The FINANCIAL -- Canada once again ranks as the country or territory that Americans view most favorably, while North Korea ranks the least favorably among 22 countries on the world stage. Americans also view Great Britain, Japan, Norway, Germany, France and South Korea very positively. Five Middle Eastern countries -- Syria, Iran, Afghanistan, the Palestinian Authority and Iraq -- rank just above North Korea at the bottom of the list.
Historically, Americans have largely given positive ratings to the nations with whom the U.S. maintains good relationships and negative ones to the countries that the U.S. tangles with in world affairs, or that represent a military threat. These patterns hold true in the latest update of Americans' views of foreign countries from Gallup's World Affairs survey, conducted Feb. 1-10.
Americans' views of nations vary widely, with an 88-percentage-point gap separating favorability ("very favorable" and "mostly favorable" combined) toward Canada (94%) and North Korea (6%). These countries' ratings are near the historical high and low, respectively, among all of the countries Gallup has measured. Canada earned the highest favorability of 96% in 2012 while Iran and Iraq each earned the lowest favorability of 5% several times.
In addition to North Korea and the five Middle Eastern countries with low favorability, Russia (25%), Saudi Arabia (41%) and Cuba (48%) all fall below majority-level favorability.
Overall, favorability ratings reached a majority level for 13 of the 22 countries in the poll. In addition to the six countries with 80% or higher favorable ratings, India (75%), Israel (74%) and Mexico (61%) all maintained strong positive readings, while Egypt (59%) and China (53%) saw a significant increase in favorability. China crept onto the majority favorable list for the first time in nearly three decades, with 53% favorability, according to Gallup.
Gallup tested opinions on Norway and Haiti for the first time in this survey, after President Donald Trump's widely reported comments in January in which he said the U.S. needs more migrants from places such as Norway and fewer migrants from Haiti and other countries.
Six in 10 Americans view Haiti favorably, but there was a considerable partisan difference in opinions. Republicans view Haiti less favorably than Democrats do, 53% vs. 71%, respectively. There is, however, no partisan difference in opinions of Norway with 85% of all Americans, including the same percentage of Democrats and Republicans, holding a positive opinion of the Scandinavian country.
Countries Viewed Most Favorably Among Harshest Critics of U.S. Leadership
Gallup's 2017 World Poll recorded people's views about U.S. leadership in 16 of the 22 countries measured in the U.S. World Affairs poll this year. The questions are not parallel because the World Poll asks people in other countries if they approve or disapprove of the job performance of U.S. leadership, while the U.S. poll measures Americans' favorability of countries as a whole. Still, the differences in these ratings provide insight into where goodwill is more or less reciprocated.
Overall, the number of countries and areas where majorities disapprove of U.S. leadership more than tripled from 15 in 2016 to a record 53 in 2017, coinciding with the change from the Barack Obama administration to the Trump administration. These results are according to Gallup's Rating World Leaders: 2018, which is based on interviews conducted in 134 countries and areas between March and November 2017.
Many countries that have had historically positive relations with the U.S. were among the harshest critics of its leadership in 2017. For example, while Americans view Norway quite favorably, Norwegians do not approve of U.S. leadership. In fact, disapproval of U.S. leadership is higher in Norway (83%) than any of the countries included in Gallup's World Poll. Just 13% of Norwegians approve. Canada, where 78% disapprove and 20% approve, is also near the top of the list of countries most critical of U.S. leadership.
Israel is the only country included in both polls that registers majority approval of America's leadership. The poll in Israel was completed prior to the Trump administration's announcement that the U.S. would recognize Jerusalem as Israel's capital and move the U.S. embassy there, but Trump had promised to do so throughout his presidential campaign. For their part, 74% of Americans view Israel favorably.
Reflecting continued tensions, Russian and American sentiments are similarly negative. Although the rating is slightly improved from 2016, just 8% of Russians approve of U.S. leadership. One-quarter of Americans view Russia favorably. Residents of Iraq and Afghanistan both approve of U.S. leadership more so than Americans view those countries favorably. Iranians' opinions of U.S. leadership are about the same as Americans' favorability rating of Iran (both under 20%).
With near unanimity, Americans have a favorable opinion of Canada and an unfavorable opinion of North Korea, continuing the pattern seen in 2017. As has been the case historically in Gallup polling, traditional American allies are among the countries rated most positively, while U.S. adversaries join North Korea with highly negative ratings. Yet, in a departure from the past, many U.S. allies have soured on U.S. leadership since Trump took office.
Currently, Israel is one of the few countries that currently holds U.S. leadership in high esteem. If it persists, the sharp erosion in approval of U.S. leadership in many countries around the globe could lead to increased isolation.