The harshest views of America are in, no surprises, the Middle East and South Asia. Egyptians, Jordanians, Turks and Pakistanis all seem to see the United States in an overwhelmingly unfavorable light. As Turkey’s economy grows, its foreign policy becomes more assertive and democratization gives the Turkish people a stronger role in government, the negative view of the U.S. there could become more important for the world.
Still, it’s important not to make the mistake of confusing these four anti-American countries, which have their own reasons for disliking the U.S. (drones in Pakistan, perceived support for Hosni Mubarak in Egypt), with the entire Middle East or “Muslim world.” Indonesia and India, which have two of the largest Muslim populations in the world, both returned mildly positive views of America. Views vary even in the Arab Middle East; Tunisians and Lebanese seemed ambivalent, reporting roughly equivalent favorable and unfavorable numbers. And Nigerians, half of whom are Muslim, positively beam pro-Americanism: They report a more favorable view of the U.S. than Americans themselves do.
So who seems to like America? It’s a long list – longer than you might expect. To give a comparative sense, recent polls find that Americans give President Obama 59 percent “favorable” and 40 percent “unfavorable” ratings. And he just won reelection, so we can say those are pretty good numbers. America scores similar favorability ratings in a few countries we might assume, wrongly, don’t like us so much: Mexico, despite U.S. immigration policies targeting Mexicans, and Russia, where President Vladimir Putin has pushed some populist anti-Americanism. We are also moderately liked in the post-Soviet state of Ukraine, in Brazil and in the United Kingdom. I thought we’d be more popular in the U.K., where politicians make a big deal out of the “special relationship” with Washington. It’s possible that there’s still some sense that once-great Britain is being led around by its former colony (I’ve heard some Brits worry about becoming the “51st state”), as well as lingering resentment over the view that the U.K. was pulled into the Iraq War.
The U.S. is most popular in continental Europe and sub-Saharan Africa, as well as the northeast Asian countries of South Korea and Japan. Those latter two are interesting cases: Both are pro-American democracies still defended by a large U.S. military presence. But that military presence forcibly occupied Japan only two generations ago (though it helped to build democracy there), and in South Korea it propped up a long-running dictatorship; Japanese and Koreans occasionally protest the American bases. The remarkably pro-Americanism of sub-Saharan Africa is its own interesting phenomenon; it’s shown up in many more surveys than just this one. Many Africans, I’ve been told by scholars of the region, are keenly aware of how well African Americans have been doing since the civil rights movement, and see it as a point of African pride that the leader of the world’s most powerful country has roots in their continent.
The few countries that seem ambivalent toward the U.S., or at least equal parts favorable and unfavorable, are an interesting mix. China’s take is unsurprising: The U.S. is seen as a symbol of prosperity and possibility there, but also of Western imperialism and disrespect toward China. Greece and Lebanon both have strong ties to Greek-American and Lebanese-American communities, which helps build positive attitudes, but also tend to condemn U.S. foreign policy. The big surprise here is Germany, which breaks from the positive view of America common across Europe, even in Russia. But that could say more about Germans, who seem to have a dim view of nearly every country on Earth.
Who loves and hates America: A revealing map of global opinion toward the U.S.