In 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.
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.