Special Report

Countries That Hate America the Most

ThinkstockPhotos-479726257In 2014, 45% of the population across the 135 countries reviewed approved of the United States, roughly unchanged from the year before. Of major global powers, the United States received the highest median approval rating. While the current public opinion worldwide is relatively positive, especially when compared to the George W. Bush presidency, a majority of residents in 15 of 135 countries did not approve of the current U.S. leadership.

Based on data from The U.S. Global Leadership Project, 82% of Russians did not approve of the job U.S. leadership was doing, the strongest disapproval rating of any other country. More than 81% of survey respondents in Senegal and Kosovo, on the other hand, approved of the United States, both tied for the highest ratings in the world.

Click here to see the countries that hate America the most.

Public opinion alone does not dictate foreign policy. However, a country’s perception of another country can have a meaningful impact on foreign policy decisions that both governments make. Keeping global approval ratings of the United States high strengthens what is called soft power, which captures how diplomatic goals can be accomplished without military force.

In an interview with 24/7 Wall St., Stuart Holliday, former ambassador and CEO of Meridian International, said that higher approval ratings are “a reflection of the political capital we have in the world and therefore a reflection of how we’re doing in our international diplomatic activities.”

Of course, the relationship holds in the other direction as well. A country’s foreign policy is perhaps the greatest contributing factor to its image in other countries.

The spike in U.S. disapproval in Russia and nearby countries, for example, is largely a reflection of the United States and other Western nations siding with Ukraine after Russia’s annexation of Crimea. Russia’s disapproval rating of the United States surged 12 percentage points from 2013 to 2014. As Jon Clifton, managing director at Gallup World Poll, explained, Russia’s dislike was not limited to the United States. Russia also led the world for disapproval of both the European Union and Germany. Russia, however, is itself deeply disliked by many countries.

Other countries have deeply disliked U.S. leadership for some time. Former members of the Soviet Union likely still mistrust and harbor dislike of the United States from the Cold War era. Also, several Islamic nations have disapproved of U.S. leadership since at least the late 1970s. The five predominantly Islamic countries of the 10 nations that dislike the United States the most are extremely diverse religiously. According to Holliday, however, some of these governments “think we’re either interventionist in some cases,” or “anti-islamic.”

In its role as the world’s dominant superpower, the United States is often in the international spotlight, which can also partly account for some of the high disapproval ratings. Holliday said that there is “a general sense of U.S. economic dominance,” and many people around the world believe the United States is “too powerful, and has [its] interests at the core of [its] actions.”

Gross domestic product per capita in all but one of the 10 countries that disliked America the most was less than $30,000. In six countries, it was less than $20,000. By contrast, U.S. GDP totaled nearly $55,000 per capita in 2014.

Gallup asked country residents whether they approved, disapproved, or had no opinion of U.S. leadership. To capture dislike of the U.S. in these countries, 24/7 Wall St. focused primarily on disapproval ratings. Clifton noted that a sizable portion of many countries’ populations did not have enough information or contact with the U.S. foreign policy to form an educated opinion. Therefore, this ranking does not account for the low approval ratings that might accompany a high disapproval rating, nor does it highlight the respondents who refused to decide whether they approved or disapproved of U.S. leadership.

To determine the countries that dislike America most, 24/7 Wall St. reviewed the percentage of people who disapproved of the U.S. leadership in 135 countries from The U.S.-Global Leadership Project, a partnership between Gallup and the Meridian International Center. Perceptions of other global superpowers, such as the European Union, Russia, Germany, and China were included as well. Gallup also provided data from a number of other indices it produced through polling in 2014. National unemployment rates came from the International Monetary Fund’s (IMF) 2013 World Economic Outlook. IMF figures on GDP per capita are given at purchasing power parity in order to show real differences in wealth. Data on life expectancy is provided by The World Bank.

These are the countries that hate America most.

10. Slovenia
> Disapproval rating:
> GDP per capita: $29,658
> Unemployment rate: 9.8%
> Life expectancy: 80.3 years

A majority of Slovenian survey respondents said they did not approve of the United States’ leadership. Despite the country’s status as a major ally in NATO and a member of the EU, Slovenia’s disapproval rating of 54% was the 10th highest of the 135 countries reviewed. Like several other countries disliking the U.S., Yugoslavia, which included Slovenia, once had close diplomatic ties to the Soviet Union. Many residents have likely not forgotten the tensions during the Cold War. Slovenia was also hit hard by the European financial crisis, with public debt as a percentage of GDP growing from 22% in 2008 to 63% in 2013. This may also have contributed to the poor approval rating, as countries suffering financially are less likely to look favorably on the wealthiest nation in the world, according to Holliday.

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9. Tajikistan
> Disapproval rating:
> GDP per capita: $2,536
> Unemployment rate: N/A
> Life expectancy: 67.4 years

Disapproval of the United States rose from 39% in 2013 to 54% in 2014 in this primarily Sunni Muslim, landlocked Central Asian country. Tajikistan’s perception of The U.S. was not alone in suffering last year. Approval of the EU also fell 15 percentage points to 32%, and approval of China slipped 11 percentage points to 61%. The U.S. and Russia are competing to provide what Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for Central Asia Daniel Rosenblum described as “security cooperation” with Tajikistan. Tajikistan is one of 17 countries — six of which are former Soviet republics — in which the majority of respondents approved of Russia’s leadership. Some 93% of Tajik respondents approved of Russia’s leadership, the strongest such approval rating of any country. Tajikistan is one of the poorest former Soviet bloc countries with a struggling economy, corruption, power shortages, and other problems. It has the lowest GDP of the countries disapproving of the United States.

8. Austria
> Disapproval rating:
> GDP per capita: $45,789
> Unemployment rate: 5.0%
> Life expectancy: 80.9 years

Disapproval of the United States rose nine percentage points from 2013 to 55% in 2014 in this Central European country, which was once the seat of power for the Austro-Hungarian Empire. Following its defeat in World War I, the Empire was split and Austria became a smaller republic. It was annexed by Nazi Germany in 1938 and then occupied by the Allies at the end of World War II in 1945. It joined the EU in 1995. U.S. officials have been critical of Austria for continuing to trade with Iran and North Korea and for permitting the wanted leader of the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) to leave Austria. In addition to being one of the countries with the highest disapproval ratings of the U.S., Austria was also one of the 10 countries with the highest disapproval rating of China with 70% of respondents turning thumbs down on Chinese leadership. Austria is also somewhat of an outlier on this list, as it is neither a former Soviet Republic, nor a predominantly Islamic nation.

7. Egypt
> Disapproval rating:
> GDP per capita: $10,877
> Unemployment rate: 13.4%
> Life expectancy: 71.1 years

While the United States and Egypt both belong to the UN, IMF, World Bank, and WTO, and have been trade partners for many years, 58% of Egyptians disapprove of U.S. leadership — the seventh worst rating among countries reviewed. Egypt is the most populous country in the Arab world and a key ally of the U.S. in its effort to fight terrorism and promote stability in the region. The disapproval rating remained flat since the ousting of democratically elected President Mohamed Morsi. However, the subsequent cuts to the U.S aid budget to Egypt and its condemnation of Morsi’s ousting likely did not help improve the disapproval rating. Ties with the country’s newly elected president, former General Abdel Fattah el-Sisi, remain strained.

6. Iran
> Disapproval rating:
> GDP per capita: $16,881
> Unemployment rate: 11.2%
> Life expectancy: 74.1 years

The United States and Iran’s deep dislike for one another spans many years. In 1953, the CIA helped oust Iran’s Prime Minister Mohammed Mossadegh to prevent the country from supporting the Soviet Union. Once leadership was secured under America’s favored ruler Reza Shah Pahlavi, Iran grew powerful with vast oil revenues and U.S. weapons. However, the Shah had to later flee to Egypt amid the growing Iranian Revolution, which opposed the Shah’s “anti-Islamic” and Westernizing government. In 1979, Iranian revolutionaries seized the U.S. embassy in Tehran, taking 66 Americans hostage for 444 days. There have been U.S. restrictions on activities with Iran in one form or another since then. More recently, the United States and other Western nations have imposed extremely severe sanctions on Iran in an attempt to curb its nuclear capabilities. This April, the world’s major powers agreed on a framework for a nuclear deal with Iran. The country’s foreign minister said Iran will continue its nuclear enrichment program if all sanctions are not lifted by the end of negotiations.

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5. Pakistan
> Disapproval rating:
> GDP per capita: $4,574
> Unemployment rate: 6.2%
> Life expectancy: 66.6 years

Pakistan’s disapproval rating of U.S. leadership is greater than all but four other countries. According to the U.S. State Department, Pakistan has received well over $4 billion in civilian assistance from the United States from 2009 through 2013. In addition, the country has received about $13 billion from the United States in military aid over the past 13 years. America’s involvement in the country may actually be the problem, however. The United States focused its operations in Pakistan after the 9/11 attacks, and it continues to maintain a strong presence in the country to combat terrorism. Osama Bin Laden was hiding in Pakistan, and the U.S. mission to kill him may have also increased disapproval among many Pakistanis.

4. Lebanon
> Disapproval rating:
> GDP per capita: $16,430
> Unemployment rate: N/A
> Life expectancy: 80.1 years

A religiously diverse Middle Eastern country — 54% Muslim and 41% Christian — Lebanon is one of 15 countries in which a majority of respondents disapprove of U.S. leadership. It is also one of 11 countries where a majority disapprove of the EU leadership, and one of eight countries in which a majority disapprove of Germany’s leadership. Since the end of the 2006 Israel-Hezbollah war, Congress has approved more than $1 billion to improve Lebanese security forces’ control over the country and foster economic growth. The U.S. standing among Lebanese respondents improved slightly from 2013, when 71% disapproved of the U.S. Possibly contributing to a longer term U.S. loss of standing in Lebanon is the fact that some members of Congress questioned continued funding of U.S.-sponsored initiatives there. Since the 2012 fiscal year, Congress has placed conditions on annual aid to Lebanon.

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3. Belarus
> Disapproval rating:
> GDP per capita: $17,623
> Unemployment rate: 0.51%
> Life expectancy: 72.5 years

As in several other former Soviet Union countries, many Belarus residents may still harbor dislike for America as a result of tensions during the Cold War. Further, the U.S. backing of Ukraine after Russia’s annexation of Crimea may have exacerbated ill will towards the U.S. in Belarus, as it did in other countries in the region. The country is still friendly with Russia, as about 62% of Belarus respondents approved Russia’s leadership, up from 46% in 2013 — the largest such increase among countries reviewed. The county’s high opinion of Russia, the country disapproving of the United States the most, may partly explain its similarly poor perception of the United States. Also, poor economic factors may partly account for the poor rating, as economically struggling nations often look upon the U.S. unfavorably, according to Holliday. The country’s inflation rate of 18.1% was the fifth highest among countries reviewed, and the GDP per capita of $17,623 was among the lower figures worldwide.

2. Palestinian Territories
> Disapproval rating:
> GDP per capita: N/A
> Unemployment rate: N/A
> Life expectancy: N/A

The 72% disapproval rating of Palestinians towards the United States improved somewhat from 2013, when 80% disapproved of U.S. leadership — the worst rating at the time. The U.S. government has stated it favors a two-state solution to the Palestinian-Israeli conflict. However, perceptions among Palestinian Territories residents will likely not improve as long as the United States is perceived as fully supporting and aiding Israel despite its continued occupation of the Palestinian Territories. Hamas, the effective governing body in the Gaza Strip since 2007, is also considered by the United States and other Western nations to be a terrorist organization.

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1. Russia
> Disapproval rating:
> GDP per capita: $24,298
> Unemployment rate: 5.5%
> Life expectancy: 71.1 years

No country disapproves of America more than Russia, where 82% of survey respondents said they disapproved of U.S. leadership. This was also the worst rating from Russia in the history of the survey. While many Russians do not like America, residents of many other countries do not approve of Russia. The median disapproval rating of Russian leadership was greater than the median approval rating, the only country to claim this distinction. And while a majority of residents in 15 countries disapprove of the U.S., a majority of residents in 42 countries disapprove of Russia’s leadership. Russia’s disapproval rating of U.S. leadership worsened considerably from 2013, increasing 12 percentage points. Recently implemented U.S.-led Western sanctions on Russia have likely intensified Russians’ disapproval. According to historical data from the Levada Center, Russia’s independent public opinion tracker, negative attitudes towards the United States spiked during the invasion of Iraq and worsened again in 2008 after the Russia-Georgia conflict. More recently, the U.S. sided with Ukraine after Russia annexed Crimea in 2014.

In a previous version of this story, Slovenia was incorrectly described as part of the USSR. In fact, while Yugoslavia, which included Slovenia, was a communist nation with a history of diplomatic ties to the Soviet Union, it was a sovereign nation.

In a previous version of this story, due to a processing error, Belarus’ unemployment rate was incorrectly listed as 51%. In fact, the unemployment rate in Belarus is 0.51%. 

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