What countries do Americans like most?

Matthew SmithLead data journalist
October 26, 2020, 6:07 PM UTC

YouGov Ratings reveals the most and least popular countries

With a new update to YouGov Ratings showing American attitudes to 195 different countries, we’ve played with the new data to see which countries are Americans’ most and least favorite, and how people’s lifestyle and politics affects their opinion.

The best countries according to Americans

Unsurprisingly Americans are most fond of their homeland, with 78% saying they have a positive opinion of the country. One in twelve (8%) have a negative view of the land of the free, while one in eight (13%) are ambivalent.

That America is the most popular country among Americans isn’t as obvious a finding as you might expect. The British version of this data did not see the UK in first place among Britons, and surveys in France have consistently shown the French to be down on themselves.

Casting their eyes farther afield, the most popular foreign nation among Americans is Australia. Almost as many like the land down under as much as their own, with 75% having a favourable view of the antipodean state. Fewer people find something to dislike about Oz (3%), while 19% don’t have a view one way or the other.

The Northern neighbor comes next, with 74% holding a positive view of Canada. Again, fewer people find something offensive about the land of maple syrup and Mounties, with only 6% having a bad word to say about the country. Close to one in five (18%) have a neutral view.

In third and fourth place are neighbors Ireland (70%) and the UK (68%), with Italy rounding out the top five (also on 68%).

Which countries do Americans dislike most?

Turning the tables on their head we see that North Korea is Americans’ least popular country. Given the country’s atrocious human rights record and constant threats to destroy the US, it is perhaps surprising that the level of dislike isn’t higher than the 65% it is. Around one in five Americans (18%) have a neutral view of the state, while one in eight have an active liking for the place (12%).

Somewhat further behind in the least liked league is Iran, which 56% of Americans rate negatively. A quarter don’t take a view on the Middle Eastern nation, while 14% have a positive opinion.

Iraq comes in in third place (52%), followed by China (49%) and Russia (48%) in fourth and fifth.

China seems to have been sufficiently unpopular (or at least, sufficiently unpopular with a certain type of person) that any blame for the coronavirus crisis has not had a substantial effect on the country’s ratings. While the data discussed throughout the rest of this article is drawn from surveys conducted between October 2019 and October 2020, data from prior to the coronavirus crisis shows 43% of Americans had a negative view of China.

What countries are Americans most ambivalent about?

Then there are the countries that Americans don’t have a strong opinion on. YouGov Ratings shows that the most ‘meh’ nations according to America are Uruguay and Bulgaria, with a majority of 54% holding a neutral view of each place. Other countries that rated highly in this regard are Guinea (52%) and Paraguay (51%).

What countries are Americans least likely to have heard of?

It is a view commonly held outside of the USA that Americans are terrible at geography. So which countries are most likely to have gone unnoticed by the public?

Topping the list is São Tomé and Príncipe, which two-thirds (65%) of Americans have never heard of. This is slightly unfair, however, as the small African island nation is home to just 200,000 people – and all the countries that top this list are similarly small.

If instead we look only at countries home to a million people or more then Burkino Faso is the one Americans are least likely to be familiar with. Half (53%) say they have never heard of the landlocked West African nation of some 20 million people.

The top five in this category are all African nations, with Burundi (52% have not heard of) following on from Burkino Faso, followed in turn by Mauritiana (51%), Lesotho (51%) and Eritrea (49%).

Which countries most divide Democrats and Republicans?

The political divide reveals clear differences of opinion on America’s neighbors in the world.

What is noticeable is that although there are many countries Democrats like much more than Republicans, there are just two that Republicans like much more than Democrats. These are Israel (which 69% of Republicans have a positive view of compared to 36% of Democrats) and the USA itself (95% vs 68%). The third largest difference is over Poland, which Republicans are just 6 points more likely to see favorably, at 50% vs 44%.

Topping the list of countries Democrats like most compared to Republicans is Mexico, at 58% vs 29%. France follows in second place, at 71% vs 43%, with Cuba coming in third on 39% to 16%. Overall, there are 64 countries that Democrats like more than Republicans by double-digit differences.

Which countries do passionate travelers have the highest opinions of?

Using YouGov Profiles we looked at the views of people who say they are passionate about traveling, and how these differ from people who are not.

Costa Rica is the country travel lovers are most likely to think highly of (56%) when compared to the rest of the population (33%).

Other top countries that passionate travelers prefer include Singapore, Thailand, Chile, Spain and Brazil.

Explore the data on YouGov Ratings

For even more in-depth data, YouGov DestinationIndex tracks public perception of 120+ tourist destinations across 25 markets. Find out more here.