Early in the post-Sept. 11 era, the projection of American military strength led to pervasive fears of an unleashed, and unchecked, hyperpower. More recently, however, the global financial crisis has turned the spotlight to America’s declining economic prowess and perceptions of a great power in decline.
The U.S. image abroad is more favorable than it was in the Bush years, but it now faces a new challenge: doubts about America’s superpower status and the belief that China either will replace or already has replaced the United States as the world’s leading superpower.
The president gets an enthusiastic thumbs up from the world (with the notable exception of the U.S.) for the way he has handled the world economic crisis. Obama's personal popularity remains high, as do favorable views of the U.S. In a striking difference from the Bush years, while many around the world disagree with Obama's foreign policies, the U.S. image has not been significantly dented as a result. Muslim countries, however, continue to hold a negative view of America and most also give Obama unfavorable ratings.
While Canadians were never as negative about the U.S. as Western Europe was, America's image is up among its northern neighbors. However, differences still remain over Afghanistan and America's economic influence.
Even in some countries where incomes are still low and life is tough, people tend to be happier with their lives -- if their economy is on the upswing. And, in Muslim countries, support for suicide bombing has declined sharply in recent years. Also, a commentary by Bruce Stokes analyzes factors contributing higher levels of happiness in many countries worldwide.
In many countries around the globe, gay and lesbian couples are seeking the right to marry or enter into other legally recognized forms of domestic partnerships. The legal definition of marriage is in flux, particularly in the developed world.
The past year was a rocky period for U.S.-Canadian relations, with differences over Iraq and trade disputes dividing these North American neighbors. But there is no evidence that Americans and Canadians are destined to go their separate ways.