraine (55%) and Russia (53%) express support for the American anti-terrorism campaign, but far fewer in Russia and Poland do so compared with a year ago; seven-in-ten Russians and Poles said they favored U.S.-led efforts to fight terrorism in 2010.

Support for American anti-terrorism efforts has also declined considerably in China. Currently, about a quarter (23%) favor and 60% oppose U.S. efforts to combat terrorism. In 2010, Chinese respondents were nearly evenly split, with 41% expressing support and 40% saying they opposed these efforts.

Publics in the predominantly Muslim countries surveyed continue to give the U.S.-led anti-terrorism campaign low marks. Just 9% in Jordan, 14% in Turkey and 16% in Pakistan say they favor American efforts to fight terrorism; 21% in Egypt and 35% in Lebanon share this view. Indonesia is the only Muslim country surveyed where a majority (55%) expresses support for these efforts; in 2010, two-thirds of Indonesians favored U.S.-led efforts to fight terrorism.

War in Afghanistan

The war in Afghanistan remains unpopular in most of the countries surveyed. Majorities or pluralities in 17 of 22 countries believe U.S. and NATO troops should be withdrawn from Afghanistan as soon as possible. Only in Kenya, Israel, Japan, Spain and India do more say that these troops should remain in Afghanistan until the situation is stabilized than say troops should be removed.

Support for the war is especially low in predominantly Muslim countries. Nearly nine-in-ten (87%) Jordanians and at least three-quarters of Egyptians (78%) and Turks (75%) say troops should leave Afghanistan as soon as possible; about seven-in-ten in Indonesia (71%), Lebanon (71%) and Pakistan (69%) share this view.

Chinese respondents are also overwhelmingly in favor of troop withdrawal; 65% say U.S. and NATO troops should be removed as soon as possible, while just 9% believe these troops should stay in Afghanistan.

In France and Britain, where support for the war rebounded somewhat between fall 2009 and spring 2010, the balance of opinion is once again on the side of troop withdrawal. Nearly six-in-ten (58%) in France say the U.S. and NATO should remove troops from Afghanistan as soon as possible, while 41% favor keeping troops there; in 2010, French opinion was more mixed, with 52% saying troops should be withdrawn and 47% expressing support for keeping them in Afghanistan.

In Britain, 51% now say troops should leave Afghanistan and 41% believe U.S. and NATO troops should stay in that country; a year ago, 45% wanted troops to leave Afghanistan while about half (49%) favored keeping them there. Nearly six-in-ten (58%) Germans favor troop withdrawal, unchanged from a year ago.

In Spain, however, support for the war is now more widespread than it was in 2010. About half (51%) of Spanish respondents believe troops should remain in Afghanistan until the situation is stabilized; 44% say the U.S. and NATO should remove their troops as soon as possible. A year ago, fewer in Spain said troops should stay in Afghanistan than said they should be removed (43% vs. 49%).

For the first time since 2007, when the Pew Research Center first asked this question, more Americans say the U.S. and NATO should remove its troops from Afghanistan as soon as possible than say military troops should remain in that country until the situation has stabilized (52% vs. 41%). A survey by the Pew Research Center for the People & the Press, conducted just days before Obama’s speech announcing his policy for drawing down U.S. forces in Afghanistan, finds even more support for troop withdrawal; 56% say troops should be removed from Afghanistan as soon as possible, while 39% say they should stay in that country. (For a more detailed analysis of Americans’ opinions about the war in Afghanistan, see “Record Number Favors Removing U.S. Troops from Afghanistan,” released June 21, 2011, by the Pew Research Center for the People & the Press.)