July 13, 2011

China Seen Overtaking U.S. as Global Superpower

Chapter 7. Ratings of World Leaders

In most parts of the world, publics continue to express more confidence in U.S. President Barack Obama than in key European leaders tested in the survey. As in previous surveys, German Chancellor Angela Merkel is popular in European countries, but not well-known in the rest of the world. French President Nicolas Sarkozy and Russian President Dmitri Medvedev are generally less popular than Merkel in Western Europe, but also virtually unknown in many other countries surveyed. Meanwhile, Saudi King Abdullah is well-regarded in most of the predominantly Muslim nations surveyed, and Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh is valued for his foreign policy leadership in India, but inspires far less confidence in neighboring China and Pakistan.

Confidence in Merkel

Majorities in all six European Union member states polled have confidence in German Chancellor Angela Merkel to do the right thing regarding world affairs. Overall, majorities or pluralities in 11 of the 21 countries where the question was asked express at least some confidence in the German leader.

Confidence in Merkel is highest in France where, as was the case last year, she is even more popular than she is at home. She is also more popular in France than French President Sarkozy. Eight-in-ten French express at least some confidence in the German chancellor to do the right thing in international affairs.

Support for Merkel is also high in her home country and in Spain (69% each). This represents a significant increase in Spanish support for the German leader, up 12 percentage points since 2010. In Britain, 64% voice confidence in Merkel, up from six-in-ten in 2010 and roughly half (51%) in 2009.

Opinions of Merkel are also positive in Lithuania, where over six-in-ten (64%) have a favorable view. In Poland, a slim majority (51%) have at least some confidence in the chancellor, down from the 58% voicing such support in 2010.

Pluralities in Ukraine (49%), Russia (47%), the U.S. (46%) and Kenya (41%) have confidence in the German leader, although nearly three-in-ten in all four nations do not offer an opinion.

Outside of Europe, Merkel maintains her strongest support in Israel, where a 57%-majority expresses a lot or some confidence in her to do the right thing regarding world affairs. This contrasts with 2009, when Israeli views of Merkel were divided (48% confident vs. 48% not confident).

Elsewhere in the Middle East, negative views of Chancellor Merkel are more pervasive, with majorities in the Palestinian territories (71%), Jordan (67%), and Lebanon (60%) having not much or no confidence in the German leader to do the right thing in world affairs. Merkel is even more unpopular in Turkey, where more than three-quarters (77%) voice little or no confidence in her.

Confidence in the German leader has declined in China less than a year after a well-publicized visit by Merkel to bolster trade ties. Only three-in-ten Chinese express confidence in the German leader, down 10 percentage points since 2010.

Elsewhere, many offer no opinion about Merkel. Pluralities in India (66%), Pakistan (59%) and Indonesia (41%) said they could not assess her ability to handle world affairs.

Confidence in Sarkozy

As in previous surveys, European Union publics express far less confidence in French President Nicolas Sarkozy than in German Chancellor Merkel. In fact, there is no European nation, including France, where a majority has confidence in the French leader. And majorities or pluralities in only four of the 23 countries surveyed voice at least some confidence in the French president to do the right thing in international affairs.

Among the EU nations surveyed, President Sarkozy garners the most confidence in his home country. Nevertheless, opinions are closely divided – about half (48%) have confidence in their leader when it comes to doing the right thing in global affairs, while 52% express not much or no confidence. Around four-in-ten in Britain (44%), Germany (44%), Spain (41%) and Lithuania (38%) express confidence in President Sarkozy regarding international affairs. In Poland, only 35% have confidence, a striking 17 percentage point decline from the 52%-majority saying the same in 2010.

Pluralities in Japan (48%), the U.S. (45%), and Kenya (40%) have confidence in the French leader. Japanese opinion of President Sarkozy is up sharply (+11 percentage points) from 2010 when less than four-in-ten (37%) had at least some confidence in France’s president.

As was the case in previous surveys, a majority of Lebanese have confidence in Sarkozy, albeit a slim one (51%). Elsewhere in the Middle East, negative views of the French president are more prevalent. Majorities in Egypt (71%), Jordan (70%), the Palestinian territories (67%), and Israel (55%) have not much or no confidence in Sarkozy when it comes to global affairs.

As in previous years, hardly any Turks (1%) express confidence in the French president, with eight-in-ten voicing little or no confidence in him.

In Brazil, only about two-in-ten (22%) have confidence in President Sarkozy, down 9 percentage points from 2010. A similar number of Brazilians (23%) do not offer an opinion. Even larger proportions in India (65%), Pakistan (63%), Mexico (42%) and Indonesia (39%) express no view of the French leader.

Views of Medvedev

Confidence in Russian President Dmitri Medvedev to do the right thing in world affairs is relatively low across the countries surveyed, with the exceptions of his home country and neighboring Ukraine. Seven-in-ten Russians have confidence in their president, while 58% of Ukrainians have a lot or some confidence in the Russian president regarding international affairs.

Meanwhile, Russian views toward Prime Minister (and former president) Vladimir Putin are also largely positive: three-quarters have at least some confidence in Putin to do the right thing regarding world affairs; just 19% lack confidence in their prime minister.

Elsewhere in Europe, majorities or pluralities in all six EU member states surveyed express not too much or no confidence in Medvedev. Confidence in Medvedev has declined significantly in Poland (-12 percentage points) and Germany (-8 percentage points) since last year.

Similarly negative views of Medvedev are widespread across the Middle East, with significant majorities in Jordan (76%), the Palestinian territories (75%), Israel (69%), and Lebanon (58%) lacking confidence in the Russian leader.

Turks have consistently expressed little confidence in President Medvedev, with fewer than one-in-ten (7%) currently saying they have a lot or some confidence in the Russian president to do the right thing in the world.

In Russia’s largest neighbor, China, a slim plurality (40%) expresses confidence in the Russian president, with about three-in-ten having little or no confidence (31%) or not offering an opinion (29%). Elsewhere in Asia, many in India (61%) and Pakistan (50%) do not express an opinion of Medvedev.

In Latin America, opinion of the Russian leader is negative, with nearly six-in-ten Brazilians (57%) and half of Mexicans saying they lack confidence in Medvedev.

Views of Saudi King Abdullah

Majorities in five of the seven predominantly Muslim publics surveyed have at least some confidence in Saudi King Abdullah to do the right thing regarding international affairs. Over six-in ten in Jordan (87%), Egypt (78%), Pakistan (72%), Indonesia (63%) and the Palestinian territories (62%) have a lot or some confidence in the Saudi leader.

Views are more mixed in Lebanon, with 44% expressing confidence in the Saudi king and 54% saying they have not too much or no confidence. However, opinions about King

Abdullah, a Sunni Muslim ruling predominantly Sunni Saudi Arabia, split sharply along religious and sectarian lines. Only 23% of Lebanese Shia Muslims have confidence in him, while more than six-in-ten Sunni Muslims (61%) voice confidence in the Saudi leader to do the right thing regarding international affairs. Lebanese Christians are almost evenly divided; 48% express confidence, while 51% lack confidence.

The Saudi king is less well-regarded in Turkey, where about one-in-ten (13%) say they have confidence in Abdullah; nearly two-thirds (66%) voice little or no confidence. In Israel, only 7% say they have a lot or some confidence in the king, with nine-in-ten saying they lack confidence in his ability to do the right thing regarding world affairs.

Views of Singh

In his home country, an overwhelming majority (80%) express confidence in Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh’s ability to handle world affairs.

However, views of Singh are negative in neighboring Pakistan and China, where 69% and 42% respectively express a lack of confidence in the Indian Prime Minister.

Outside of mainland Asia, nearly four-in-ten in Japan (39%) and Indonesia (37%) do not offer an opinion of the Indian leader.

Cite this publication: “China Seen Overtaking U.S. as Global Superpower .” Pew Research Center, Washington, D.C. (July 13, 2011) http://www.pewglobal.org/2011/07/13/china-seen-overtaking-us-as-global-superpower/, accessed on July 22, 2014.