A country as big, powerful, and globally consequential as the United States is sure to attract a lot of attention and scrutiny. For better or worse, America has had considerable impact on world events for at least the past century — if not from its very foundation — and the mixed legacy of U.S. foreign policy, culture, and ideals continues to impact millions of people across the globe to this day.
So it is not surprising that the latest results from the Pew Research Center’s study on America’s global reputation are so mixed. The reputable polling group asked respondents in 39 different countries whether or not they had a favorable or unfavorable opinion of the U.S. The results, courtesy of this graph by Business Insider, might surprise you.
As you can see, the United States is relatively popular across the globe, with net positive ratings in such diverse regions as Europe, Asia, and Latin America. Even so, Sub-Saharan Africa stands out as the most emphatically pro-American, accounting for five of the six countries with the highest-net-favorable views of the U.S.
The Middle East is undoubtedly (and perhaps unsurprisingly) the most mixed; even prominent allies like Turkey (a fellow NATO country) and Jordan have significantly low opinions of the U.S. But this disparity between international relations and domestic sentiment just goes to show how government allegiances abroad are not always reflective of popular opinion.
Indeed, Saudi Arabia (not represented in this study) is a major U.S. ally in the region, though neither nation’s popular is especially favorable to the other. Similarly, countries like France and Vietnam, whom many Americans would think would be unfavorable to the U.S., actually hold broadly positive views.
Again, this shows how people judge other countries based on a range of factors, often with the distinction between a government and its population. While the citizens of many nations dislike U.S. foreign policy and its negative consequences, they can separate that from the people of the U.S., or the country’s popular music, film, and cultural output.
Of course there are exceptions: for the denizens some countries, like Argentina and Palestine, U.S. actions past and present loom large in their fate, and while they may not have a problem with the American people, they will still hold an unfavorable view of the U.S. based on these political scruples. No doubt different respondents had different factors in mind when asked these questions (as Americans likely would when posed the same questions about other nations).
This entire survey also reveals the disparity between how the U.S. views the world versus how the world views the U.S. As noted before, almost everyone in the world has some opinion of the U.S. because it is hard not to — from our culture to our military, we have some sort of presence somewhere in some way. But the same cannot be said about other nations, most of which are either scarcely known by the average U.S. resident — sorry America-loving Burkina Faso and Tanzania! — or are known through a very limited and often skewed filter (e.g. go-to villains and/or jerks France and Russia).
Perhaps as globalization continues to advance, and other nations gain the capacity to project their culture and hard power on the world stage, Americans and others will have a lot more to go by. What are your thoughts?
For more details on these results, check out the study here.