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Americans And Israelis Love Drones — But Everyone Else Hates Them

A new report by the Pew Research Center shows that people across the world are opposed to U.S. surveillance efforts and targeted killings via drones. But, surprisingly, people still like America.

Posted on July 14, 2014, at 5:27 p.m. ET

People around the world are outraged by the United States' surveillance efforts and its use of drones to kill people deemed to be extremists, according to a new report published on Monday by the Pew Research Center.

Erik Simonsen / Getty Images

The report, based on nearly 50,000 interviews conducted in 44 countries earlier this year, found that a majority of people in most countries strongly disapprove of U.S. policies.

Surprisingly, it also found that general sentiments about the U.S. remained more or less unchanged from where they were a year ago, before Edward Snowden leaked thousands of classified documents about U.S. global surveillance programs.

The report found that Israel, Kenya, and the U.S. were the only countries where a majority of people said they support the use of drones.

Also, the U.S. is losing its reputation as the land of the free, according to some respondents.


The revelation of the extent of the NSA's intelligence activities has damaged the United States' reputation for protecting individual liberties, according to some respondents.

Some of the most significant decline in belief in American freedom occurred in countries that have traditionally supplied a large number of immigrants to the United States. In particular, it seems like Salvadorians have had a change of heart. A large portion of the nearly 60,000 undocumented minors who have arrived in the United States in the past year came from the embattled Central American nation.

Support for America varies wildly across religious lines.

The results of the report suggest that the U.S. has alienated large portions of the Muslim world — from the eastern Mediterranean to South East Asia. Unsurprisingly, decades of war and the killing of civilians do not make a good public relations strategy.

But compared to other countries, including China, the U.S. fares pretty well.

In spite of the unpopularity of U.S. spying and its use of drones, America also remains more popular globally than China, its principal rival in world affairs. A median of 49% of the publics surveyed hold a positive view of China. And the U.S. is still considered the world's top economic power, although this is less true today than it was before the Great Recession.

Still, it turns out you can spy on people and they won't hate you for it — or at least not hate too much.

But despite these concerns about the erosion of liberties, Pew found America's approval ratings to be relatively unchanged over the past year. Granted, those ratings weren't exactly spectacular. As the report puts it:

For nearly a decade and a half the U.S. global image has been on a roller coaster ride. At the beginning of the century America was seen favorably by majorities in most of the countries where comparable public opinion data are available. Over the next few years the bottom fell out of U.S. approval numbers, amid widespread opposition to the war in Iraq and other aspects of U.S. foreign policy.