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Countries Disapproving of U.S. Leadership Triples in 2017

by Jay Loschky

Story Highlights

  • At 83%, disapproval of U.S. leadership highest in Norway
  • Among highest-approving countries, 11 out of 15 in Africa
  • Traditional allies among most critical of U.S. leadership

WASHINGTON, D.C. -- In President Donald Trump's first year in office, 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. While Gallup's Rating World Leaders: 2018 report finds disapproval of U.S. leadership in Pakistan and the Palestinian Territories remaining high year after year, many countries with typically warm relations with the U.S. rank among its toughest critics in 2017.

Norway Leads Way in Disapproval of U.S. Leadership
Do you approve or disapprove of the job performance of the leadership of the United States?
Norway 83
Austria 79
Canada 78
Iceland 77
Pakistan 76
Sweden 76
Chile 74
Netherlands 74
Finland 73
Belgium 73
Germany 72
Mexico 72
Palestinian Territories 72
New Zealand 71
Luxembourg 71
Among 134 countries and areas surveyed in 2017
Gallup World Poll

Globally, disapproval of U.S. leadership is highest in Norway (83%), a country that the president recently mentioned as a preferred source of migrants to the U.S. In 2017, more Norwegians disapproved of U.S. leadership than China's (66%) or even the leadership of Russia (78%), a country that Norway has generally considered its top security threat.

Among the 15 countries with the highest levels of disapproval in 2017 are Western nations and close allies, including Canada, Mexico, Finland, Norway, Sweden, Iceland, New Zealand, Belgium and the Netherlands. On the campaign trail, Trump first set off alarm bells among longtime European allies when he referred to NATO as "obsolete." While the president later affirmed that he no longer views NATO as obsolete, relations between the new U.S. administration and U.S. allies have continued to deteriorate as they disagree on issues such as the Paris climate accord, the Iran nuclear agreement and recognition of Jerusalem as Israel's capital.

Kosovo, Albania Top Approval List

Majorities in 27 countries and areas approved of U.S. leadership in 2017, down from 59 countries the previous year. Three Muslim-majority countries and areas top the list in 2017: Kosovo (75%), Albania (72%) and Guinea (71%). U.S. involvement in the Kosovo war in the late 1990s and support for Kosovan independence continue to undergird relations between the U.S. and both Kosovo and Albania.

Support for U.S. leadership remains consistently higher among African countries than those in other regions. Africa is home to 11 of the 15 countries most likely to approve of U.S. leadership in 2017. At least two in three adults give their approval in Guinea (71%), Togo (70%), Central African Republic (68%) and Ghana (66%).

African Countries Among Most Likely to Approve of U.S. Leadership
Do you approve or disapprove of the job performance of the leadership of the United States?
Kosovo 75
Albania 72
Guinea 71
Togo 70
Central African Republic 68
Israel 67
Ghana 66
Congo (Kinshasa) 64
Gabon 63
Kenya 62
Liberia 61
Mauritius 59
Philippines 59
Sierra Leone 58
Chad 57
Among 134 countries and areas surveyed in 2017
Gallup World Poll

In Israel, approval of U.S. leadership has been relatively high since Gallup began asking about it in 2006 but experienced a significant jump in 2017, increasing from 53% to 67%. Polling in Israel was completed before the U.S. announcement to move its embassy to Jerusalem. However, Trump's campaign promise that he would recognize Jerusalem as the capital of Israel and his agreement with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on the need to renegotiate the Iran nuclear deal may have found support among some Israelis.

Bottom Line

More countries disapprove of U.S. leadership than at any other time since Gallup began collecting these data. Where American diplomats may have found themselves "pushing on an open door" in many countries in recent years, a potential decline in U.S. soft power may make it more difficult for the U.S. to influence foreign governments to support policies and actions that may be unpopular with their citizens.

The presence of many Western and allied countries among those most disapproving of the U.S. is a practical concern. In the post-World War II era, the U.S. has leaned on its many powerful partners to assist it in affecting issues beyond its borders time and again. Large declines in the image of U.S. leadership among traditional allies could threaten the country's ability to mobilize its most reliable partners needed in the pursuit of its foreign policy objectives.

Download the Rating World Leaders: 2018 report.

Julie Ray contributed to this report.

Gallup Global Managing Partner Jon Clifton discussed the major findings from Gallup's global survey on U.S. leadership on C-SPAN. Watch now.

Survey Methods

Results are based on face-to-face and telephone interviews with approximately 1,000 adults, aged 15 and older, in each country or area. Between March and November 2017, residents were asked to rate U.S. leadership in 134 countries or areas. For results based on the total samples, the margin of sampling error ranges from ±2.0 percentage points to ±5.1 percentage points at the 95% confidence level. The margin of error reflects the influence of data weighting. In addition to sampling error, question wording and practical difficulties in conducting surveys can introduce error or bias into the findings of public opinion polls.

For complete methodology and specific survey dates, please review Gallup's Country Data Set details.

Learn more about how the Gallup World Poll works.