Brand America In Decline

The new Pew Global Attitudes Poll tells the story.

A 47-nation survey finds global public opinion increasingly wary of the world’s dominant nations and disapproving of their leaders. Anti-Americanism is extensive, as it has been for the past five years.


Global distrust of American leadership is reflected in increasing disapproval of the cornerstones of U.S. foreign policy. Not only is there worldwide support for a withdrawal of U.S. troops from Iraq, but there also is considerable opposition to U.S. and NATO operations in Afghanistan. Western European publics are at best divided about keeping troops there. In nearly every predominantly Muslim country, overwhelming majorities want U.S. and NATO troops withdrawn from Afghanistan as soon as possible. In addition, global support for the U.S.-led war on terrorism ebbs ever lower. And the United States is the nation blamed most often for hurting the world’s environment, at a time of rising global concern about environmental issues.


The Pew survey finds a general increase in the percentage of people citing pollution and environmental problems as a top global threat. Worries have risen sharply in Latin America and Europe, as well as in Japan and India. Many people blame the United States – and to a lesser extent China – for these problems and look to Washington to do something about them.


In the current poll, majorities in 25 of the 47 countries surveyed express positive views of the U.S. Since 2002, however, the image of the United States has declined in most parts of the world. Favorable ratings of America are lower in 26 of 33 countries for which trends are available.

The U.S. image remains abysmal in most Muslim countries in the Middle East and Asia, and continues to decline among the publics of many of America’s oldest allies. Favorable views of the U.S. are in single digits in Turkey (9%) and have declined to 15% in Pakistan. Currently, just 30% of Germans have a positive view of the U.S. – down from 42% as recently as two years ago – and favorable ratings inch ever lower in Great Britain and Canada.


[O]pinions of the American people have declined over the past five years in 23 of 33 countries where trends are available. In Indonesia and Turkey, where favorable views of the U.S. have declined markedly over the past five years, opinions of Americans have fallen sharply as well. In Indonesia, positive opinions of Americans have fallen from 65% in 2002 to 42%; in Turkey, favorable opinions have declined 19 points.


Among key U.S. allies in Western Europe, the view that the U.S. acts unilaterally is an opinion that has tracked closely with America’s overall image over the past five years. Ironically, the belief that the United States does not take into account the interests of other countries in formulating its foreign policy is extensive among the publics of several close U.S. allies. No fewer than 89% of the French, 83% of Canadians and 74% of the British express this opinion.

U.S. policies also are widely viewed as increasing the gap between rich nations and poor nations. This is even the case in several countries where the U.S. is generally well regarded. In addition, this is one of the few criticisms of the U.S. that is widely shared around the world and with which a plurality of Americans (38%) agree.

Critiques of the U.S. are not confined to its policies, however. In much of the world there is broad and deepening dislike of American values and a global backlash against the spread of American ideas and customs. Majorities or pluralities in most countries surveyed say they dislike American ideas about democracy – and this sentiment has increased in most regions since 2002.


Public rejection of American democracy in most countries may in part reflect opinions about the way in which the United States has implemented its pro-democracy agenda, as well as America’s democratic values. Majorities in 43 of 47 countries surveyed – including 63% in the United States – say that the U.S. promotes democracy mostly where it serves its interests, rather than promoting it wherever it can.

The poll also finds negative attitudes toward American ways of doing business. Dislike of the U.S. approach has deepened. However, Muslim countries in the Middle East are a notable exception, despite their generally poor opinion of the U.S. As many as 71% of Kuwaitis, 63% of Lebanese, and even 40% of Palestinians say they like the American way of doing business. But the greatest admirers of the American approach to business continue to be in Africa, where huge majorities in countries such as Kenya and Nigeria endorse it.


Despite near universal admiration for U.S. technology and a strong appetite for its cultural exports in most parts of the world, large proportions in most countries think it is bad that American ideas and customs are spreading to their countries. The percentage expressing disapproval has increased in many countries since 2002 – including Great Britain (by 17 percentage points), Germany (14 points) and Canada (13 points). Israel, Ethiopia, Ivory Coast and Nigeria are the only countries (aside from the U.S.) in which majorities say they like the spread of American customs.

3 thoughts on “Brand America In Decline

  1. Looking at the figures in the Muslim world, I guess we can say that Karen Hughes has been a remarkable failure in her efforts, huh?

  2. Our individual futures, as well as the future of our nation, will be strongly influenced by our understanding of the power of values for good or bad, and what we can do to nurture the right ones in ourselves and in others – in family life, in our schools, in political leadership, in the administration of justice, in domestic and international business, and in other aspects of our daily lives.
    In addition to thoroughly documenting the problems that have been created by a moral decline in America, my book, AMERICAN VALUES DECLINE: WHAT WE CAN DO, presents some 30, on-going, successful interventions and programs for dealing with them.
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