America’s international image slipping
July 26th, 2013
11:45 AM ET

America’s international image slipping

By Bruce Stokes, Special to CNN

Editor’s note: Bruce Stokes is director of global economic attitudes at the Pew Research Center. The views expressed are his own.

In the fifth year of the Obama presidency, the United States’ image remains strong around the world compared with the last years of the administration of President George W. Bush. Still, pro-America sentiment is slipping.

The decline is in no way comparable to the collapse of U.S. standing in the first decade of this century. But the “Obama bounce” in the global stature of the United States experienced in 2009 is clearly a thing of the past. And this gradual erosion of support is, in part, due to the diminishing popularity of U.S. President Barack Obama himself in some nations.

In 28 of 38 nations, half or more of those surveyed express a favorable opinion of the U.S., according to a new poll by the Pew Research Center. This includes more than half those surveyed in seven of eight European countries, including three quarters in Italy, two thirds in Poland and 64 percent in France. Only in Greece does just 39 percent of the public say they have a favorable view of Uncle Sam.

And America rates highly in Africa, where a median of 77 percent have a favorable view, including 83 percent in Ghana and 81 percent in Kenya. Latin Americans are also quite positive. A median of two thirds favor the United States, including almost 80 percent in El Salvador and about three quarters in Brazil.

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But the United States fares much worse in the Middle East, where a median of just 21 percent see America positively and where there was never anyway an appreciable improvement in the U.S. stature in recent years. About eight-in-ten Israelis have a favorable opinion of the U.S. But Jordanians are particularly critical; only 14 percent view the United States favorably. Egyptians (16 percent) and Palestinians (16 percent) share these negative sentiments.

But the still generally positive global view of the United States this year masks a gradual attrition in support over time. Most notably, and perhaps ominously, there has been an 18 percentage point drop in the favorability of the United States in China since 2010. More broadly, views of America are down in 8 of 21 countries where there is comparable data from 2009. This includes 11 point drops in Britain, Egypt, France and Germany.

President Obama has also suffered some degree of image fatigue. At least half of those surveyed in 24 of 39 countries give the American leader high marks. And his rating is quite strong in many nations: 88 percent in Germany, 84 percent in the Philippines and 81 percent in Kenya, for example. Indeed, these are levels of public support that other politicians would die for.

But perception of Obama’s ability to do the right thing in world affairs is down in 17 of those nations in 2009. And some of the drop off in support is quite significant: 31 points in China, 18 points in Spain and Indonesia and 14 points in Britain.

More from GPS: Does world want Obama?

The decline in America’s and Obama’s popularity may, in part, be traced to disagreements with U.S. foreign policy initiatives. Support for the Obama administration’s international policies is generally positive. But backing is down in 19 of 22 nations for which there is comparable date from 2009. And, in many cases, the fall off is dramatic: 34 points in China, and 24 points in Indonesia and Argentina. Moreover, it is down significantly among some key U.S. allies: by 14 points in Britain, 13 points in Poland and 12 points in France.

On the signature Obama foreign policy of drone strikes, publics are also deeply critical. In 31 of 39 nations, at least half of those surveyed disapprove of the U.S. conducting drone missile strikes targeting extremists in places such as Pakistan, Yemen and Somalia. The only countries where majorities support the drone campaign are Israel, Kenya and the United States itself.

The anti-Americanism and strong global public antipathy toward the U.S. president that surfaced under the Bush administration in many parts of the world has not resurfaced under the Obama administration. But the honeymoon period for America’s image that began in 2009 is slowly beginning to fade.

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soundoff (188 Responses)
  1. Chris 7325

    We live in a world driven by money. As long as the spenders are giving they are welcome and popular. Now that the U.S. economy has declined our reputation and popularity has declined proportionally. The U.S. is now requiring other nations to spend their money to intervene in global conflicts and humanitarian aid more than ever before. In other words "The little red hen" is asking for help and just like in the children's story we can't get it or it is with complaint about us. Russia and China suddenly are hell bent and determined to make the take over of the world reserve currency. They want the ball so to speak problem is if they had it the majority of the time it would line their own pockets instead do anything humanitarian or defensive for other nations in need. Who has every rescued the U.S.? We have many homeless people now in America but I haven't seen any other country trying to provide humanitarian aid for them. Why is that? We did it for you? You forget to easily who helped you but I understand it isn't about remembering it's only about money. W.C. Fields wrote: " Never give a sucker and even break or smarten up a chump." It's how the world plays the U.S.; as long as the money flows downstream to you from us then we are great and when it stops the real truth is said. America is as bad as the rest of the world. Sure we are, we're players in a corrupt, covert, sinister and deadly world where there is little truth and where there is more ruse than reality. A place where everyone smile to your face while clutching a dagger behind their back and a wallet filled with ulterior motives. Then you think about the possibility of fairness and what sense of fairness do you have for us? Not very much we know. So here we all are in a den of thieves and death merchants expecting each other to be honorable, straight up when no one is. Money makes you nice, the lack of it makes you mean; we know this. We live in a world where a humanitarian can go to homeless people giving out 100 dollar bills and then when this person walks back home alone down a dark street most likely they will be attacked and robbed. Hey welcome to everywhere. As a humanity we are our own worst enemies. We have made the world what it is today because of the lust for money, power, fame and supremacy; the things all nations and people strive for most.

    September 29, 2013 at 9:48 pm | Reply
  2. simplulo

    I read once in The Economist that the "Obama bounce" was worth $2.2T in good will. We're clearly losing it again.Germany is now full of NSA jokes, but they are not laughing with us....

    September 30, 2013 at 7:36 pm | Reply
  3. farside6262

    Ya think???

    The last Bush should never had entered the White House, total embarrassment. 8 years made it even more so.

    Our current congress behaving like spoiled children is even worse. Shutting down the government because they did not get their way???

    My daughter, in the military, will not get paid thanks to the GOP/tea party temper tantrum. This is no way to run a democracy.

    Why is the GOP so terrified of ACA?

    October 1, 2013 at 12:20 am | Reply
    • farside6262

      sorry, "have", not "had"

      October 1, 2013 at 12:22 am | Reply
    • June Young

      Thank you for your post, The GOP knows the ACA is not a government takeover of healthcare, unlike the car insurance mandate is that it applies to the insurance companies as well as the American people. Where is the GOP outrage of car insurance mandate?

      October 6, 2013 at 1:26 pm | Reply
      • Ragin Cajun

        Driving is considered a privilege. Health care is considered a necessity, but the problem is who's going to pay for it when the patient can't.

        October 24, 2013 at 2:05 pm |
    • RIgger33

      You should know what your talking about before jumping to a conclusion.

      "My daughter, in the military, will not get paid thanks to the GOP/tea party temper tantrum"

      October 16, 2013 at 12:46 pm | Reply
    • Fox5 News

      With the government on the downside, more people are planning to vote for Ayman al-Zawahiri due to him being a "Muslim Christian" in Yemen and want him to be America's next president according to recent reports.

      October 25, 2013 at 5:21 pm | Reply
  4. SAS

    The US funds Israeli military occupation, apartheid and ethnic cleansing to the tune of $ 3 billion per year to appease a relatively small clique of pro Israel lobbyists, so it is any surprise it is viewed negatively in the Arab world where its policies have wrecked havoc ?

    October 3, 2013 at 11:04 am | Reply
    • keyser

      No, it always been the Arabs that have specialized in ethnic cleansing, apartheid, and military occupation. Try living as a Jew in an Arab country and you'll see what I mean.

      October 4, 2013 at 10:28 pm | Reply
    • FYI Monster

      But ignore the billions in aid to Egypt and Jordan? Yes its all obviously an anti-Muslim conspiracy.

      October 8, 2013 at 12:13 pm | Reply
      • outspoken

        You forgot to mention the name of Israel.

        October 22, 2013 at 3:50 pm |
    • rosross

      Spot on.

      October 14, 2013 at 11:00 am | Reply
  5. EdL

    Not slipping, has slipped. Obama's non existent Red Line was the big one.

    October 3, 2013 at 11:27 am | Reply
  6. keyser

    Who cares? We never much liked the rest of the world anyway, especially the Middle East.

    October 4, 2013 at 10:26 pm | Reply
  7. ManWithThe1000PoundBrain

    This biggest problem by far, clearly, is the takeover of the U.S, House by snaggletoothed, psychopathic rednecks that are all about creating crisis after crisis and stalemate after stalemate because they have some delusional belief that their views are divine; that they are in some sort of good versus evil fight and that they should never compromise on anything, ever, no matter how crackpot their own ideas are or how much they make a mockery of the U.S. in the eyes of the world.

    October 4, 2013 at 11:15 pm | Reply
  8. Zhang

    CHINA still loves USA, at least us young Chinese.

    October 5, 2013 at 4:12 am | Reply
    • June Young

      Thank you for your post, Most Americans are not like the people in our congress, the good thing is, we the people have the power to change who we choose to represent us.

      October 6, 2013 at 1:35 pm | Reply
      • CLB

        We do get to choose who represents us as a nation but we only get to choose from a select few that are already chosen for us from the parties in charge.

        October 9, 2013 at 2:04 pm |
    • Enzo F. Cannizzo

      Thank you ..nice to hear that . People are people all over the world ..we have our fear , dislikes , comments , but in the end we want what is good for our loved ones ...that is what matters !

      October 29, 2013 at 10:54 am | Reply
  9. timelord7202

    Oh well.

    October 5, 2013 at 8:43 am | Reply
  10. timelord7202

    Why should the world hate us? We've brought jobs and opportunities to India, China, Russia, Brazil, Vietnam, Korea, others... their countries and people have all prospered, yes?

    October 5, 2013 at 8:44 am | Reply
    • rosross

      It's a joke right?

      October 14, 2013 at 10:58 am | Reply


    They’re not happy in Gaza ..
    They’re not happy in Egypt ..
    They’re not happy in Libya ..
    They’re not happy in Morocco ..
    They’re not happy in Iran ..
    They’re not happy in Iraq ..
    They’re not happy in Yemen ..
    They’re not happy in Afghanistan ..
    They’re not happy in Pakistan ..
    They’re not happy in Syria ..
    They’re not happy in Lebanon ..


    They’re happy in Australia .
    They’re happy in Canada .
    They’re happy in England ..
    They’re happy in France ..
    They’re happy in Italy ..
    They’re happy in Germany ..
    They’re happy in Sweden ..
    They’re happy in the USA ..
    They’re happy in Norway ..
    They’re happy in Holland .
    They’re happy in Denmark .

    Basically, they’re happy in every country that is not Muslim
    and unhappy in every country that is!


    Not Islam.
    Not their leadership.
    Not themselves.


    AND THEN; They want to change those countries to be like….

    October 13, 2013 at 12:09 pm | Reply
    • rosross

      Muslims are not happy with the US because the US keeps invading, occupying and dropping bombs on them. Logical really.

      October 14, 2013 at 10:59 am | Reply
      • Jakerman

        You fail to mention the reasons we've done wht we've done. Who cares what they think? do you always worry what your neighbors think before you do something?

        October 16, 2013 at 12:28 pm |
    • Jakerman

      Good post and point!

      October 16, 2013 at 12:26 pm | Reply
  12. rosross

    America's image slipped decades ago. And it probably never had the image Americans thought it did anyway.

    October 14, 2013 at 10:56 am | Reply
    • Danielle

      I totally agree. Americans seem to be living with rose colored glasses but they keep repeating the same thing over and over again, not to convince other but to convince themselves I believe that their image isn't a mirage, which it is.

      October 16, 2013 at 11:16 am | Reply
      • thatguy

        You can't treat me according to your local laws and customs, I'm an American, my rights exist no matter where I go, because I'm an American, and therefore right, and better than you!

        October 17, 2013 at 11:36 am |
  13. Jakerman

    We should always move forward and not worry what others think. no matter what decisions we make some will critisize us and some will praise us. We can't base our policies on what others think.

    October 16, 2013 at 12:25 pm | Reply
  14. Ted Ward

    Americans need to realize that the whole rest of the world has been for decades slowly catching up to the US on all levels: economic, intellectual, and technological. They have been doing this largely by copying the US in every way they can.

    October 19, 2013 at 11:11 pm | Reply
  15. Ragin Cajun

    So Zakaria, you suggesting we give the rest of the world a vote in the US? Sounds like you're running poles for that end to me. Maybe you and your lib crew who want the US annexed by the United Nations should go find some other countries that wants to go first.

    October 24, 2013 at 2:10 pm | Reply
  16. Fox5 News

    Violent crime and thefts are caused by the bad economy and the terrorism is caused by crime against other countries. America is at a crossroads due to the underlying issues.

    October 25, 2013 at 5:18 pm | Reply
  17. scott bleyle

    I lived in Spain for two years,met people from all over Europe and no one really gives America much thought.One exception is the stereotype of "the ugly American" which is quite common.I forgot I lived an Ocean away.

    October 26, 2013 at 4:15 am | Reply
  18. scott bleyle

    Go home zakaria!

    October 26, 2013 at 4:17 am | Reply
  19. talksense

    privileged and lucky, US has not experienced many of the problems developed in history, yet this naive boy thinks himself as the ruler of the world for its might, of course embellished with superficial call for liberty and democracy. Now as the whole world adopts the similar market economy, US inevitably will realize that it is not that advantaged at all. It wonders people around the world why US can't understand why some people dislike them. Liberty and democracy is something, but not everything. Dominating others without humility is rude, definitely not popular, especially when this nation is internally ideologically paranoid, when being socialist is considered as politically incorrect. If paranoid, how liberal can US be anyway?

    October 30, 2013 at 12:10 pm | Reply
  20. Spent

    Not only overseas!

    November 3, 2013 at 3:32 pm | Reply
  21. kamateros

    What is actually "slipping", is the image of the Europeans for Germany

    January 15, 2014 at 8:28 am | Reply
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