WASHINGTON, D.C. — While President Barack Obama’s recent visit to Africa rekindled the debate over whether the U.S. or China exerts more influence there, findings from 11 African countries reveal that despite declining approval ratings of U.S. leadership, many Africans are still more likely to approve of U.S. than of Chinese leadership.
Approval of U.S. leadership has dropped in all of these countries since 2009, ranging from more tempered declines in the single digits in Senegal and Mauritania to large double-digit drops in Kenya, Tanzania and Uganda. In all countries except Chad, U.S. leadership lost more approval than China’s leadership. It should be noted, however, that in 2014, relatively high proportions of Africans in several countries did not express an opinion about the leadership of the U.S. or China.
The highest approval ratings for both the U.S. and China in 2014 came from the Sahel region. Senegal and Chad had the highest approval ratings of U.S. leadership performance, while Niger and Senegal had the highest approval ratings of Chinese leadership performance.
In Eastern Africa, which Obama visited in late July, approval fell significantly in Kenya, Tanzania and Uganda. In this region, percentages of those who didn’t know or refused ranged from 11% in Kenya to as high as 41% in Uganda. Still, this does not fully account for the declines in U.S. approval in all countries such as Kenya, where approval dropped significantly and disapproval rose.
Of the three countries in Eastern Africa where Gallup has polled consistently over the past eight years, approval of U.S. leadership remains highest in Kenya — where Obama has family ties on his father’s side — with a majority of 58%. Still, approval of U.S. leadership among Kenyans has fallen 35 percentage points throughout Obama’s tenure, while approval of China’s leadership has gained five points.
The changes in views of the job performance of the two major world powers’ leadership makes ratings about equal in Kenya and Tanzania, while Ugandans are slightly more approving of U.S. leadership. In Kenya, where approval of Chinese leadership has been fairly stable except for a large spike in 2011, the declining approval of U.S. leadership since 2009 eventually closed the gap between the two.
Read more at gallup.com