Brand America…steady but strained
The American Brand is doing okay. Are you surprised? I was and wasn’t. Pew Research just issued new research on perceptions of the international balance of power among over 48,000 people in 44 countries from March 17 to June 5, 2014. The research revealed that America’s image is similar to what it was nearly one year ago despite recent image problems from spying on other country leaders, negativity over drones, Middle East flareups and unrest. 65% (median) voice a positive image of the United States. This positive reputation extends to perceptions about America in Africa, Europe, Asia, and Latin America. Only in the Middle East are perceptions far below the global median (30% median). Thirty of the 43 countries surveyed contain majorities that view America positively.
No surprise here. The biggest declines in perceptions of America surfaced in Russia (51% positive in 2013 to 23% today). With the turbulence in the Ukraine today and the recent downing of MH17, the numbers have probably slid further downward. Other spots where anti-American sentiment exists are Greece, Pakistan and Argentina. The Middle East is decidedly unfavorable in their perceptions of America, particularly Turkey, Egypt and Jordan. Israel is the only country in that region that has a favorable view of the American brand. Palestine’s view of America, although poor, saw a rise in favorability from 16% to 30% (those figures have probably changed too). Interestingly, younger people between 18 and 29 are far more positive towards the American brand than those 50 years old and higher.
The reputation of President Obama has played into this rise in favorability for America relative to years ago when America was vastly unpopular for the war in Iraq and its foreign policy initiatives, according to the research. With the exception of the Middle East, Obama has a favorable reputation. Half or more of those surveyed in 28 of the 44 countries in the Pew Research sample believe that when it comes to world affairs, he will do the right thing. See the chart below (sorry for the poor reproduction). This assessment has not changed much from one year ago. However, there are five countries where his standing has dropped significantly — Brazil, Germany, Argentina, Russia and Japan. Clearly, the tapped telephone conversations of German leadership by the U.S. government significantly hurt Obama’s reputation. His image has risen substantially in two nations — Israel and China. Overall, is important to note, that compared to 2009 when Obama took office, his ratings have dropped. The bloom is off the rose although Obama’s reputation has remained steady over what I would contend has been a very tough year.