Only 41 percent of Republicans polled by the Pew Research Center as part of a survey of 39 countries said they have a favorable view of the U.N., down from 48 percent last year and 51 percent in 2011. Over the past decade of polling, only once did Pew record a lower U.N. favorability score for Republicans – 38 percent in 2007.
Democrats, by contrast, are more enthusiastic about the U.N. than at any time over the past decade – 72 percent positive – up from 70 percent last year and a decade-low 58 percent in 2006.
Overall, 58 percent of Americans polled in the survey (Republicans, Democrats and independents) expressed a favorable impression of the U.N. in 2013, the same as last year. Over the past decade that number has ranged from a high of 61 percent (2009, 2011) and a low of 48 percent (2007).
Across the 39 countries surveyed, the median positive rating for the U.N. was 58 percent, while 27 percent held unfavorable views.
The U.N. found its highest approval in parts of Asia (South Korea 84 percent favorable, Indonesia 82 percent) and Africa (Kenya 76 percent), while in Europe majorities in all countries surveyed were favorable, with the exception of Greece, where only 36 percent were.
Of the permanent Security Council members, majorities in the U.S. (58 percent), Britain (64 percent), France (63 percent) and Russia (53 percent) held positive views about the U.N., but in China the figure dropped to 39 percent.
The most negative views of the U.N. were recorded in Israel (70 percent unfavorable, climbing to 75 percent when only Jewish respondents were taken into account), the Palestinian territories (69 percent), Jordan (61 percent) and Greece (58 percent).
Countries accounting for the biggest negative swing between 2007 and 2013 included China and Spain (-13 points each), and Israel (-11 points).
Other findings included greater support for the U.N. among young people in many of the countries surveyed. The gap was most evident in the U.S., where 71 percent of respondents aged 18-29 held favorable views compared to only 49 percent among those aged 50 and older.
Those with a college degree tended to have more positive views of the U.N. than those without.
The Pew Global Attitudes Project survey was carried out last spring and the results released this week as the General Assembly opens its 68th session in New York. Obama and a large number of other leaders are due to address the gathering in the coming days.
The past year has witnessed frustration over the U.N. Security Council’s inability to find common ground over the conflict in Syria, with Russia and China in July 2012 vetoing a third consecutive resolution on the crisis. (The earlier vetoes were in Feb. 2012 and Oct. 2011.)
Other activities at the U.N. over that period likely to have further tarnished its image in the eyes of conservative Americans include negotiations and eventual approval of a conventional arms trade treaty (yet to be signed by Obama or ratified by the Senate); the election of repressive regimes like Iran and Sudan to various U.N. leadership positions; and the ongoing, disproportionate targeting of Israel by the U.N. Human Rights Council.