Which countries do Americans like — and dislike — the most? A new report reveals some fairly interesting American attitudes towards important countries like Iraq and Israel.
The data comes from the 2014 edition of the Chicago Council on Global Affairs survey of Americans, which attempts to provide a comprehensive assessment of Americans' views on global politics and US foreign policy. There's a lot of interesting stuff there: Dan Drezner, who was on one of the report's advisory board, rounds up ten important findings in the Washington Post. But one of the most interesting findings is how Americans feel about other countries.
The survey asked a sample of 2,108 people to rank a list of 25 countries on a scale from zero to 100. Zero means they had "very cold, negative" feelings towards that country, while 100 means "very warm, favorable feelings." 50 is perfectly neutral. Here are the average results for each country:
Immediately, the bottom five countries stick out. North Korea and Iran are probably the most obviously hostile to most Americans, so it makes sense that they are on the bottom. The survey was taken just after Russia's invasion of Crimea, perhaps explaining why Russia ranks so low — the lowest, according to Chicago Council, since the end of the Cold War.
But Iraq and the Palestinian Authority (PA) are different. The United States provides a pretty significant amount of assistance to both. It provides a great deal of economic and security aid to the PA, and, even before the current joint military campaign against the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS), broadly supported the current Iraqi state as the best thing the United States was likely to get.
In other words, it seems like American attitudes towards Iraq and the Palestinian Authority aren't determined by relations between their governments and the US. The dim American view of the PA probably has to do with the well-established fact that Americans overwhelming take Israel's side over the Palestinians in the ongoing conflict. As for Iraq, the fact the each of the last four American presidents have announced military campaigns in the country might give Americans a somewhat dim view of the country.
The cluster right around 50, a neutral rating, is also pretty interesting. Taiwan, a country America pledges to defend, is at 52 — barely above Turkey at 50, a NATO member that the US is often at odds with over its support for American enemies like Hamas and its increasingly authoritarian rule. Venezuela, whose government is actively anti-American, is only slightly below Turkey at 46.
The fact that these very, very different countries all cluster around a neutral 50 rating probably reflects the fact that Americans just don't know or care a lot about foreign policy. Poll after poll finds that Americans rate foreign policy as a much lower priority than domestic issues. It makes sense that, aside from high profile countries like Israel, Iraq, Russia, China, and major advanced democracies, the American public doesn't really know enough about most countries to have strong opinions about them.
Speaking of those advanced democracies: Americans love the United Kingdom and, especially, Canada. I get that.