Approval of US leadership in East Africa is dropping – Gallup survey

Approval of US leadership among Kenyans has fallen 35 percentage points throughout President Barack Obama’s tenure, while approval of China’s leadership has gained five points, says a new Gallup survey.
The firm does not explain why the attitude of east Africans toward US leadership have become less favourable, but it suggests Africa is increasingly looking up to China for leadership at the global stage as opposed to the US.

In Eastern Africa, which Obama visited last month, a new Gallup survey released Thursday suggests US leadership approval fell significantly in Kenya, Tanzania and Uganda.

“In this region, percentages of those who didn’t know or did not respond ranged from 11 per cent in Kenya to as high as 41 per cent in Uganda. Still, this does not fully account for the declines in US approval in countries such as Kenya where approval dropped significantly and disapproval rose,” reads part of a related article by Magali Rheault and Justin McCarthy, two senior analysts with the Gallup Centre.

The survey’s results are based on face-to-face interviews with at least 1,000 adults, aged 15 and older, conducted every year between 2009 and 2014 in Cameroon, Chad, Ghana, Kenya, Mauritania, Niger, Nigeria, Senegal, South Africa, Tanzania and Uganda.

“Approval of US 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.”

Of the three countries in East Africa where Gallup has polled consistently over the past eight years, approval of US leadership remains highest in Kenya, Obama’s paternal ancestry side, with a majority of 58 per cent.

The survey, conducted months prior to President Obama’s recent visit to Kenya, says 61 per cent of Kenyans expressed approval of Chinese leadership, while 58 per cent approved of US leadership.

In Tanzania, 49 per cent approve of US leadership, a drop of 40 points over five years, and 50 per cent endorse Chinese leadership, a drop of 14 points since 2009. More Ugandans support the US role than that of China, Gallup found, with 48 per cent approving of US’s leadership compared to 37 per cent of Ugandans who give an affirmative response to China’s.

“In all countries except Chad, US 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 US or China.”

The two analysts note that the highest approval ratings for both the US and China in 2014 came from the Sahel region where Senegal and Chad had the highest approval ratings of US leadership performance, while Niger and Senegal had the highest approval ratings of Chinese leadership performance.

Bottom line, Rheault and McCarthy say, since the launch of the World Poll in 2005, sub-Saharan Africa is the region where approval of US leadership has been the highest in the world.

Accordingly, after Obama was elected in late 2008, Africans’ approval of US leadership topped 75 per cent in many nations.

“Although their approval has been declining in recent years, such a decline is not mirrored by an increase in Africans’ approval of China’s leadership. Rather, Africans’ attitudes toward China have remained relatively stable over the years.”

The analysts note that the findings also underscore the need to analyse results at the country level because each one has its own specific needs and interactions with the US and China.

They say that the two countries’ engagement across the continent also has been quite different, with greater emphasis on human development and governance for the US and a deeper focus on infrastructure for China.