Survey: America Still the Best

July 19, 2013 11:24 am Last Updated: July 19, 2013 11:25 am

Everybody cares about their image, even whole countries. The good news for Americans: The United States is still the best in some areas and is viewed favorably by a majority of countries. And that despite the Iraq war and the financial crisis.

The PewResearchCenter surveyed people in 39 different countries and the result is that by and large, the United States is viewed favorably the majority of citizens of other countries. It is also still perceived to be the world’s leading economic power and dominates in soft power areas such as science and technology and movies and TV.    

The ten countries that have the most favorable view of the United States are:

(percentage of population with a favorable view of the United States)

1. Philippines (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%)

The Philippines have enjoyed a long standing economic and military cooperation with the United States and have embraced American culture and values. Israel sees the United States as it staunchest ally with respect to the difficult political environment in the Middle East and South Korea benefits from U.S. troops protecting it from the Communist North.  

But other big countries in Europe also view the United States favorable, such as France (64 percent), Britain (58 percent) and Germany (53 percent). Most countries consider the United States are partner and value its contribution to science and technology, music and television, business practices and economic aid. Especially for the European Union, this partnership could soon evolve into a free trade area spanning the two largest economies of the world.   

Another plus for America: Seventy percent of all people surveyed said it respects the personal freedoms of its people, a much higher rating than other military heavyweights such as China (36 percent) or Iran (11 percent). 

In this aspect, it probably helped that the survey was conducted in spring, long before PRISMGate, which harmed the U.S.’ image, especially in Europe. But even without the knowledge of the U.S. government freely spying on other countries’ citizens, there are a few negative aspects that the survey unearthed.

A clear majority of countries, with the notable exception of Africa, thinks the United States acts unilaterally and ignores other countries’ interests on the world stage. Winston Churchill once summed up this attitude rather gallantly, as he said: “We can always count on the Americans to do the right thing, after they have exhausted all the other possibilities.”

One example in this area that most correspondents decidedly disapprove of are drone strikes in foreign countries, such as Pakistan. The above named issues, as well as the U.S. Middle East policy makes America very unpopular in these countries:

(percentage of population with a favorable view of the United States)

1. Pakistan: (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%) 

And despite the United States still being seen as the number one economy by 41 percent of the survey correspondents, most countries believe that eventually China will supersede it as the next world superpower. 

Another mixed bag is President Obama’s approval rating, which is still relatively high (72 percent in Britain for example) has plummeted like a stone in many important countries (-18 percentage points in Spain) since his first year in office in 2009. 

To finish of on a bright note, most young people give the U.S. much higher marks than the older generations, virtually guaranteeing a positive image in the future.