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Gallup Vault: U.S., FDR Won 1939 Popularity Poll in France
Gallup Vault

Gallup Vault: U.S., FDR Won 1939 Popularity Poll in France

President Donald Trump's visit to France this Bastille Day is a timely occasion to recall that nearly 80 years ago the French people named the United States and its president, Franklin D. Roosevelt, as their favorite foreign country and foreign statesman, respectively.

The United States Led the French People's Choice of Favorite Countries in 1939
What foreign country do you like best?
United States 26
England 23
Switzerland 15
Belgium 9
Russia 7
Italy 5
Sweden 3
Spain 2
Others 7
Gallup, British Institute of Public Opinion and French Institute, July 1939

Twenty-six percent of the French citizenry in the 1939 Gallup poll named the United States when asked, "What foreign country do you like best?" The U.S. came in just ahead of England (23%), while Switzerland, Belgium and Russia rounded out the top five. Italy, Sweden and Spain followed, with the latter three nations named by 5% or fewer.

FDR Was Favorite Foreign Statesman of French People in 1939
Who is your favorite foreign statesman?
Franklin D. Roosevelt (U.S.) 58
Neville Chamberlain (U.K.) 22
Joseph Stalin (Soviet Union) 5
Anthony Eden (U.K.) 4
Antonio Salazar (Portugal) 2
Gallup, British Institute of Public Opinion and French Institute, July 1939

At the same time, 58% of the French named Roosevelt as their favorite foreign statesman, well ahead of British Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain at 22%. This was just months before Adolf Hitler invaded Poland, discrediting Chamberlain's appeasement policy with Germany and, eventually, Chamberlain himself. Soviet leader Joseph Stalin was a distant third, at 5%, followed by former British Foreign Secretary Anthony Eden at 4%. The only other leader to earn a ranking on the list was Portugal's prime minister, Antonio Salazar.

Americans did not return the favor to France in a simultaneous poll conducted in the United States. Rather than naming France, 43% of Americans chose England as the country they liked best. However, France ranked second, at 11%, followed by Finland (4%), Switzerland (4%) and Sweden (4%). Also, French Premier Edouard Daladier ranked a distant third to Chamberlain in America's vote for favorite foreign statesman.

Meanwhile, Gallup polling in England found the United States also the favorite foreign country there, chosen by 33% of the British people. France ranked second, with 22%, and Russia third, with 12%.

The July 21, 1939, Gallup news release points out that the British people's attraction to the Soviets as a military partner may explain the Soviet Union ranking as England's third-favorite country. Meanwhile, Americans' appreciation for Finland repaying its war debts may explain that country's relatively high ranking on the U.S. list.

Just months before the start of World War II, the country liked least in all three nations was Germany, named in a separate question by 58% in the U.S., 54% in England and 70% in France as each nation's least favorite country.

Read the original Gallup news release.

These data can be found in Gallup Analytics.

Read more from the Gallup Vault.

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