There is little consistent polling data allowing an objective assessment of the global prevalence of anti-Americanism over the years. Since the attacks of September 11, 2001, however, it is possible to track trends. These indicate a growing distrust of America and American leadership. However, although anti-Americanism is deeper, it is not wider. Moreover, there are signs that anti-Americanism is lessening in several surprising areas. On the other hand, there are signs that new concerns about America are manifesting.
Anti-Americanism has been growing since 2001 in most nations
The Pew Global Attitudes Project has been tracking views of how favourable people are to the US in 33 countries since 2002. In 2007, it found that favorable ratings for the US were lower in 26 of those countries. This is not just confined to the US leadership. The same survey found that opinions of the American people have declined in 23 of the 33 nations. This phenomenon suggests that anti-Americanism has deepened over the years. (See also our briefing on The Geography of Anti-Americanism.)
Anti-Americanism has certainly
become deeper but it has not appreciably spread to new countries
The Pew surveys also reveal that anti-Americanism has not spread particularly. Anti-Americanism has not spread appreciably to Africa or to many places in the Far East like South Korea or Japan. Similarly, what Donald Rumsfeld termed "New Europe" - the European countries of the former Eastern Block - continues to view America favorably, although even there attitudes have grown less favorable since 2002. The same is true of some countries in Latin America, while in others a previous dislike of the US and its people has grown stronger.
Anti-Americanism may have stopped growing in the past
The latest Pew Survey reveals a modest revival in America's favorability over the past year. In 21 countries where the data allowed comparison, 10 had seen a more favorable view of the USA develop. In some cases this is marginal (Western European countries saw an uptick of just one or two percent in America's ratings) but in some it was significant (Tanzania +19%, South Korea 12%). In Muslim countries, attitudes to America remain overwhelmingly negative, but they have not worsened further.
Current economic turbulence may be undermining America's standing
There are signs in the most recent surveys that economic problems may be contributing to a new manifestation of anti-Americanism. The latest Pew survey reveals that large majorities in most countries believe that the economic conditions in the United States affect their economies, and in many countries similarly large majorities blame America for their current economic problems as a result. This is particularly marked in Western Europe, with around 70% of Britons, Germans and French saying America is having a negative economic impact on their own country. As a result, this new concern about America may be masking what might otherwise have been a larger increase in favorability. This is not universal; India and Nigeria both saw more than a third of respondents saying America's economy was helping theirs.
Most nations expect that US
foreign policy will improve when George W Bush moves on
The 2008 election is focusing world attention on America, with large numbers saying they are following the election closely. Large majorities in some countries, such as France, Spain, Germany, Nigeria and Tanzania say American foreign policy will "change for the better" after the election. It should be noted that these countries include those where the American leadership is currently viewed favorably as well as unfavorably. Pew does not find this view to be universal, however, and finds countries like Japan and Russia believing there will be little change, while in the Muslim world there is a general attitude that policy will change for the worse.
Obama is more likely to improve Americaâs standing than McCain but majorities in a large number of nations do not have confidence in either man
In some quarters there is a strong feeling that the election of a President Barack Obama will instantly eradicate anti-Americanism all over the world. However, Pew's surveys find that Obama is not viewed positively in all areas.
As can be seen from the graph, large areas of the Middle East together with countries like Russia, China, India and South Africa do not express the sort of majority confidence in Barack Obama's abilities as is seen in Western Europe. John McCain, however, is viewed with less confidence in every country. This signifies that the 2008 election may not see the massive turnaround in global attitudes towards America that many in Western Europe regard as inevitable, whoever is the victor.
 'Global Unease With Major World Powers', Pew Global Attitudes Project, PewResearchCenter 27 June 2007, at http://pewglobal.org/reports/display.php?ReportID=256
 'Global Economic Gloom - China and India Notable Exceptions', Pew Global Attitudes Project, PewResearchCenter, 12 June 2007, at http://pewglobal.org/reports/display.php?ReportID=260 (full trends not available at time of writing)
 Ibid (See section entitled "Blaming the United States")
 Ibid (See section entitled "The Next American President)