American foreign policy may look like it's in shambles sometimes, but the world doesn't seem to think so. According to Gallup's US Global Leadership Project, a gigantic survey of over 130,000 people in 130 countries, approval of the United States' leadership bounced up five percentage points in 2013. That's a lot. Gallup used its survey data to estimate the percentage of people in each of these 130 countries who say they approve or disapprove of "the leadership of the United States" -- basically, of President Obama.
A few weeks ago, as part of a larger condemnation of Obama presidency, Mitt Romney insisted the last five years have been awful for the United States' stature around the world. "It is hard to name even a single country that has more respect and admiration for America today than when President Obama took office," the failed candidate said, adding, "Our esteem around the world has fallen."
For the right, this is a common line of attack. Tea Party favorite Ben Carson recently argued, "Russians seem to be gaining prestige and influence throughout the world as we are losing ours." Former Vice President Dick Cheney said on "Face the Nation" a month ago that America's willingness to keep our commitments has been "in doubt for some time now" around the globe "because of the policies of the Obama administration."
Unfortunately for conservatives, reality keeps getting in the way. Zack Beauchamp reported this morning:
Though there are, not surprisingly, broad regional differences, I found it interesting that in Asia, support for U.S. leadership is stronger now than at any time during either the Obama or the Bush administrations.
The only continent in which U.S. stature has seen a decline is in Africa, but even here, approval of the United States is higher than anywhere else.
What's more, Gallup also found, "The world felt a little better about U.S. leadership last year, giving it the highest global approval ratings out of five global powers, including Germany, China, the European Union, and Russia."
The political world can, of course, have a debate over why U.S. stature appears to be improving abroad. Beauchamp makes a persuasive case that it's the result of several factors, including improved European economies, a declining U.S. drone war, and improved relations with Central America.
We can also have a discussion about where the nation's reputation would be now were it not for the hit we took during the Bush/Cheney era, when the United States' reputation suffered an actual, not an imaginary, blow.
Regardless, it seems hard to take seriously the assertion that "our esteem around the world has fallen."