US Leadership in the World at Risk: Security, Environment Biggest Challenges for US Reputation
The US ranks low among nations in regard to international peace, protecting the environment, and fighting world poverty. Learn more about these findings from a recent Nation Brands Index survey.
Did you know the US ranked:
- 32nd out of 50 nations for behaving responsibly on international peace and security
- 37th on protecting the environment
- 20th on fighting world poverty
in a global survey measuring the image of 50 countries conducted just prior to the November 2008 Presidential election?
The election of Barack Obama in November 2008 was immediately met with enthusiasm in countries around the world. However, it was immediately clear that in addition to the challenges of economic and financial problems, the President-elect would inherit a country with a global reputation in need of repair in important areas of international affairs—maintaining peace and security, protecting the environment, and fighting global poverty.
In this exclusive report, we take a close look at the critical weaknesses that The Obama Administration must address quickly and convincingly for the US to gain widespread respect and legitimacy abroad.
In which areas does "Brand America" enjoy the strongest reputation? And which areas present the biggest challenges for the nation's global brand? How does the world view the United States in such key areas as Foreign Policy and Security, the Environment and the Fight Against World Poverty?
Strong Reputation in Many Areas
As the largest economy and the most diverse society in the world, the US is indeed seen as a leader in many significant areas. In the eyes of more than 20,000 citizens of the world, according to the 2008 Anholt-GfK Roper Nation Brands IndexSM survey, the US is ranked 3rd out of 50 countries for the quality and appeal of its products and services. In addition, in all survey countries across 6 continents, respondents see the US as one of the top three leading nations in terms of in-novation. The US is also strong as a place where people would like to live, work, study and invest their money, dem-onstrated by a #2 rank out of 50 countries as a desirable destination for immigration and investment.
When all reputation attributes are used to build overall reputation rankings, the US ranks seventh among the 50 nations measured by our survey. This overall positive position draws on the strengths of the excellent image of American products and ser-vices, America’s potential to innovate, as well as perceived op-portunities the U.S. offers for business and investment success, educational advancement, and a high quality of life. This overall position also benefits from America’s culture and tourism appeal -- the US is seen positively, ranking 5th and 6th of the 50 nations. Global perception of the American people trails somewhat behind with a 13th place ranking, due mainly to the belief that Americans are not very welcoming to visitors.
Weak US Governance Reputation
The area of governance, including international and domestic government policy, is the chief flaw in US international repu-tation. The US ranks 22nd for governance, behind all G7 countries as well as Iceland (19th) and Hungary (21st).
Negative Perceptions of US Foreign Policy
Global citizens hold negative attitudes about US behavior on foreign policy issues. Of the 50 nations rated, the US is ranked 32nd for behaving responsibly in the areas of interna-tional peace and security, lower than Egypt and Taiwan. In 6 of the 20 survey countries, the US is ranked as one of the four least responsible nations of the 50 nations asked about. For example, in Mexico and China the US is ranked 48th (the Chinese even rank Iran ahead of the US). In contrast, other Western allies of the U.S. rank much higher than the U.S. Germany and France are ranked 3rd and 6th on peace and security. The UK, which has received some criticism for its involvement in the Iraq war, is ranked 9th.
Poor Reputation on Environmental Issues
America’s reputation is weakest in the area of environmental protection. The average ranking across all survey countries is a low 37th for the U.S. out of 50 when it comes to behaving responsibly to protect the environment. Even American re-spondents do not give the US a top ranking: Americans rank the U.S. below Switzerland, Sweden, and Canada on envi-ronmental protection. Besides the US, India is the only coun-try which ranks the US among top 20 countries (India tends to view the US very positively on most issues). Brazil and Argentina rank the US 49th. The US ranks far behind all other developed countries on environmental policy. Scandinavian countries are perceived as the global leaders on this issue, with Switzerland and Sweden tying for the overall top ranking.
US Lags Behind Other G7 Countries in Fighting World Poverty
The US also has a weak reputation in fighting world poverty. Despite being the largest economy of the world, the U.S. only ranks 20th in this area, far behind the other G7 countries, which are all in the top 11. India, South Africa, and South Korea are the only countries to give the US a ranking higher than 10th.
The 2008 NBI survey demonstrates that the perceived lack of US leadership on important international issues is out of line with its strong reputation in other areas such as the appeal of exports, the power to innovate, and opportunities for immigrants. Most striking is how far behind the U.S. finds itself in relation to west-ern allied countries – some of which are vying for global leadership in an increasingly multi-polar world. And the dismal US standing in international affairs is not the result of an isolated group or region of anti-American countries. Across the board, near and distant, developed and developing countries all agree that the US has failed to live up to important international re-sponsibilities.
Obama’s election itself will likely provide a boost to US standing abroad. But a new president alone will be insufficient to fully sway global public opinion. The world is watching with particular interest to see what concrete policy changes and new approaches to solving these global problems emerge from the next administration.
This analysis is based on the Anholt-GfK Roper NBISM 2008 online survey of 20,157 adults in 20 developed and developing countries. For more information, please contact GfK Roper Public Affairs & Media or go to www.gfkamerica.com. NBI World View® is produced by GfK Roper Public Affairs & Media.
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