U.S. Image in Central Asia

By Erica Marat

Nearly half of the Central Asian population shares a favorable view of U.S. global leadership, the latest Gallup survey shows.

Ironically, approval rating in Kyrgyzstan, where the United States has a transit base servicing the war in Afghanistan, is the lowest within Central Asia. Only 30 percent of population sees the United States in a positive light. Only in Belarus and Russia are the ratings lower – 29 percent and 23 percent, respectively.

The latest Gallup survey results show that the United States’ image has remained favorable over the past years in Central Asia and has significantly improved in Ukraine in the past two years. Between 2008 and 2010, the share of Ukrainians with favorable views of the United States grew from 26 percent to 38 percent.

The biggest gains were seen in Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan, and Tajikistan. All three countries saw a roughly two-fold increase since 2008. Compared to three years ago, when 20 percent of Kazakhs and 22 percent of Uzbeks approved U.S. leadership, in 2010 this number increased to 42 percent and 47 percent, respectively.

According to Gallup, such a spike in U.S. ratings is the response of these Central Asian states to President Barack Obama’s landmark speech in Cairo. “That may have influenced approval in the region, given that the majority of its population is Muslim,” explains Gallup.

In Kyrgyzstan, on the other hand, the U.S.’s rating has been fluctuating. In 2008, only 24 percent of the Kyrgyz population viewed the United States favorably. In 2009, positive perceptions increased to 36 percent, only to decline to 30 percent in 2010.

Importantly, however, the share of Central Asians unsure about their view of the United States is high. Forty three percent of Kazakhs are not sure whether United States leadership is positive or negative. Kyrgyzstan 44 percent and 36 percent of Uzbeks refrain from identifying Washington’s global impact.

Russia is the only former Soviet state where the number of those disapproving the U.S. leadership is higher than the U.S. approval rating – 29 against 23 percent of responders.