Meridian International Center and Gallup Release Findings on International Perceptions of U.S. Leadership


Priya Doshi, Meridian, 202.939.5559
Lauren Kannry, Gallup, 202.715.3050

WASHINGTON, DC – APRIL 20, 2012 – Meridian International Center and Gallup released findings from Gallup’s third annual U.S. Global Leadership Track yesterday at an event held at the Gallup Building in Washington, D.C. Gallup surveyed people in more than 130 countries in 2011 on whether they approve or disapprove of U.S. leadership. Median global approval of U.S. leadership held steady at 46%. However, an analysis using the same 116 countries Gallup surveyed in 2010 reveals that there was a slight dip in the median approval rating for U.S. leadership from 47% in 2010 to 43% in 2011.

Jon Clifton, Partner, Gallup, presented the findings. He said, “Approval of America’s leadership remains high, but double digit declines in 29 countries is concerning for America’s foreign policy.”

Meridian International Center President and CEO Ambassador Stuart Holliday provided context on what the data implies about the current and future state of U.S. leadership. He said, “We are settling into a more realistic picture of what U.S. leadership can accomplish, down from the initial sizable bump when President Obama first took office. This offers the U.S. useful guidance by showing what kind of leadership is most effective—one that promotes partnerships and innovation. It also reveals the risks to our international standing such as our inability to overcome domestic differences.” Ambassador Holliday added, “Regardless, the good news is that the U.S. still has some of the highest approval ratings for its international leadership, well above those of other powers like China and Russia.”

General Findings: Although overall the median approval ratings for the U.S. remained steady at 46%, there were only three countries that experienced double digit gains and far more that experienced double digit losses in approval. Africa again gave U.S. leadership the highest median approval rating, while the Americas gave it the lowest. In Europe and Asia, approval ratings held relatively steady.

By Region:

Africa: The median approval rating was 74% and median disapproval rating was 17%. Ratings were highest for Sub-Saharan Africa and much lower for North Africa. Approval ratings for Arab Spring countries in the region, with the exception of Morocco and Tunisia, which experienced a slight increase, remained largely unchanged from 2010. In the region, approval was lowest in Egypt at 19% but remained unchanged even after the fall of President Hosni Mubarak.

Americas: The median approval rating for the Americas dropped significantly to 40% from 46% in 2010. The median disapproval rating was 22%. This was likely due to a sentiment in Latin America that the region remains largely unengaged by the U.S. despite great hopes about increased engagement when President Obama took office. Panama and Colombia - both of which had to wait through a prolonged approval process for FTAs with the U.S. in 2011 - experienced double digit approval losses. Approval in this region was highest in Haiti, El Salvador, and Canada and lowest in Argentina and Mexico.

Europe: The median approval rating was 42% and the median disapproval rating was 26%. The median approval in Europe is still more than twice as high as it was during the last year of the Bush Administration but the trend seems to be moving in a negative direction. Belgium and the UK experienced the biggest increases in approval. Longtime U.S. allies Germany, France, Sweden and Spain all experienced double digit losses. It is likely that the approval losses in Europe stemmed from the financial crisis both in terms of perceptions of U.S. culpability in causing it and the decision by the U.S. to not intervene in the Euro crisis.

Asia: The median approval rating was 39% and the median disapproval rating was 27%. The 39% approval rate is still higher than at any time during the Bush Administration but remains relatively unchanged despite concerted efforts by the Obama Administration last year to turn its focus more toward Asia. Views of U.S. leadership vary in Asia with the majority in most countries being more positive than negative, but notable exceptions are in the Middle East and South Asia. U.S. leadership approval in the region was highest in Singapore and lowest in Iran.

View the full report


About the U.S. Global Leadership Project: The U.S.-Global Leadership Project is a joint effort between the Meridian International Center and Gallup to provide a comprehensive assessment of how world residents view U.S. leadership. The project combines Gallup’s unique global opinion data from more than 150 countries with Meridian’s leadership-focused context to create a powerful and useful barometer.

The U.S.-Global Leadership Project gives public and private sector leaders a better understanding of what is driving global views of U.S. leadership, creates a context for collaboration on how to improve those views, and enhances U.S. public and private global engagement efforts.

About the U.S.-Global Leadership Track The U.S.-Global Leadership Track is the largest global public opinion study of views about U.S. leadership. This report is the third in an annual series and includes U.S. leadership approval data from more than 130 countries that Gallup surveyed during the third year of the Obama administration. The Track ultimately will feature data from more than 150 countries.

About Meridian International Center Meridian International Center promotes global leadership through the exchange of ideas, people, and culture. Our mission is to create innovative exchange, education, cultural, and policy programs that advance three goals:

  • Strengthen U.S. engagement with the world through the power of exchange
  • Prepare public and private sector leaders for a complex global future
  • Provide a neutral forum for international collaboration across sectors

About Gallup Gallup has studied human nature and behavior for more than 75 years. Gallup's reputation for delivering relevant, timely, and visionary research on what people around the world think and feel is the cornerstone of the organization. Gallup employs many of the world's leading scientists in management, economics, psychology, and sociology, and our consultants assist leaders in identifying and monitoring behavioral economic indicators worldwide. Gallup consultants help organizations boost organic growth by increasing customer engagement and maximizing employee productivity through measurement tools, coursework, and strategic advisory services. Gallup's 2,000 professionals deliver services at client organizations, through the Web, at Gallup University's campuses, and in more than 40 offices around the world.