Who loves ya, baby? If you’re the United States of America, the answer is fewer and fewer people around the world.
In Britain, France, Germany and nearly a dozen other prominent nations, the percentage of people with a favorable view of the United States has declined over the last decade, according to a new global survey by the Pew Research Center. That trend has been apparent since the 2003 U.S. invasion of Iraq, which was highly unpopular in many countries. The 2008 financial meltdown marked another slip in America’s reputation, as many people blamed Wall Street for a global recession that still weighs on the world economy. Controversial drone strikes aimed at terrorists and childish political antics in Washington continue to mar America’s image abroad.
Some nations still have a soft spot for the U.S., however. Of 39 nations where Pew conducted surveys, here are the 10 where people have the most favorable impression of the U.S.:
1. Philippines (percentage with a favorable view of the United States: 85%)
2. Israel (83%)
3. Ghana (83%)
4. Senegal (81%)
5. Kenya (81%)
6. El Salvador (79%)
7. South Korea (78%)
8. Italy (76%)
9. Uganda (73%)
10. Brazil (73%)
Why are these particular countries so fond of us? For many of the African nations, it's largely because of the aid we send them, which is a strong starting point for better relations with this increasingly important continent. Most Americans don’t think much about Africa, but other nations -- like China do -- because economic conditions in several African nations are improving rapidly, and some of them are rich in rare-earth minerals, oil and other valuable resources. Africa is also important because it can serve as a staging area for counterterrorism operations in Somalia, Libya, and wherever the bad guys try to hide out next.
The strong U.S. showing in South Korea shows the two nations remain unified in their approach to the cranks in North Korea, perhaps the most nettlesome nation on earth. Brazil is one of the world’s biggest and most important developing nations, so good relations there are important. Israel’s spot near the top of the list shows a strong alliance on Middle East interests, despite some sharp differences on how to manage some of the more divisive issues, particularly the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
America’s popularity in the Philippines, meanwhile, suggests Uncle Sam isn’t the exploitative quasicolonial power some critics claim it is. There's been a strong history of military and economic cooperation between the two nations since the Philippines became independent in 1946, including substantial U.S. aid to the archipelago. The Philippines also has territorial disputes with China, which could bind it even more closely to the United States.
It goes without saying that we remain unpopular in a few places. Here are the 10 nations with the least favorable impression of the U.S., according to Pew:
1. Pakistan (percentage with a favorable view of the United States: 11%)
2. Jordan (14%)
3. Palestinian territories (16%)
4. Egypt (16%)
5. Turkey (21%)
6. Greece (39%)
7. China (40%)
8. Argentina (41%)
9. Tunisia (42%)
10. Lebanon (47%)
It’s not surprising that America is most unpopular in Pakistan -- there are deep divisions over U.S. drone strikes on Pakistani territory and other unilateral efforts to hunt down terrorists without that country's approval or cooperation. Strong U.S. support of Israel has long been generating enmity in Muslim nations, including Jordan, Turkey and Egypt, plus the Palestinian territories.
The negative view of America in China — where we're the biggest consumer of Chinese exports -- may come from government efforts to paint the U.S. as a hypocritical nation that badgers others about environmental issues and human rights, even though its own record is spotty. Argentina has developed strong ties with China in recent years, which might explain its modest antipathy toward America.
There’s some consolation in those weak approval numbers. In several countries, including Egypt, Jordan, Germany, Australia and even Russia, American citizens are more popular than the nation they hail from. That suggests the U.S. government and its policies are the biggest threat to our standing in the world. A lot of Americans probably agree.
Rick Newman’s latest book is Rebounders: How Winners Pivot From Setback To Success. Follow him on Twitter: @rickjnewman.