- By Joshua Keating
Joshua Keating is associate editor at Foreign Policy and the editor of the Passport blog. He has worked as a researcher, editorial assistant, and deputy Web editor since joining the FP staff in 2007. In addition to being featured in Foreign Policy, his writing has been published by the Washington Post, Newsweek International, Radio Prague, the Center for Defense Information, and Romania's Adevarul newspaper. He has appeared as a commentator on CNN International, C-Span, ABC News, Al Jazeera, NPR, BBC radio, and others. A native of Brooklyn, New York, he studied comparative politics at Oberlin College.
The big takeaway is that global approval of U.S. leadership in 2011 continued its slow slide since the excitement of Barack Obama’s election — though the country is still much more popular than it was in the last years of the Bush administration:
While some of luster of the Obama administration does seem to be wearing off, what’s interesting is that it’s not in the countries you might think, given the rhetoric of the presidential election. The “allies” that most frequently come up in Republican rhetoric still pretty much like us. Even after a contentious year in mideast diplomacy, approval for U.S. leadership in Israel is basically unchanged at 55 percent. In Britain, despite various perceived snubs, approval of U.S. leadership improved by 13 points. As for the countries that Obama has supposedly thrown under the bus as part of the Russia reset, Georgia and Poland both showed slight improvements.
The fall in support was actually driven by Africa, where approval fell by 10 percent last year but is still quite high at 74 percent, Latin America, where it fell by 6 percent, and European countries like France, Germany, Spain and Sweden, all of which posted double-digit declines in U.S. support. If, as Mitt Romney charges, “This president takes his inspiration from the capitals of Europe,” they don’t seem very appreciative of it. I would guess that the culprit in Latin America is the perceived lack of change in U.S. policies on trade, immigration, and drugs under Obama. Africans might be upset that despite his Kenyan roots, the president hasn’t made the region much of a priority in his foreign policy.
Gallup’s data from the Middle East and North Africa is a little spotty, but there doesn’t seem to have been that much of a change in approval following the Arab Spring — the U.S. remains pretty unpopular.
The country with the biggest drop popularity was Liberia, where approval of the U.S. when down 25 points. Perhaps non-Ellen Johnson Sirleaf supporting Liberians were unhappy with Washington’s tacit endorsement of the Nobel Prize winner in last year’s election? That doesn’t really seem like a big enough factor to explain that big a drop, so I’m guessing this was something a fluke.
Belgium saw the biggest improvement from 29 percent to 45 percent. Anyone have any guesses on how America got out of the Belgian dog house?