In a recent Gallup poll that asked participants from 130 countries to rate U.S. leadership during President Barack Obama’s fourth year in office, the median approval rating was 41%, compared to 49% during Obama’s first year in office.
The economic crisis, America’s constant involvement in the Middle East, and Obama’s “perceived nonchalance” to the Sub-Saharan region could all be contributing factors to the dip.
In Europe, the average U.S. leadership approval rating declined 11 percentage points since Obama’s first year in office. As Gallup points out, half the decline took place from 2011 to 2012, suggesting that the United States might be taking part of the brunt for the European financial crisis.
As expected, countries with the lowest approval ratings worldwide stem from the Middle East, South Asia, and North Africa. In Pakistan and the Palestinian Territories, three out of four residents there disapprove of U.S. leadership. Iran, Yemen, Lebanon, Turkey, and Afghanistan all held disapproval majority. In Egypt, Tunisia, and Algeria, their approval ratings were 17 percent, 26 percent, and 30 percent — the lowest in the entire African continent. The war in Iraq, the Pakistani drone attacks, and the U.S.'s questionable involvement in the Arab Spring movement has all contributed to the heavy anti-American sentiment in the Middle East.
The U.S. leadership has the strongest approval ratings in Africa and especially in sub-Saharan Africa, with many postulating Obama’s election as the reasoning behind the strong support. However, while America still retains an average 70% in approval, this is a drop as compared to the 85 percent rating in 2009.
In sub-Saharan Africa, the waning support might be caused by Obama’s disappointment to forging stronger African relations. Approval ratings in sub-Saharan Africa were so high in 2009 precisely because of Obama’s election and his heritage — his father was born in Kenya. Obama’s birthright not only gave rise to an “instinctive fondness” in the region, it also handed him a personal responsibility to put African issues in a higher priority on the American foreign policy agenda — and Obama failed to fulfill that expectation.
However, it must be noted that the U.S. was not the only country to suffer a slip in international approval — all the “the major powers” showed a decline from 2011 to 2012. The major powers have a higher visibility and presence in media as well as greater resources. For those reasons, they will not only be held accountable for solving international issues — they will also be watched much more closely and critically. And as long as the U.S. remains a major power, American leadership will always be tied to the current state of world affairs, whether they like it or not. Therefore, until the worldwide economic crisis ends or until the Arab leaders spring forward into a more peaceful era, approval ratings on American leadership will remain less than favorable.