December 3, 2013

Public Sees U.S. Power Declining as Support for Global Engagement Slips

Section 5: Public Views of Selected Countries

U.S. Allies Viewed Favorably; Low Ratings for China, Russia, Saudi Arabia The public continues to express favorable opinions of a number of long-standing U.S. allies: Fully 81% have a favorable view of Canada while nearly as many (79%) have a favorable impression of Great Britain. Substantial majorities also express favorable views of Japan (70%) and Germany (67%).

In contrast, only about a third view China (33%) and Russia (32%) favorably and just 27% have a favorable view of Saudi Arabia.

Opinions about most of the 12 countries included in the survey have not changed a great deal in recent years. Favorable ratings for France, Germany and Canada are much higher than they were a decade ago, amid tensions over the U.S. war in Iraq. Currently, 59% view France favorably, which is little changed from a 2009 Pew Global Attitudes Project survey (62%). In 2003, just 29% viewed France favorably.

However, the balance of opinion toward India, Russia and Mexico has turned more negative. Fewer than half (46%) have a favorable impression of India while 33% have an unfavorable opinion. Four years ago, 56% had a favorable opinion of India and 24% had an unfavorable view.

Over the past few years, unfavorable opinions of both Russia and Mexico also have risen substantially. Currently, 39% view Mexico favorably while 52% have an unfavorable opinion; in 2007, the balance of opinion toward Mexico was positive (47% favorable, 37% unfavorable). A majority of Americans (54%) view Russia unfavorably, up from 43% last year and 35% in 2007.

Partisan Differences in Countries’ Favorable RatingsThere are no significant partisan differences in views of many of these countries, including Great Britain, Brazil, Saudi Arabia and Russia. However, more Republicans than Democrats have a favorable impression of Israel (74% of Republicans vs. 55% of Democrats).

Tea Party Republicans have especially positive views of Israel: 86% of Republicans and Republican-leaning independents who agree with the Tea Party view Israel favorably, compared with 68% of Republicans and GOP leaners who do not agree with the Tea Party.

Democrats are more likely than Republicans to view China, Mexico and France favorably. Roughly a third of Democrats (36%) have a favorable opinion of China compared with 23% of Republicans. The gap is about as large in favorable opinions of Mexico (14 points) and France (17 points).

Europe Makes a Comeback

In Reversal of Opinion, Europe Seen as More Important for the U.S. than AsiaThinking about the relationships the United States has with Europe and Asia, 50% of the public sees ties with Europe as most important for the U.S., compared with 35% who say relations with Asian nations are most important.

This is a shift from two years ago, when more viewed ties with Asia as most important, by 47% to 37%. In two surveys in the 1990s, Europe was viewed as more important for the U.S. than Asia.

Across most demographic and partisan groups, more see political, economic and military ties with Europe as more important than did so in January 2011. A Wider Age Gap in Views of Which Region is More Important for the U.S. Older Americans, in particular, are now much more likely to say that Europe is more important to the U.S. than two years ago.

Majorities of those 65 and older (60%) and 50-64 (57%) now say ties with Europe are most important for the U.S., up from 33% and 38%, respectively, in 2011. Young people’s views are virtually unchanged; as in 2011, more young people say Asia (52%) is more important than Europe (37%) in terms of U.S. interests.

Republicans (58%) are more likely than Democrats (48%) or independents (45%) to say that Europe is more important for the U.S. than Asia. In all three groups, higher percentages see Europe as more important to the U.S. than did so in 2011.