WASHINGTON, D.C. -- With U.S. President Barack Obama Wednesday announcing that the U.S. will expand its military presence in Asia by deploying 2,500 Marines to Australia, Gallup surveys showcase the wide range of opinions of U.S. leadership in the region. A median of 44% approve of U.S. leadership in nine countries that are members of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) or the East Asia Summit (EAS) group. As many as 68% approve in Cambodia, but as few as 16% approve in India, with sizable minorities in all countries not offering an opinion either way.
The U.S. continues to have a relatively strong influence in these countries despite the global economic slowdown and the rise of China's power. The 2011 median of 44% is comparable with the 41% measured in 2010.
Obama takes part in the EAS on Saturday, capping off more than a week of meetings with key partners in Asia, where the president has emphasized that "no region will do more to shape our economic future than the Asian-Pacific nations." The expansion of military ties and the increase in the number of U.S. troops stationed in Australia further strengthen the strong bond between the U.S. and Australia, but spark a negative reaction from China.
Australia, the Philippines, and South Korea all have historical ties to the U.S. government and the military and are all among the countries where a majority or more approve of U.S. leadership. It should be noted that the two countries with the lowest approval ratings of U.S. leadership, India and Vietnam, also have the highest percentage of those saying they do not have an opinion of U.S. leadership.
Approval of China's Leadership Lags Behind U.S.
Obama has challenged China over trade, currency stances, and becoming a "grown up" economy during his trip. China has made great strides to become the economic powerhouse of Asia, but approval of its leadership still lags behind the approval of U.S. leadership in seven of the nine countries surveyed. Australia has the largest divide in opinions, while ratings are most closely matched in Vietnam and Malaysia.
Perceptions could change as Vietnam moves closer to a strategic partnership with the U.S. and China continues to strengthen its economic ties to Malaysia, the country's largest ASEAN trading partner.
U.S. approval ratings in Asia show that positive perceptions do exist among ASEAN nations and EAS, but that there remains more room for improvement. The data also reveal how important it is for U.S. leadership to build a positive presence where it remains largely unknown -- like in rising economic powerhouse India. As a new member to the EAS, the U.S. has a chance to further develop its Asia-Pacific ties and assist in fulfilling the summit's desire to "promote common security, common prosperity, and common stability" for the entire region.
Results are based on face-to-face interviews with approximately 3,518 adults in India and 1,000 adults in Indonesia, Cambodia, Malaysia, Philippines, Thailand, and Vietnam, aged 15 and older, conducted in 2011. Results are based on telephone interviews with approximately 1,000 adults in Australia and South Korea in 2011.
For results based on the total sample of national adults, one can say with 95% confidence that the maximum margin of sampling error in 2011 ranged from a low of ±2 percentage points to a high of ±3.8 percentage points.
For complete methodology and specific survey dates, please review Gallup's Country Data Set details.
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