The FINANCIAL — France’s favorable rating in the U.S. is now 87%, up five percentage points from a year ago and marking a record high for France in Gallup’s 25-year trend. This continues the gradual improvement in France’s image in the U.S. after that nation’s favorability plummeted at the start of the Iraq War in 2003.
This year’s reading comes three months after terrorists associated with the Islamic State group conducted a series of deadly attacks in and around Paris, killing 130. The 82% of Americans viewing France favorably a year ago was recorded a month after terrorists killed 12 people in a mass shooting at the Charlie Hebdo magazine office building in Paris.
The latest results are from Gallup’s Feb. 3-7 World Affairs poll.
France now ranks third in overall favorability with Americans among major countries the U.S. interacts with on the world stage. Only Great Britain and Canada earned higher total favorable scores this year. However, France still falls well short of those countries in the percentage of Americans viewing each very favorably. Its 29% “very favorable” score this year is similar to the 30% for Germany, which places fourth in overall favorability, but still trails Great Britain’s 43% and Canada’s 56%.
Republicans’ Rating Rises Most Since 2013
France’s image fell much more steeply among Republicans than Democrats at the start of the Iraq War in 2003, stemming from that nation’s opposition to Republican President George W. Bush’s effort to win U.N. support for use of force against Iraq. Between February 2002 and March 2003, Republicans’ favorability toward France dropped more than 60 points, from 81% to 20%, versus a 34-point decline among Democrats, from 79% to 45%.
A sizable partisan gap in France’s ratings persisted throughout the first decade of its image recovery, but during the past three years, the gap has nearly closed. That reflects Republicans’ finally closing in on Democrats’ high level of favorability toward France. This may be the result of France’s support for the U.S.-led coalition against the Islamic State in Syria in 2013, as well as sympathy for France stemming from the recent terrorist attacks.
After diplomatic differences in 2003 soured relations between the two countries, France and the U.S. have found a common interest in combating international terrorism, and the mission has become personal for both countries. This has helped bring about a major turnaround in how Americans view what Secretary of State John Kerry has called the United States’ “oldest ally.” France’s image was already on the mend, but the significant increase in the percentage of Republicans viewing France favorably over the past three years has pushed its image to new heights.