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South Korea's Image at New High in U.S.

South Korea's Image at New High in U.S.

Story Highlights

  • More than three in four Americans (77%) view South Korea favorably
  • Up from previous high of 65% in 2011
  • Meanwhile, North Korea's favorability hits new low of 6%

WASHINGTON, D.C. -- More than three in four Americans (77%) have a favorable view of South Korea, the host of the 2018 Winter Olympics. This is up 13 percentage points from Gallup's last reading in 2014 and is the best image for the country among Americans across the eight times Gallup has measured it since 1991.

Americans' Ratings of South Korea

Americans have always viewed South Korea more favorably than unfavorably in Gallup's trend, with majorities viewing it favorably in all measures since 2002. The country's latest favorability rating bests its previous high of 65% in 2011 by 12 points.

Americans are also more familiar with South Korea than in the past. Nearly one in four Americans (23%) had no opinion of South Korea when Gallup first polled on the question in 1991, but this figure dropped to 13% in 2001 and 6% in 2011. Today, just 2% of Americans have no opinion. This increase in familiarity is likely because of the Olympics or South Korea's prominence in news stories about North Korea, which has had escalating tensions with the U.S. in recent years.

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North Korea's Image in U.S. Hits a New Low

South Korea's big moment as host of the Winter Olympics comes at a critical juncture in its long-frayed relationship with North Korea, as the event has provided an opportunity for unusually friendly contact between the two countries, whose leaders have not met in over a decade. In a major development, teams from both countries marched together under a unified Korean flag at the opening ceremony.

But as the two Koreas have taken steps toward a better relationship, Americans' views of each country have taken different courses. As South Korea's favorability reaches a new high in 2018, North Korea's has fallen to a new low.

North Korea's favorable ratings have been consistently low in Gallup's trend since 2000. But this year, Americans rated the country slightly worse than in previous years, with its favorable rating reaching a new low of 6%. This comes as North Korea surged to the top of the list of countries Americans consider the United States' greatest enemies, with 51% of mentions.

Americans' Diverging Views of North Korea and South Korea

Bottom Line

South Korea's image in the U.S. is by far the most positive it has been in Gallup measures spanning nearly three decades. Given the relatively long lag since the prior reading, it's not clear whether this is the result of positive attitudes surrounding the international games, or if it reflects Americans' sympathy with South Korea over problems with its northern neighbor -- a major U.S. enemy.

Americans' positive sentiments could diminish, however, if the U.S. and South Korea disagree about how to handle North Korea. Diverging views have recently emerged about how each country sees post-Olympics diplomacy with North Korea. While the Trump administration has remained firm in applying pressure on North Korea through sanctions and other diplomatic tactics, South Korea has already begun arranging reunions between families separated by a war that split the peninsula. Meanwhile, the South Korean president is deciding whether to accept an invitation to visit North Korea.

So, while Americans' views of South Korea are rosy underneath the glow of the Olympic rings, this could fade quickly as both countries work with their own interests in mind to solve one of the world's tensest international conflicts.

Survey Methods

Results for this Gallup poll are based on telephone interviews conducted Feb. 1-10, 2018, with a random sample of 1,044 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, the margin of sampling error is ±4 percentage points at the 95% confidence level. All reported margins of sampling error include computed design effects for weighting.

Each sample of national adults includes a minimum quota of 70% cellphone respondents and 30% landline respondents, with additional minimum quotas by time zone within region. Landline and cellular telephone numbers are selected using random-digit-dial methods.

View survey methodology, complete question responses and trends.

Learn more about how the Gallup Poll Social Series works.

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