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Gallup report: US ahead of China in global leadership approval

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Global approval of U.S. leadership is higher than China’s, according to a Gallup analysis Monday. The report says that although more countries have a higher net support for U.S. leadership, global support for both the U.S. and China decreased in 2023.

The report also specifies that while the U.S. beats China in global leadership approval, support fluctuates depending on who’s leading. Gallup data over nearly 20 years shows that Democratic leadership tends to yield higher global support than Republican leadership.

Out of 133 countries surveyed in 2023, the U.S. maintained an advantage in 81 of them, and China in 52. The U.S. held the biggest advantage in Kosovo while China enjoyed the largest advantage in Russia.

Having an advantage in approval for leadership is important for a country’s ability to exert influence, Gallup says in the report. “Holding other factors constant, the great power that has a net approval advantage in a country of interest may have a better chance to realize its objectives.”

The report also says that the net approval score “offers a useful proxy for an important component of soft power at the population level.”

Despite the U.S. holding a clear advantage, support for both China and the U.S. have decreased, and Gallup says in the report that this “suggests a growing lack of enthusiasm for these two global powers.”

Despite the overall decline in support for both countries’ leadership, the U.S. and China have made respective long-term gains in certain parts of the world. China has made gains in African countries like Tanzania, Uganda, South Africa and Malawi. The U.S. has made gains in Asian countries like India, the Philippines, South Korea and Vietnam.

According to the report, “China’s muscular activities in its neighborhood appear to have elicited a threat response that pushes these countries toward the U.S. orbit,” likely referencing China’s ongoing aggression in the South China Sea.

Net support this year could be contingent on a variety of factors, such as changes in leadership or the development of major global conflicts. This year is the largest election year in recorded history with more than half the world’s population in more than 50 countries heading to the polls.

Julie Ray, who co-authored the Gallup report, said the impact of this year’s elections will be hard to predict, but that “the stakes are definitely high this year.”

Support for U.S. leadership could be in question as U.S. President Joe Biden has received criticism domestically and abroad for continued support for Israel during its war in Gaza, which has killed more than 30,000 Palestinians. Israel began its military campaign against Hamas after Hamas fighters crossed into southern Israel on Oct. 7, killing 1,200 people and taking around 250 people hostage.

The impact of U.S. support for Israel “really remains to be seen,” said Ray, who added that “when we analyzed the countries surveyed in 2023 with fieldwork before and after October 7, we didn’t see any major uniform differences in approval ratings.”

Ray added that U.S. support for Israel did have a notable impact on support for U.S. leadership within Israel, saying that ratings soared “to record heights.”

The Gallup survey calculates relative net approval, which is the difference between the percentage who approve and the percentage who disapprove of a country’s leadership.

For any country, net approval of the U.S. minus net approval of China results in a score that ranges from +200 to -200.

A score of +200 indicates total support for U.S. leadership and total disapproval of Chinese leadership. A score of -200 indicates the opposite, and a score of zero indicates total parity in support.

Kosovo, the largest supporter of U.S. leadership, had a score of +154 points, while Russia, the biggest supporter of Chinese leadership, had a score of -132 points.