PRINCETON, NJ -- Americans are feeling more favorably toward several of the United States' major allies in 2012 than they have in the past. This year's ratings for Canada (96%), Australia (93%), Germany (86%), Japan (83%), and India (75%) are all record highs for those countries in Gallup trends that stretch back at least a decade. Additionally, the survey finds Great Britain (90%), France (75%), and Israel (71%) rated near their all-time highs.
A whopping 96% of Americans have a generally favorable view of Canada, while 3% view it unfavorably. That favorable rating is the highest Gallup has measured for any country in more than 20 years of asking this question. Canada's 93% ratings in 1987 and 1989 were the previous high favorable for any country. Complete country-by-country results are found on page 2.
Iran is the least well-regarded country measured this year, with 10% of Americans viewing it favorably and 87% unfavorably. This comes at a time when Iran is under heavy scrutiny and criticism from the West over its nuclear programs. However, Americans' favorable ratings of Iran have been consistently low since Gallup's first measurement with this question in 1989, mostly registering around 10% but with a range from 5% (in 1989) to 17% (in 2004).
Favorability toward North Korea, Afghanistan, and Pakistan is not much higher. Americans' views of North Korea have been steady near the 13% level since 2003, about a year after then-President George W. Bush declared the communist country to be part of an "axis of evil" for its purported efforts to build weapons of mass destruction. By contrast, from 2000 to February 2002, North Korea's favorable rating was about twice as high, ranging between 23% and 31%. Today's 14% favorability toward Afghanistan is tied with last year's rating as the record low for that country, likely reflecting the Taliban's continued influence in Afghanistan even after the United States removed the Islamic group from power after the 9/11 attacks. Americans' rating of Pakistan is the lowest Gallup has measured, coming nearly a year after Osama bin Laden was found hiding in that country, thus raising questions about whether the Pakistani government was helping to protect him.
More generally, nearly all of the countries that garner majority unfavorable ratings are located in the Mideast or in Asian countries outside of that region. The sole exception is Cuba.
Ratings Improve for Cuba, Egypt, Mexico, and Saudi Arabia
Four countries that are not well reviewed nevertheless enjoyed some improvement in their U.S. image this year:
- Cuba's favorable rating rose to a new high of 37%, up from 30% in 2011. This contrasts with 10% viewing it favorably in 1996.
- Egypt's rating recovered somewhat to 47%, after slipping to 40% in 2011 from 58% in 2010.
- Mexico is now viewed favorably by 51% of Americans, up from 45% in 2011, but still below the 67% to 74% ratings seen from 2001 to 2005.
- Saudi Arabia's rating has increased to 42% from 37% a year ago and is the highest for that country since February 2001, when it was 47%.
Favorability Toward China Slips
Only one country this year -- China -- suffered a real decline among Americans, with its favorable rating falling from 47% in 2011 to 41% today. However, China's favorable rating has been in this range for the past decade.
U.S. favorability toward China had dipped to even lower levels in the decade after the June 4, 1989, Tiananmen Square massacre. China achieved its highest U.S. favorable rating, 72%, just a few months earlier, after then-President George H.W. Bush returned from a state visit to China.
In a year when America continues to be faced with political and economic foreign policy challenges around the world, Americans are feeling warmer than ever toward several of the United States' long-standing allies, including Canada, Australia, Germany, India, and Japan, while maintaining high views of Great Britain, France, and Israel. Ratings of other allies -- Saudi Arabia, Mexico, and Egypt -- have also improved. Favorability toward Cuba jumped to a new high, while views of China slipped back to the low end of the range seen over the past decade. Iran remains Americans' least favored nation -- not surprising, given the open hostilities between the two countries -- but is matched closely with North Korea and Afghanistan.
Results for this Gallup poll are based on telephone interviews conducted Feb. 2-5, 2012, with a random sample of 1,029 adults, aged 18 and older, living in all 50 U.S. states and the District of Columbia.
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 and cellular phones, with interviews conducted in Spanish for respondents who are primarily Spanish-speaking. Each sample includes a minimum quota of 400 cell phone respondents and 600 landline respondents per 1,000 national adults, with additional minimum quotas among landline respondents by region. Landline telephone numbers are chosen at random among listed telephone numbers. Cell phone numbers are selected using random-digit-dial methods. 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, Hispanic ethnicity, education, region, adults in the household, and phone status (cell phone only/landline only/both, cell phone mostly, and having an unlisted landline number). Demographic weighting targets are based on the March 2011 Current Population Survey figures for the aged 18 and older non-institutionalized population living in 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.
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