Brazil | China | Egypt | Germany | India
Japan | Mexico | Nigeria | Poland | Russia
The international popularity of the United States held steady in the past year. Roughly half of our respondents had a favorable opinion of the U.S., with 29% neutral and 22% holding an unfavorable opinion. There are two notable exceptions: positive views of the U.S. decreased by nearly 20% in China, and increased by roughly 11% in Egypt.
We wanted to know what types of opinions or experiences contributed to positive or negative views of the U.S. So we looked for a relationship between certain soft power variables and noticed that people who had lived in or traveled to the U.S. were most likely to have a favorable opinion of the country, followed in order by people who had a connection to their country’s diaspora (i.e., friends or family members living in the U.S.), and those who have consumed American cultural products (i.e., movies, music, or news).
Similarly, we sought to understand how perceptions of American democracy’s shortcomings related to favorability of the country overall. We asked respondents what would make America’s style of democracy more attractive and provided ten answer options. The two most frequent answers for those with unfavorable opinions of the U.S. were: “a different person was president” and “the foreign policy of the U.S. was more restrained.”4 This is mostly consistent with our results from last year, though perceptions of “the gap between the…rich and poor” was also a significant driver then.
Internationally, support for American ideas of democracy appears to have softened in the past year. In the eight countries we surveyed both years, 3% fewer people claim to like these ideas. Nevertheless, as with last year, more than twice as many people report liking as they do disliking them. American ideas of democracy are generally more popular in countries which have less experience of democratic government. Among a set of possible reasons provided, the top one for liking American ideas of democracy is the protection of individual liberties. The top one for disliking them is that they’re hypocritical since “ordinary voters don’t actually have power.”
We also wanted to know what people across the world thought about the recent impact of American leadership and influence. Nearly half of the people in our ten countries believe the U.S. has had a positive influence in their region during the past twenty years. Three-in-ten have a neutral opinion while 22% believe its influence has been negative. These numbers are inverted for China and Russia, where nearly half the public believes U.S. influence has been negative. Interestingly, by more than two-to-one, Germans believe American influence in their region has been negative instead of positive. Among the most middling responses on the impact of U.S. influence are Mexicans, Egyptians, and the Japanese.
Given that globalization has become synonymous with Americanization in the minds of many, it’s predictable that respondents from the countries which had a negative appraisal of U.S. influence also gave low marks to globalization. People from Russia, Mexico, Germany, Egypt, and China are, respectively, the most likely to believe globalization has not benefited their family, municipality, or country.
Nevertheless, U.S. leadership is preferable to Chinese leadership for majorities in all the countries we surveyed except China and Russia. Russians were mostly likely to choose noninterference in the politics of Russia as the reason for preferring Chinese leadership, and least likely to choose the economic investment or assistance which China could provide. Nearly 80% of respondents outside China thought American global leadership was better than Chinese global leadership for the world and for their country.
But when asked why they preferred U.S. leadership, reasons related to economic or national self-interest overshadowed the appeal of American values. Internationally, the most popular reasons were that “the U.S. is the largest economy in the world and is a trustworthy economic partner” and that “my country has a history of working closely with the U.S.” These were followed by: “the U.S. promotes democracy and human rights around the world,” “the U.S. values individual freedoms more than other countries do,” and lastly, “the U.S. sets a good example for national development for my country.”
People across the ten countries we polled registered a preference for democratic governments. Asked to rank the top three countries with the best form of government, the most popular were: the U.S., Germany, the UK, Canada, Japan, and France. Only after came China and then Russia.6
Despite these preferences, certain liberal democratic values outweighed others. Democracies always need to balance rule by political majorities with the protection of political minorities. So it’s not surprising our respondents were split down the middle when forced to choose whether their government should make decisions based on the majority’s interests or account for the minority’s interests. But when it came to political protests and immigration of certain religious groups, most people opted for social order and national unity over more liberal positions per the graphic below.
We’ve examined how people around the world view the United States and its style of democracy, what they think of America’s international leadership, which governments they most admire, and how they want their own government to negotiate certain liberties. We now end with a short review of whether, according to our data, people ultimately want their system of government to be more like that of the U.S. (52%) or less like that of the U.S. (21%, with 27% neutral).
We inspected the survey results to find what may have contributed to these attitudes. People who believe America’s democracy sets a positive example for the world were significantly more likely to want their government to be more like that of the U.S., and those who believed the U.S. should focus on the flaws in its own political system were significantly more likely to want it to be less like that of the U.S. But another more interesting relationship emerged from our data. We explored the possibility of a relationship between respondents’ support for their government being more like that of the U.S. and their appraisal of which component of democracy was best demonstrated by the U.S. Those who chose “respect for individual and civil liberties” were significantly more likely to want their government to be like that of the U.S.
Finally, we asked people in these ten countries whether they’d like to see their country become more supportive or opposed to the U.S. in the next twenty years. Forty percent chose somewhat more or much more supportive while 24% chose somewhat more or much more opposed. People who believe “the presence of U.S. military bases in or around my country threatens” their country’s independence were more likely to desire a more adversarial stance toward the U.S.
The majority of Brazilians hold favorable opinions of the U.S. (70% including 45% who have a “very favorable” view). Over half of all Brazilians either somewhat like or strongly like American ideas of democracy. While the number of people who dislike American ideas of democracy is very low (around 12%), the main reason why is: “the U.S. idea of democracy is hypocritical – ordinary voters don’t actually have power.” Among people who view American ideas of democracy favorably, the most popular reason they gave was: “laws are better when politicians must be responsive to voters.” Around 75% of respondents believe their government should be more, rather than less, like that of the U.S.
Probing further into what would make American-style democracy more attractive to people in Brazil, the most popular answer choices were: tackling income inequality, corruption, minority rights, and climate change. This might be explained, as discussed in last year’s report, by a desire for these same challenges to be tackled by Brazil itself. It may reflect what Brazilians see as problems in their own country.7
Respondents in Brazil generally look approvingly upon American influence and foreign policy. When asked if U.S. influence has made the world a better or worse place in the past twenty years, more than half chose somewhat better or much better. Similarly, the majority of Brazilians believe U.S. influence in and around Brazil has also been positive. And, around 75% of Brazilians somewhat agree or strongly agree that globalization has benefited them, their town, and country overall.
However, not all types of American influence in Brazil are given equal weight. Given America’s legacy of CIA-backed coups in South America,8 we weren’t terribly surprised that Brazilian opinion of U.S. military influence is less positive than views toward American soft power.
Nevertheless, the number of Brazilians who believe the U.S. has effectively promoted stability around the world increased between 2019 and 2020. This could be attributed to the rise of the ideological right in Brazil, whose confidence in U.S. President Donald Trump has increased, as reported by a 2019 Pew Global Attitudes & Trends survey.9
Around 75% of Brazilians surveyed believe having the U.S., rather than China, as the world’s superpower would be better for their country. The most popular rationales for choosing the U.S. were: “the United States is the largest economy in the world and is a trustworthy economic partner” and “my country has a history of working closely with the United States.”
Despite President Jair Bolsonaro’s recent crackdowns on freedom of speech and other civil liberties in Brazil, or perhaps because of them, most Brazilians believe the police should not be allowed to block political protests from taking place even if those protests disrupt the social order (although a majority of Brazilians also believe that the government should be able to block certain types of media content and restrict immigration of certain religious groups if either threaten national unity or the social order).
In last year’s report, our findings indicated the Chinese public had a generally favorable view of the U.S. and its form of government. This year, those numbers decreased significantly.
Between 2019 and 2020, favorable opinions of the U.S. decreased by nearly 20% while unfavorable opinions increased by 11%. In 2019, around 40% of Chinese respondents reported they either somewhat like or strongly like American ideas of democracy, and around 40% had neutral views. In 2020, positive views of American ideas of democracy decreased by 15%. When asked to choose a rationale for why people dislike American ideas of democracy, the majority of respondents were split evenly between the explanations that “government is inefficient when too many different opinions and interests compete” (31.5%) and “the U.S. idea of democracy is hypocritical – ordinary voters don’t actually have power” (31.5%).
Chinese respondents appear ambivalent when asked whether they want to see their system of government become more or less like that of the U.S. Nearly half of respondents believe the Chinese government should be neither more nor less like that of the U.S. government, with the remainder evenly split between wanting their government to be less or more like that of the U.S. This finding represents a distinct shift from last year’s results, where a majority of people in China did want their government to be either somewhat more or much more like that of the U.S. (54%). And it’s not just with respect to American governance: positive views about the American people went down slightly (and negative views increased slightly) in 2020.
To be sure, Chinese respondents still value the same democratic attributes that people in other countries strongly value. The components of democracy that the Chinese view as being very important are: equality under the law and the protection of individual and civil liberties.
So our findings suggest that attributes of democracy are viewed somewhat positively by people in China; but not as positively when associated with the U.S. America’s foreign policy might explain why. When asked what would make American-style democracy more attractive in China, the most popular answer was “if the foreign policy of the United States was more restrained.” This makes sense given escalating geopolitical and trade tensions between Washington and Beijing.
About half of Chinese respondents believed that in the past twenty years, U.S. influence has made the world a worse place, while 30% believe it has made it a better place. The Chinese view the presence of U.S. embassies and diplomats negatively, which makes sense in light of the recent crackdown on American journalists and diplomats in China.10 The type of American influence viewed most positively is economic aid from the U.S. and the import of American consumer products. And, as with American economic influence, a majority of people in China believe globalization benefits them, their family, municipality, and country.
Further, slightly more than half the respondents in China believe the U.S. military’s involvement in their region of the world has not promoted stability. This is not surprising given their desire for a more restrained U.S. foreign policy, and other actions by Washington which Beijing deems antagonistic – such as the recent approval of the sale of $2 billion in military equipment to Taiwan.11
Egyptian opinion of American democracy remains mixed; although favorable attitudes toward the U.S. have increased by 11% this past year. The majority of Egyptians like – and only 15% dislike – American ideas about democracy. However, only 40% have a favorable opinion of the U.S. more generally (40% are neutral, and 20% have an unfavorable opinion).
Even though Egyptian opinion of American-style democracy is positive, we wanted to know what would make America’s style of democracy more attractive to everyday Egyptians. Asked to rank the top three options among a list of ten, the most popular were: the narrowing income gap between rich and poor people, less corruption in politics, and a more restrained approach to U.S. foreign policy.
In 2019, less than half (47%) of Egyptian respondents said they believe America’s democracy sets a positive example for the world. In 2020, that increased to two-thirds (66%). Egyptian belief in the power of America’s example has gone up. The increasingly positive views Egyptians have toward American-style democracy are illuminated by another finding: when asked which of a long list of countries has the best form of government, Egyptians’ top choice was the U.S.
Egyptian support for America’s style of governance is complicated by dissatisfaction with American foreign policy in and around Egypt. For instance, the belief that the U.S. should focus on the flaws of its own political system (instead of focusing on the political system of other countries) remains high at 67% over the past two years. Additionally, when asked whether Egyptians consider U.S. influence in their region/country as positive or negative, opinions were mixed. Their responses are roughly split among positive, negative, and neutral opinions toward U.S. influence.
This is interesting given the history of U.S.-Egypt relations. The two countries have long enjoyed strong security ties. Over the past 30 years, the U.S. has sent around $80 billion in military and economic assistance to Egypt.12 And while a majority of Egyptians agree that the U.S. military has a responsibility to maintain international stability even if some countries object to specific interventions, and more Egyptians think the U.S. has used its use its influence for good than those who don’t, Egyptians are conflicted about whether the U.S. military’s involvement in their region of the world has effectively promoted stability.
Probing further, a plurality of Egyptians view various types of foreign influence as largely negative. This includes American military influence, foreign aid, globalization more generally, “hostile foreign influence,” and even the presence of U.S. military bases in or around Egypt.
When asked whether having China or the U.S. as the world’s leading power would be better for my country, around three-quarters of respondents favored the U.S. The primary reason why the remaining quarter of Egyptians favored China was that “China does not interfere in the politics of my country.”
Germans are proud of their form of government, and, for the second year in a row, when asked to choose which of 15 countries had the best form of government, Germany topped the list. The U.S. was not even among the top four.
People in Germany, more than any other country surveyed, hold an unfavorable view of American ideas of democracy and of the U.S. more generally. Nearly half of Germans surveyed dislike American ideas of democracy. Even China and Russia have fewer respondents in this category. Nearly 60% of Germans who dislike American-style democracy do so because “the U.S. idea of democracy is hypocritical – ordinary voters don’t actually have power.” And, roughly half of German respondents report unfavorable views toward the U.S. (30% were neutral and fewer than 25% were favorable). More than twice as many Germans want to see their government less rather than more like the American system of government.
Negative views of the U.S. likely stem from opposition to President Trump. When asked to rank from a menu of ten things which would make “America’s style of democracy… more attractive in my country,” the overwhelming first choice was if a different person was president. However, it appears their negative opinions go beyond America’s president. When asked what they dislike most about U.S. style elections, half of Germans surveyed chose the role of money in U.S. elections.
Twice as many Germans believe the U.S. has used its influence over the past twenty years to make the world a worse, rather than a better, place. And, we found the belief that the U.S. military has effectively promoted stability around the globe decreased slightly between 2019 and 2020.
Since claims are often made that globalization benefits some countries more than others, we were curious how Germans felt about the effects of a globalized economy. We found diverse opinions among those surveyed. Interestingly, about half of Germans believe globalization has benefited Germany, but only around one-third believe it has benefitted to some degree themselves, their family, or municipality.
Looking into preferences between a China-led or a U.S.-led world order, 22% of Germans favor China and 78% favor the U.S. It will be interesting to see whether Germany’s new chancellor and its changing economic relationship with China changes how German citizens view China’s global role.13
Given the rise of far-right nationalist parties in Germany, and the influx of immigrants and refugees from the Middle East, it is notable that a strong majority of people in Germany seek to restrict immigration of certain religious groups. This is interesting since majorities are not illiberal in other ways.
India is the world’s largest democracy and, of the countries surveyed, has the most favorable views of the U.S. and America’s style of democracy. An overwhelming majority (84%) hold positive opinions about American- style democracy. (Egypt, Poland, Nigeria, and Brazil rank highly among countries who have favorable opinions of the U.S., too). Similarly, nearly 80% of those surveyed have a favorable opinion of the U.S. And just as many view U.S. influence in and around India positively. Among those who like American ideas of democracy, a plurality of respondents cite the protection of individual liberties as their primary rationale, followed by “everyone, including political minorities, is treated equally by the state.”
As in Germany, people in India take pride in their form of government. They ranked America’s form of government as the best, and India’s as second best. The U.K., of which India was once a colony, ranked third.
Among the small percentage of people in India who dislike American ideas of democracy, the most popular rationale is: “when the majority rules, the opinions of political minorities are disregarded.” This isn’t surprising given India’s historical attempts – sometimes unsuccessful – to fully accommodate its many different minority groups.
Nearly 80% of all Indians surveyed would like to see their system of government more like that of the U.S., indicating an overwhelmingly positive perception of the U.S. and American democracy. Out of a list of ten options, respondents in India ranked the following three components of democracy as the most important: equality under law, protection of individual liberties, and the freedom to vote and run for political office.
Indians also view U.S. influence in their country and region overwhelmingly positively. Around 80% of respondents believe the U.S. has made a positive impact in and around India. Additionally, unlike other countries we surveyed, all types of American influence are viewed positively, including military, economic, cultural, and political influence. This is interesting given India’s history of imperialism and foreign influence.
On the question of globalization and its benefits, an overwhelming majority of Indians feel that globalization has benefited them, their family, their municipality, and their country (over 80%). However, majorities in India also feel like globalization and other influences like foreign aid and U.S. military bases in or around India threaten India’s independence.
Only 4% think China would be better for the world than the U.S. as a leading power. This is likely attributable in part to India’s shared – and contested – border with China, and the two countries’ historically hostile relationship. And, despite a strong commitment to democracy in India, majorities prioritize security and social order above civil liberties and individual rights.
Most Japanese we surveyed continue to hold a “neutral” opinion of American ideas of democracy (60%), and there are nearly three times as many who dislike than like them. Of the ten countries surveyed, Japan has the smallest percentage of people who like American ideas of democracy (11%).
When it comes to views of the U.S. more generally, the majority remain mostly neutral (54%), although slightly more people have unfavorable views than favorable ones (26% and 20% respectively). And these views remain consistent when applied to the American people (majority are neutral at 65%, the remaining are split evenly among favorable and unfavorable views). This could be explained, in part, by the fact that a plurality of people in Japan report little interaction with American people, less travel to the U.S., and consume few American products.
The most popular rationale for why people in Japan dislike American ideas of democracy is: “when the majority rules, the opinions of political minorities are disregarded.” This is interesting, but not unsurprising given their system of government is a multiparty parliamentary democracy in which the Japanese take great pride. They rank Japan as the best system of government out of 15 different countries. The U.S. comes in second. Most want their system of government to be neither more nor less like that of the U.S. (47%) and a greater number of respondents want their system of government to be less rather than more like that of the U.S.
Respondents in Japan are generally indifferent to American foreign policy. When asked whether the U.S. has had a positive or negative influence on the world over the past twenty years, around half of the population surveyed feels American influence has made little or no difference with a quarter saying it’s been somewhat positive, and around a quarter saying it’s been somewhat negative.
When asked what would make America’s style of democracy more attractive in Japan, the top answer choices were: if America’s news media was less focused on scandal and superficial things, if the foreign policy of the U.S. was more restrained, and if the gap between the incomes of rich and poor people was smaller.
Lastly, and unsurprisingly given Japan’s geopolitical standing, people in Japan strongly oppose having China as the world’s leading power. Like India, only about 4% prefers China. The number one reason people prefer the U.S. to China is because “my country has a history of working closely with the United States.” This is followed by: “the United States is the largest economy in the world and is a trustworthy economic partner.”
A country with close cultural and economic ties, and geographic proximity, Mexico does not have particularly favorable opinions of the U.S. and its style of democracy, and comes close to favoring a China-led world. While other countries we surveyed hold unfavorable views of the U.S., most people nevertheless support American-style democracy and think the U.S. has the best form of government. Not so for Mexico. Mexicans selected Canada and Germany above the U.S. as the countries with the best system of government.
People in Mexico value the same attributes of democracy that others around the world value (i.e. equality under the law and the protection of individual and civil liberties), but they are divided over how they feel those ideas play out in America. Mexican respondents are evenly split between liking, disliking, and having a neutral view about American ideas of democracy. The most frequent response to why they dislike these ideas is: “the U.S. idea of democracy is hypocritical – ordinary voters don’t actually have power.” When asked what would make American-style democracy more attractive, the most popular answer choices were: if minority groups were treated more fairly, if there was less corruption in politics, and if the gap between the incomes of rich and poor people was smaller.
The most frequent answer for what people dislike most about U.S. elections was the role of money in U.S. elections followed by the level of corruption in U.S. elections.
Additionally, a plurality of Mexicans want their government’s relationship with the U.S. to either remain the same or opposed to the U.S. Only 10% of respondents want Mexico’s relationship to be much more supportive of the U.S.
Forty-four percent of Mexicans surveyed have either somewhat favorable or very favorable opinions of the U.S. but more than one-third of respondents have unfavorable views, and one-quarter reported neutral opinions. Even though people in Mexico are more skeptical about American ideas of democracy, a plurality wants to see their system of government become somewhat more like that of the U.S.
Mexican views about American foreign policy are also conflicting. More believe U.S. influence has been negative than positive, with around 20% indicating U.S. influence has made little or no difference in and around Mexico.
Around 50% of Mexicans surveyed believe “the sale of American military weapons and vehicles to my country’s military” has been either very negative or somewhat negative. This is intriguing given America’s focus on providing security assistance to Mexico to combat crime and corruption.14 While roughly half report the U.S. has a “responsibility to protect vulnerable groups of people even if it requires armed intervention,” they are divided over whether the U.S. military’s involvement in their region has effectively promoted stability. Slightly more than half believe it has not.
More than half of respondents believe “the presence of U.S. military bases in or around my country threatens the independence of my country.” People in Mexico do not harbor as much animosity toward other influences like foreign aid or globalization, but do feel as strongly about the threat of “hostile foreign influence.”
Globalization, however, does not seem to be perceived as having benefited Mexico in the way that it has other emerging economies. Brazil, India, and Nigeria report more favorable views of globalization. A plurality somewhat agree that globalization has benefited them, their family, city, and country. But about one-third either strongly disagree or somewhat disagree.
Like Russians, Mexicans are torn about whether China or the U.S. would be better as the world’s leading power. The top reasons why people in Mexico favor China over the U.S. are: “China sets a good example for national development for my country,” and “China does not interfere in the politics of my country.” The most popular rationale for respondents who favor the U.S. as the leading power chose: “my country has a history of working closely with the United States” and “the United States is the largest economy in the world and is a trustworthy economic partner.”
After three decades of military rule, Nigeria regained democracy in 1999. The youngest democracy among the countries we surveyed, Nigeria continues to be home to one of the most pro-American publics among the ten countries under study.
Around the same time we fielded this survey, President Trump extended travel restrictions to six additional countries, including Nigeria. People from the country will only be allowed to settle in the U.S. temporarily. Did this new law affect Nigeria’s overwhelmingly positive views of the U.S.? While we did not see an increase in negative views toward the U.S., there was a noticeable decrease in positive views among Nigerians. Between 2019 and 2020, there was a 7% decrease in very favorable views, a 2% decrease in somewhat favorable views, and a 13% increase in people who had a neutral opinion of the U.S.
Despite an increase in neutral opinions of the U.S., Nigeria continues to rank highly among the countries surveyed who like American ideas of democracy. The majority of the population (75%) likes American ideas of democracy. The most popular reasons why they like American ideas of democracy are: “the protection of individual liberties (e.g. freedom of speech and religion) is important” and “everyone, including political minorities, is treated equally by the state.” A majority of Nigerian respondents have a favorable view of the U.S. more generally, with fewer than 10% reporting unfavorable views. And among all of the countries we surveyed, Nigeria has the fewest who look upon the U.S. negatively. The majority of Nigerians believe the U.S. has used its influence over the past twenty years to make the world a better place.
While Nigerians have a particular fondness for America’s system of governance, they appear to have a particular dissatisfaction with their own. The countries Nigerians thought had the best form of government were: the U.S., U.K., Canada, Germany, and then China. Nigeria itself ranked very low on this list. People prefer Russia’s system of government to their own.
Corruption is top of the mind for people in Nigeria which is unsurprising given political corruption remains pervasive despite improvements in its election systems.15 When asked what would make American-style democracy more attractive, the most popular answer choice was if in the U.S., “there was less corruption in politics.” This was followed by if “the gap between the incomes of rich and poor people was smaller” and if “minority groups were treated more fairly.” They place a special focus on the rights of minorities, as supported by our finding that shows the majority of Nigerians believe their government should “take into account the interests of the political minority, even if it means the political majority does not get what it wants.”
With respect to American influence in Nigeria, 75% reported U.S. influence in and around Nigeria has been positive (less than 7% report negative). Most types of influence, including America’s diplomatic, military, and economic presence, is viewed positively.
The majority of Nigerians surveyed report globalization has benefited them, their family, municipality, and country. And, more people disagree, than agree, that foreign influences like foreign aid, globalization, and even the presence of the U.S. military bases in and around their country threatens their independence. The majority view these foreign (and American) influences positively.
A large number of Nigerians consume American movies, music, and news media and/or have family members or friends who live in the U.S., though most of the people surveyed did not report having visited or lived in the U.S.
Most think the U.S. would be better than China for the world as the leading power; though slightly fewer feel the U.S. would be better than China for their own country. China might appeal more to people in Nigeria as its investment in African countries deepens. After all, the main reason given by those who favor China is because “China can provide my country with economic investment or assistance” and “China sets a good example for national development for my country.” The reason people preferred the U.S. as the leading power is because “the United States promotes democracy and human rights around the world.”
The Polish public generally has a positive opinion of the U.S.; although favorable views decreased by 11% between 2019 and 2020 (71% to 60%).
Despite this change, Polish respondents strongly favor American-style democracy. Like India and Nigeria, the majority of Poles somewhat like or strongly like American ideas of democracy (65%). And, for the second year in a row, Poles reported the most important elements of a democratic system are equality under the law and the protection of individual liberties. Democracy is likely top of mind for Poles amid President Andrzej Duda’s new laws forbidding judges from questioning judicial appointments, and other undemocratic reforms to the Polish court system.16
When asked what most contributes to you liking American ideas of democracy, a plurality (40%) chose “the protection of individual liberties (e.g. freedom of speech and religion).” Nearly three-quarters of Poles (71%) indicated their system of government should be somewhat or much more like that of the U.S.
A majority think the U.S. has used its influence to make the world somewhat or much better over the past twenty years. Even America’s military footprint in and around Poland is viewed positively: Seventy-five percent believe the military collaboration between the U.S. and Poland is positive (while only 8% view it negatively). Countries like Poland and India stand out among countries who view this kind of influence positively (India is at 82%). Other countries are more negative in their assessment of America’s military impact, in particular. In fact, American military influence is viewed as positively as other sources of American influence in Poland, such as the presence of U.S. embassies and diplomats, economic aid, and investment by private companies.
With respect to America’s role globally, over 85% of Polish respondents believe the U.S. has a responsibility to maintain international stability. They similarly feel that the U.S. has a responsibility to protect vulnerable populations, even if that requires armed intervention. This makes sense since the vast majority agree that the U.S. has effectively promoted stability around the world.
Given how highly Poles think of America and having a better understanding of the potential reasons why it is not surprising they would overwhelmingly favor a U.S.-led world order to one led by China (only 5% chose China when asked which country they would rather have as the world’s leading power).
Another finding which complicates Poland’s affinity for liberal democracy, but foreseeable with the rise of Islamophobia and the power of right-wing parties, is that Poles tend to favor liberal values in the face of instability but not when it comes to restricting immigration of certain religious groups. In fact, a strong majority (70%) believe “laws should be able to restrict immigration of certain religious groups into my country if those groups jeopardize national unity.”
Do Russians view the U.S. and America’s system of government favorably? Our findings suggest that America’s foreign policy stands in the way.
Asked to rank the top three countries with the best form of government, Russian respondents ranked the most popular choices (in order): Russia, Germany, China, and Japan. Only then came the U.S. and the UK. When asked whether they had a favorable or unfavorable opinion of the U.S., like Mexico, their answers were mixed: nearly 40% had a neutral view, while around 25% had unfavorable views, and 35% had favor- able ones. Views of the American people, however, were more positive: only 5% report having unfavorable views of the American people. Favorable views toward the American people might be explained by the fact that a majority of Russians frequently consume American movies and music (though only a handful of respondents report having family or friends who live or have lived in the U.S.).
After Germany, Russia had the largest number of people who said they strongly dislike American ideas of democracy – only 8% of them said they strongly like these ideas. A reason that might explain these unfavorable views is: “the U.S. idea of democracy is hypothetical – ordinary voters don’t actually have power” – which nearly 75% chose as their rationale for why they dislike American ideas of democracy.
Respondents in Russia are more uniform in their opinions when it comes to American influence and foreign policy. A majority indicated U.S. influence over the past twenty years has made the world a worse, as opposed to a better, place. Fifty percent report U.S. influence in and around Russia has been either somewhat negative or very negative. Interestingly, the type of American influence viewed most negatively is not security-related, as might have been expected. Rather, a majority of Russians view the “importation of Western education models” negatively, and “the presence of the U.S. government to support the development of my country” negatively. Yet, nearly 70% view the import of American consumer products (e.g., clothing or technology) positively.
Our findings suggest a shift in American foreign policy might affect favorable views of American democracy. When asked what would make America’s style of democracy more attractive in Russia, the most popular answer was: “if the foreign policy of the U.S. was more restrained.” We also found that 60% of Russian respondents favor China as the world’s leading power: only 40% favor a U.S.-led order. The preference for China over the U.S. is even more pronounced when asked which leading power would be better for Russia, specifically, not more generally “the world.” And, the reasons they favor China over the U.S. are illuminating: “my country has a history of working closely with China” and “China does not interfere in the politics of my country.” Those who chose the U.S. over China gave the reason that “the U.S. is the largest economy in the world and is a trustworthy economic partner” and “the United States values individual freedoms more than other countries do.”
An interest in China over the U.S. also makes sense in the context of Russian opinion of civil liberties versus stability and unity. Even though Russians value democratic attributes (e.g., the most important attributes of democracy for them are equality under the law and the protection of individual freedom), it seems that stability is more important. For instance, when asked if political protest should be blocked, a majority of Russians believe those protests should be blocked if they disrupt the social order.
The silver lining? Although a plurality of Russians wish the U.S.-Russia relationship remains as it is currently, our findings show that more Russians want to see their government have a better, as opposed to a worse, relationship with the U.S.
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