The US is still viewed as the world’s leading economic power in many countries, according to polls in 39 nations by the Pew Research Center’s Global Attitudes Project. However, as the Great Recession has buffeted the US economy, China has gained rapidly in the eyes of the rest of the world, and many say it ultimately will replace the US as the world’s top global economic force.
In 22 of the 39 nations polled, the US is seen as the top global economy, while China is viewed as having the upper hand in eight countries, including US allies Canada, Britain, Germany and France.
Surprisingly, US citizens are about evenly divided over which country has the stronger economy, with 44 percent saying China and 39 percent the US.
Since 2008, the population share that calls China the world’s top economy has just about doubled in Spain, Germany and Britain, nearly tripled in Russia and gained 22 points in France. Of the 20 countries Pew surveyed in both 2008 and this year, all but two are now significantly more likely to say China is the world’s leading economic power.
In 18 of the countries polled, half or more believe China has replaced or will replace the US as the world’s top economic force, while majorities in only three believe the US will maintain its top economic position.
The surveys, conducted before news emerged about the US’ National Security Agency surveillance programs, also found that 37 of the 39 countries saw the US as a good steward of individual liberty.
Before leaks of classified documents revealed widespread US tracking of Internet communications among people in other countries, many said they were confident that US President Barack Obama would do the right thing in world affairs. That included 88 percent in Germany and 83 percent in France, two allies whose official reactions to the spying program have been negative.
In other findings from the surveys, the US is viewed favorably by a majority in 28 of the 38 other nations tracked in the poll. The US fares worst in the Middle East, where most have an unfavorable opinion in five of seven nations surveyed
Majorities in just three of the 39 countries say they approve of the US use of drones to target extremists: Israel (64 percent approve), the US (61 percent approve) and Kenya (56 percent approve).