PRINCETON, NJ -- Americans have a more positive view of Canada than they do of any of 20 other countries rated in Gallup's annual World Affairs poll. Great Britain is a close second at 88%, while Americans have the most negative opinions of Iran, North Korea, and Afghanistan.
The top- and bottom-rated countries have been fairly consistent in the 11-year history of Gallup's World Affairs poll. Canada has been the top ranked, or statistically tied for the top, in all but one year (2005, when Great Britain had the highest favorable rating). Iran has generally been the lowest-rated country each year since 2005, though it was tied with North Korea in two of those years. In 2004, North Korea was the lowest. From 2001-2003, prior to the beginning of the U.S. war in Iraq, Iraq was the lowest-rated country.
Germany and Japan this year join Great Britain and Canada with favorable ratings of at least 80%, while India's and France's ratings exceed 70%. In addition to Iran, North Korea, and Afghanistan, four other countries -- Pakistan, the Palestinian Authority, Iraq, and Cuba -- have negative ratings at least twice as large as their positive ratings.
Notable Trends in Country Ratings
The largest change in any single country's ratings compared with last year is Egypt's 18-point decline. Country ratings are generally stable from one year to the next unless some significant event -- like the anti-government protests in Egypt -- occurs.
However, several longer-term changes in the way Americans view certain countries are apparent in the trend data. (The full trend for all countries measured this year is available in the document link provided in the Survey Methods section.)
For example, ratings of Mexico continue to decline, from a high of 74% in 2005 to 45% this year, just two points above the low measured in 1993. This is only the second time Gallup has found more Americans with a negative than positive view of Mexico. The decline is likely attributable to the ongoing illegal immigration issue and perhaps violence associated with Mexican drug dealers, which at times has led to incidents within the United States.
Americans' favorable ratings of Afghanistan and Pakistan, which have generally been low over the past decade, have hit new lows this year. The increasing negativity likely results from those countries' associations with international terrorism, which, in the case of Afghanistan, has resulted in a protracted U.S. military engagement in that country. Ratings of those two countries peaked in 2005, more than three years into U.S. military involvement in Afghanistan and shortly after that country held democratic elections.
Several other countries have seen notable gains in their approval ratings this year. Opinions of France are back above 70% for the first time since 2002. Americans' views of France soured in the lead-up to the war in Iraq, which France opposed. In March 2003, Americans were about twice as likely to view France negatively (64%) as positively (34%), but their views of the country have gradually improved since then.
Sixty-five percent of Americans have a favorable opinion of South Korea, up five points from the prior measurement in 2008, and the highest Gallup has found since it first asked about the country in 1991. The United States and South Korea worked out a free trade agreement late last year, which is pending approval from both countries' legislatures.
Americans' ratings of foreign countries suggest Americans are aware of what is occurring internationally. Countries that are friendly to the United States and supportive of its foreign policy are generally rated positively, while countries that are unfriendly to the United States and oppose its policies are rated negatively.
Americans' ratings of foreign countries generally are stable from year to year, but when changes occur, they typically are in response to significant events that affect the nature of U.S. relations with that country. For example, the protests in Egypt made Americans more aware of that country's autocratic government, even though Egypt has generally been a U.S. ally. And though Mexico and the United States have largely been friendly, some of the challenges Mexico is dealing with -- such as emigration and drug violence -- have had a direct impact on the United States.
Results for this Gallup poll are based on telephone interviews conducted Feb. 2-5, 2011, with a random sample of 1,015 adults, aged 18 and older, living in the continental U.S., selected using random-digit-dial sampling.
For results based on the total sample of national adults, one can say with 95% confidence that the maximum margin of sampling error is ±4 percentage points.
Interviews are conducted with respondents on landline telephones (for respondents with a landline telephone) and cellular phones (for respondents who are cell phone-only). Each sample includes a minimum quota of 150 cell phone-only respondents and 850 landline respondents, with additional minimum quotas among landline respondents for gender within region. Landline respondents are chosen at random within each household on the basis of which member had the most recent birthday.
Samples are weighted by gender, age, race, education, region, and phone lines. Demographic weighting targets are based on the March 2010 Current Population Survey figures for the aged 18 and older non-institutionalized population living in continental U.S. telephone households. All reported margins of sampling error include the computed design effects for weighting and sample design.
In addition to sampling error, question wording and practical difficulties in conducting surveys can introduce error or bias into the findings of public opinion polls.
For more details on Gallup's polling methodology, visit www.gallup.com.