These Striking Maps Show Who Loves and Hates America
It can be hard for us, as Americans, to take time away from spiking the football of freedom in the end zone that is human history. However, it may be worth taking a moment between metaphorical touchdown dances to consider how we’re faring in terms of popular opinion — and, of course, how we feel about ourselves.
To that end, TIME has created a neat interactive tool that allows you to compare the United States’ approval rating across countries and over time. Powered by data from Pew Global Attitudes reports, the tool’s maps betray some compelling facts about the world’s perception of the United States, and how our popularity has fared over the past decade.
Here’s what we learned.
1. Obama’s presidency has improved the world’s opinion of the United States ...
It may be hard to imagine, given his recent approval ratings, but global opinion of the United States has increased significantly since President Barack Obama was first elected in 2008. Australia, Argentina, Indonesia, Japan, and most of Europe have significantly warmed up to the United States since the last year of former President George W. Bush’s leadership. The United States even came to love itself more. While America only sort of really loved itself in 2006, when Americans' approval of their own country was 76%, that number shot up to 88% in 2009. Can we adore ourselves? Yes we can.
2. ... But the world liked Obama more before they got to know him ...
The most verdant map available is the one comparing 2008 and 2009, i.e., the very end of Bush’s presidency to the very beginning of Obama’s. The world celebrated the end of Bush’s bellicose reign, and welcomed the historic election of the United State’s first African American president. In the span of just one year, countries like Spain, France, Germany, and Indonesia went from having a largely unfavorable opinion of the United States to becoming some of our greatest fans.
3. ... Which can be seen in this map showing change over the past year.
Obama’s America has begun to wither in the eyes of the world, as can be seen in this beige map comparing poll results from 2012 and 2013. While approval of the United States increased modestly across Europe and Latin America, competitors like Russia and China developed an increasingly unfavorable opinion of the United States, and allies like France decided that while they still like us, they don’t like us quite as much. The way Obama’s public relations are going both domestically (Hello, Healthcare.gov!) and internationally (Guten tag, Chancellor Merkel!), it would be fair to expect an even less favorable outcome next year, even among the president’s strongest supporters.
(Keep in mind that these maps measure change across two years, and not overall amicability or hostility. While Egypt is a pale yellow in this map, the United States’ disapproval rating in that country is at a formidable 81%.)
4. Even so, Obama’s falling popularity is nothing compared to the world’s opinion of Bush’s presidency ...
Just look at the scorched hellscape of public opinion that represents the majority of Bush’s presidency (this map shows the difference in opinion between 2002 and 2008, as the tool doesn’t include data for 2001). While Kenya, Tanzania, Ivory Coast, Pakistan, and South Korea were mildly pleased with Bush’s time in office, just about every other country was severely disappointed. After two American wars and a global financial crisis, places like the Czech Republic and Turkey had just about had it with us, while Mexico was none too pleased about Bush’s immigration and trade policies. And let’s not forget Poland: even that staunchest of allies saw a net 24% drop in its opinion of the United States.
5. ... Or global attitudes toward the Iraq War.
Not one country had a more favorable opinion of the United States in 2003 than it did in 2002. Even the United Kingdom — our closet partner in the coalition of the willing, and a country that contributed 46,000 troops to the invasion of Iraq — had a net 15% drop in its opinion of the United States that year. Our unfavorability hit 99% in Jordan. Russia, France, and Germany went from liking us to hating us, and even South Korea was peeved.
6. People may like us less, but they still like us overall
This map compares the change in opinion from 2002, the first year for which there’s data, and 2013. Public opinion regarding the United States has clearly fallen in Russia and Eastern Europe, while Spain and South Korea have taken a real shine to us. However, the United States still has strong support in absolute terms, even in countries where our relationship has faltered: almost two-thirds of Canada and Mexico favor the United States, and surprisingly, 51% of Russians have a high opinion of America. While much remains to be done to repair our relations with Middle Eastern states, favorability remains high across Europe, and for some reason, Kenya loves us almost as much as we love ourselves — which is, of course, no easy feat.