January 31, 2014

Countdown to Sochi Olympics: What the world thinks of Russia

FT_Russia_ImageThe eyes of the world will be turned toward Russia in the coming weeks as the XXII Winter Olympics begin in Sochi. While the attention has not always been flattering, and there are continued worries about potential terrorist attacks, many in Russia hope that the Olympics will showcase their country’s prosperity. But when it comes to global public opinion toward Russia, much of the world has unfavorable or mixed views, according to our spring 2013 Global Attitudes survey.

People in only nine of 38 countries surveyed say they have a positive view of Russia — and among those, in only two of them do half or more of the population have a favorable opinion. Coincidentally, the most positive views of Russia hail from the birthplace of both the ancient and modern Olympic games, Greece (63% favorable). Russia also gets moderately positive views from close neighbors South Korea (53%) and China (49%).

In 12 of the 38 countries, views of Russia are mixed. In Canada, one of the strongest perennial contenders for Winter Olympic gold and the most recent host of the games, 42% have a favorable view of Russia and 39% have an unfavorable opinion. In the U.S., another strong medal competitor, only 37% see Russia in a favorable light while 43% express a negative opinion.

In the remaining 17 countries, opinions toward Russia are decidedly negative, especially in Europe and the Middle East. In Europe, negative views are shared by 64% of the French, 60% of Germans, 56% of Italians, 54% of Poles, and 51% among Czechs and the Spanish. Among Middle Eastern publics, opinions are even worse, with seven-in-ten or more in Israel (77%) and Jordan (70%) holding a negative opinion of Russia.

In addition, 64% in Japan have an unfavorable view of Russia, which might not be surprising considering the continuing dispute over the Kuril Islands and the fact that the two nations never formally ended World War II.

Overall, a median of 36% across 38 countries see Russia in a favorable light, while 39% see Russia negatively. However, there is a bright spot for Russia’s global image: young people. In many of the countries surveyed, young people ages 18-29 are often more likely to express positive views of Russia than people 50 and older.

For more on global views toward Russia, check out this map: International Image of Russia

Topics: Country Image

  1. is a Research Associate at the Pew Global Attitudes Project.

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