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Democrats, Republicans Differ Most on Views of Cuba, Israel

Democrats, Republicans Differ Most on Views of Cuba, Israel

Democrats more positive than Republicans about many countries

by Frank Newport and Igor Himelfarb

PRINCETON, NJ -- Democrats are more positive than Republicans toward a range of foreign countries, including Cuba, China, Egypt, and Mexico. Republicans have more favorable opinions than Democrats about only a few countries, most notably Israel. Democrats and Republicans rate a number of countries -- mostly those with very high or very low overall favorable ratings -- about equally.

Attitudes of Republicans and Democrats Toward Countries in the World, 2013

These results are from Gallup's annual World Affairs survey, conducted Feb. 7-10 this year. As Gallup previously reported, overall U.S. favorability toward the 22 rated countries ranges from a high of 91% for Canada to a low of 9% for Iran.

The comparisons across partisan groups are based on Democrats and independents who lean toward the Democratic Party, and Republicans and independents who lean toward the Republican Party.

Although a number of the partisan differences are statistically significant, the ratings are most substantively interesting for 10 of the 22 countries rated. In nine of these 10 instances, Democrats are more favorably predisposed to the countries than Republicans.

  • Democrats rate Cuba, China, Egypt, and Mexico at least 20 points more favorably than do Republicans. This was not the case eight years ago, in February 2005, just after -- as is the case this year -- an incumbent president had begun his second term. (Complete 2005 partisan differences in country ratings are on Page 2.) At that time, the only one of these four countries that generated the same large partisan difference was Cuba, which Democrats back then also viewed more favorably than Republicans.

    Republicans and Democrats in 2005 -- unlike today -- viewed China, Egypt, and Mexico similarly. Since 2005, Americans' overall views of Egypt and Mexico have become less positive, but Republicans' views have dropped more significantly than Democrats', thus widening the partisan gap. Democrats' views of China have not changed since 2005, while Republicans' views have become more negative.

Partisan Differences in Views of Cuba, China, Egypt, and Mexico: 2005 and 2013

  • Although a clear majority of Republicans and Democrats are positive toward France, the 18-percentage-point difference between the 82% favorable rating from Democrats and the 64% favorable rating among Republicans is the fifth largest across any of the 22 countries measured this year.

    A similar divergence of views was evident eight years ago. At that point, both Democrats and Republicans were less positive about France, almost certainly emanating from France's decision not to support the U.S. intervention in Iraq in 2003.

    But Democrats' favorable ratings then were 33 points more positive than Republicans' (67% to 34%). Over the last eight years, Republicans' attitudes have trended up more than have Democrats', perhaps reflecting Republicans' diminished awareness of or sensitivity to the Iraq controversy. These changes have thus reduced the large partisan spread found in 2005.

Partisan Differences in Views of France: 2005 and 2013

  • The current 18-point gap in views of Israel, with Republicans' 78% favorable rating compared with Democrats' 60%, is the only double-digit difference in which Republicans are the more positive group. A similar gap was evident in 2005. At that point, 76% of Republicans held a favorable view of Israel, compared with 65% of Democrats.

Partisan Differences in Views of Israel: 2005 and 2013

  • While Democrats and Republicans view Iraq and Afghanistan similarly now, this was not the case in 2005. Republicans' views of the countries have dropped by 22 and 35 points, respectively. Democrats' views of Iraq have edged up slightly, while their views of Afghanistan have dropped by 16 points, less than half of the drop among Republicans.

    Partisan Differences in Views of Iraq and Afghanistan: 2005 and 2013

    Americans' opinions of Iraq and Afghanistan in 2005 no doubt reflected U.S. involvement in wars in those countries, both begun on President George W. Bush's watch. Now, the U.S. has withdrawn its troops from Iraq, and is in the process of withdrawing from Afghanistan, and the Republican-Democratic gap has narrowed for both.
  • Democrats today view both Russia and the Palestinian Authority more positively than Republicans do, but this was not the case in 2005, when both groups viewed these countries similarly. Republicans' and Democrats' views of Russia have become more negative over the past eight years, but this shift has been more pronounced among Republicans. Similarly, views of the Palestinian Authority have soured more among Republicans than among Democrats.

Partisan Differences in Views of Russia and Palestinian Authority: 2005 and 2013


In today's polarized political environment, with big differences between Republicans and Democrats on many issues, it is perhaps no surprise to find that political partisans also view many countries around the world differently. The interesting finding is that these differences are very one-sided -- with Democrats, as a group, more favorably inclined toward many more countries than are Republicans.

The reason for these differences might be explained by divergent world views -- with Democratic and Republican leaders reacting differently to international situations involving these specific countries in recent years, in some ways reflecting differing views of the U.S. role in the world.

There are also straightforward political differences in regard to foreign countries. Republicans have historically been more concerned about communism and anti-American regimes around the world. Thus, the fact that Republicans are less positive about countries like Cuba, China, and Russia is not surprising.

Other Gallup polling has clearly documented that Republicans are more sympathetic than are Democrats toward Israel in the Middle East, and these basic attitudes show through in these data.

Some of the differences could result from demographic distinctions between the two partisan groups, particularly the fact that nonwhites -- many of whose families are fairly recent immigrants to the U.S., such as Hispanics and Asians -- are more likely to be Democratic in orientation, while the Republican Party consists more of whites, who may have longer-running ties to the U.S. and less of a connection to other nations.

Survey Methods

Results for this Gallup poll are based on telephone interviews conducted Feb. 7-10, 2013, on the Gallup Daily tracking survey, with a random sample of 1,015 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 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 of national adults includes a minimum quota of 50% cellphone respondents and 50% landline respondents, with additional minimum quotas by region. Landline telephone numbers are chosen at random among listed telephone numbers. Cellphones 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 to correct for unequal selection probability, nonresponse, and double coverage of landline and cell users in the two sampling frames. They are also weighted to match the national demographics of gender, age, race, Hispanic ethnicity, education, region, population density, and phone status (cellphone only/landline only/both, cellphone mostly, and having an unlisted landline number). Demographic weighting targets are based on the March 2012 Current Population Survey figures for the aged 18 and older U.S. population. Phone status targets are based on the July-December 2011 National Health Interview Survey. Population density targets are based on the 2010 census. All reported margins of sampling error include the computed design effects for 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 details on Gallup's polling methodology, visit

Attitudes of Republicans and Democrats Toward Countries in the World, 2005

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