How Fares the American Brand?

The subtitle of Robert Kagan’s February Politico op-ed “The Ambivalent Superpower” claimed that the United States and the World weren’t getting a divorce, but they were thinking about it. A Pew Research report released yesterday, however, tells a slightly different story.

The US and the World aren’t thinking about a divorce just yet, though the World is a touch disappointed with regards to American surveillance activities and philandering with drones. Drops in opinion of the US can be directly linked to American actions and policies, whether it is the Snowden leaks or sanctions on Russia.

General US favorability - PEWThe world holds generally favorable views of the US, with the exception of the Middle East

Europe and Africa hold the US in the highest regard, with the notable European exceptions of Germany and Greece. Both Germany and Greece have consistently held lower opinions of the US compared to the rest of the EU.

In 2012 German views of the US fell from 62 percent favorable the previous year, to 52 percent favorable.  This year’s 51 percent positive view is unsurprising given the very public effects of the Snowden revelations last summer and subsequent disclosure of NSA surveillance activities. Last week, in a move not often seen between allies, the German government demanded that the top US spy–the CIA’s Berlin station chief– be expelled from the country.

Most gained and lost - PEWAnother unsurprising fall of opinion occurred in Russia–a drop of 28 points–from 51 percent favorable to 23 percent. Ukrainian opinion tilts positively, at 57 percent, but has dropped since it was last measured in 2011.

But global opinion of the US has not dropped evenly, and in some countries favorable opinions of the US are on the rise. Populations in Poland, the UK, and France, have rising opinions of the US and despite no progress in the Middle East Peace process, positive Palestinian views of the US nearly doubled, from 16 percent to 30 percent.

With the exception of Tunisia and Israel, where opinions of America remained consistent with 2013, anti-American opinions in the rest of Middle East prevail.

The Pew report comprehensively covers the US-China dichotomy in other sections, but interestingly, opinions of the US in China rose. Half of the Chinese surveyed gave the US a “thumbs up.” The last time the US broke even in China, at 58 percent, was in 2010.

The global public’s view of the United States is largely unchanged from 2013. Among the thirty-five countries surveyed in both 2013 and 2014, the median favorable assessment in 2014 is 62%, unchanged from 2013.

In general, the US and the World are on decent terms–as far as the surveyed publics believe.

Check out the full report online here, as a PDF here, and as a nifty interactive map here.

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