PEW: Global Attitudes Towards US
Global Opposition to U.S. Surveillance and Drones, but Limited Harm to America’s Image
Many in Asia Worry about Conflict with China.
Revelations about the scope of American electronic surveillance efforts have generated headlines around the world over the past year. And a new Pew Research Center survey finds widespread global opposition to U.S. eavesdropping and a decline in the view that the U.S. respects the personal freedoms of its people. But in most countries there is little evidence this opposition has severely harmed America’s overall image.
In nearly all countries polled, majorities oppose monitoring by the U.S. government of emails and phone calls of foreign leaders or their citizens. In contrast, Americans tilt toward the view that eavesdropping on foreign leaders is an acceptable practice, and they are divided over using this technique on average people in other countries. However, the majority of Americans and others around the world agree that it is acceptable to spy on suspected terrorists, and that it is unacceptable to spy on American citizens.
Another high-profile aspect of America’s recent national security strategy is also widely unpopular: drones. In 39 of 44 countries surveyed, majorities or pluralities oppose U.S. drone strikes targeting extremists in countries such as Pakistan, Yemen and Somalia. Moreover, opposition to drone attacks has increased in many nations since last year. Israel, Kenya and the U.S. are the only nations polled where at least half of the public supports drone strikes.
Despite these misgivings about signature American policies, across 43 nations, a median of 65% express a positive opinion about the U.S. And these overall ratings for the U.S. are little changed from 2013.
Moreover, President Obama is still largely popular internationally – across 44 nations, a median of 56% say they have confidence in him to do the right thing in world affairs. And, while Obama no longer has the same high levels of popularity that he enjoyed immediately after his election in 2008, there has been very little change in his appeal over the past year.
The biggest declines in his ratings since last year are found in two nations where the U.S. has listened to the private phone conversations of national leaders: Germany (from 88% confident in 2013 to 71% confident now) and Brazil (69% in 2013, 52% now).
Obama’s favorability is also down considerably in Russia, reflecting recent tensions over the crisis in Ukraine. Only 15% of Russians currently express confidence in the American president, down from an already low 29% in 2013. U.S. favorability has also declined dramatically – just 23% of Russians say they have a favorable opinion of the U.S., less than half of the 51% registered in last year’s survey.
In spite of the unpopularity of U.S. spying and its use of drones, America also remains more popular globally than China, its principal rival in world affairs. A median of 49% of the publics surveyed hold a positive view of China. And the U.S. is still considered the world’s top economic power, although this is less true today than it was before the Great Recession. However, looking to the future, a median of 50% of those surveyed in both 2013 and 2014, up from 41% last year, see China eventually supplanting America as the dominant world superpower.
But China’s rising power also generates its own anxieties, especially in its immediate neighborhood. In particular, there are strong concerns in Asia that territorial disputes between China and its neighbors will lead to military conflict. More than seven-in-ten in the Philippines, Japan, Vietnam, South Korea and India say this is a concern. And two-thirds of Americans agree, as do 62% in China itself.
These are among the major findings of a new survey by the Pew Research Center, conducted in 44 countries among 48,643 respondents from March 17 to June 5, 2014. The survey also finds that in most nations, young people are more favorable than their elders toward both the U.S. and China. …