WASHINGTON, D.C. -- The leadership of the United Nations has more fans than critics worldwide, netting more approval than disapproval in 106 out of 126 countries Gallup surveyed from 2007 to 2010. A median of 44% approved of the U.N., while 17% disapproved and 33% didn't have an opinion.
Sub-Saharan African countries dominate the list of countries where approval of the U.N.'s leadership is highest. The U.N. has conducted missions in many of these countries -- such as Sierra Leone, where approval is the highest in the world at 86% -- or still maintains a presence, which helps partly explain higher awareness of the international body and approval of its leadership.
UN Unpopular in Middle East and North Africa, U.S.
Residents of countries in the Middle East and North Africa -- and the U.S. -- were among the U.N.'s small group of harsher critics. Majorities disapproved in Qatar (61%), the Palestinian Territories (60%), Algeria (57%), Jordan (55%), and Lebanon (53%). Nearly half of residents disapproved in the United States, Israel, Iraq, and Turkey.
It is important to note that these disapproval figures pre-date the recent Palestinian push for U.N. recognition of its statehood this September. If the U.N. General Assembly passes a resolution recognizing Palestinian statehood, the United States may veto this at the U.N. Security Council level. Should this occur, it may affect U.N. approval ratings among Arab nations.
Leadership Has Low Visibility in Some Countries
Although the U.N. is a global body, its leadership remains a great unknown in many parts of the world. Latin American and Caribbean countries -- with the exception of Haiti -- abound on the list of countries where high percentages had no opinion of the U.N. About two-thirds or more in Trinidad and Tobago (90%), Paraguay (83%), Uruguay (66%), and Mexico (65%) did not express an opinion.
This low awareness may be somewhat surprising given that 192 countries are members of the United Nations, but the U.N.'s low visibility in the daily lives of many worldwide and generally low education levels in some developing countries may partly explain it.
Explaining Perceptions of UN Leadership
Worldwide, approval of U.N. leadership is strongly related to approval of the five nations that are permanent members of the Security Council -- the U.S., the United Kingdom, France, Russia, and China. This makes sense, given the central position of the Security Council in the U.N. system and the major role these five permanent members play. At the country level, approval of U.N. leadership is also positively related to U.N. development grants per capita and U.N. contributions to peacekeeping operations. This suggests that those countries with more interaction with the U.N. -- either in what they get or give -- have higher approval of the U.N.
While the world's residents are more likely to approve than disapprove of the U.N.'s leadership, knowledge and approval vary from country to country. These differences in public support and public knowledge should be taken into account in ongoing policy discussions about the reform of the U.N. system, its legitimacy as an actor in global affairs, and its accountability.
See all countries worldwide for which U.N. approval data are available.
Visit Real Clear World's Top 5s feature to learn more about the countries where residents are most sour on U.N. leadership.
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 country, aged 15 and older, conducted between 2007, 2008, 2009, and 2010 in 126 countries. For results based on the total samples, one can say with 95% confidence that the maximum margin of sampling error ranges from ±2.1 percentage points to ±5.7 percentage points. The margin of error reflects the influence of data weighting. 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 complete methodology and specific survey dates, please review Gallup's Country Data Set details.