BRUSSELS -- While the honeymoon period after President Barack Obama's election ended in some parts of the world this year, median U.S. leadership approval remained stable at about 50% in the European Union between 2009 and 2010. Approval did drop significantly in 2010, however, in countries where the effects of the global financial and economic crisis remain severe, including Greece, Ireland, and Portugal.
EU citizens' continued approval of U.S. leadership stands in striking contrast to President George W. Bush's last year in office. That year, a minority in every EU country surveyed approved of U.S. leadership, ranging from less than 10% in Spain and Austria to 39% in Hungary. Median approval was 19%. Disapproval rates neared the three-quarter mark in the Netherlands and Austria (74% and 73%, respectively).
Public opinion in the European Union transformed with Obama's election. During his first year in office, the lowest approval rate of U.S. leadership in the European Union was 32% in Poland and the highest was 80% in Ireland. Median approval soared to 47%. The 2010 median of 50% reflects a continuation of that higher level of approval.
Ratings Differ in "New" and "Old" European Union
Approval of U.S. leadership has not been uniform across the European Union. Notably, there is a divide in how the "old" and "new" EU member states perceive U.S. leadership. The "old" European Union -- which includes long-time allies such as the United Kingdom, France, and Germany -- was more critical of U.S. leadership in 2008 (with a median approval rate of 17%) and more supportive after (52% in 2009 and 2010).
The "new" European Union -- which includes former Eastern bloc countries such as Poland and Hungary -- was relatively less critical of U.S. leadership before Obama, with a median approval rate of 25% in 2008. The increase in approval was less dramatic; it reached 41% in 2009 and 43% in 2010.
Despite Europeans' less-than-enthusiastic support for U.S. presence in Afghanistan (according to Pew Global Attitudes polls), and their own leaders' differences with Obama, the general public is still far more supportive of U.S. leadership under the Obama administration than it was prior to his election.
Explore trends in U.S. leadership approval in more than 150 countries that Gallup surveys around the world.
For complete data sets or custom research from the more than 150 countries Gallup continually surveys, please contact SocialandEconomicAnalysis@gallup.com or call 202.715.3030.
Results are based on face-to-face and telephone interviews with approximately 1,000 adults in each EU member state for each year reported in this article. The most recent approval measures in 2010 were collected between May and August 2010. For results based on each sample of national adults, one can say with 95% confidence that the maximum margin of sampling error ranged from a low of ±3.5 percentage points to a high of ±4.0 percentage points.