from International Institutions and Global Governance Program

World Opinion on International Institutions

August 12, 2009

Current political and economic issues succinctly explained.

More on:


International Organizations

This page is part of Public Opinion on Global Issues. Download this chapter (PDF) or read more about U.S. opinion on international institutions.

This publication is now archived.

Assessments of the United Nations as an Institution

International polling reveals a majority of nations have a favorable view of the United Nations and think that it is having a positive influence in the world. On average, nearly six in ten respondents express such positive views. These majorities are smaller than those expressing support for the United Nations having a robust mission, suggesting that attitudes about the United Nations as an institution, while buoyed by support for its mission, may be mitigated by reservations about its performance. When asked about confidence in the United Nations as an organization views tilt to the negative. Download full chapter (PDF).

Sources of Support for United Nations

Polling in Europe and the United States finds that support for the United Nations appears to be derived from a perceived need for collective action to deal with global problems and from a belief in the efficiencies of collective action. Reservations appear to be related to performance issues. Download full chapter (PDF).

Adding New Permanent Members to United Nations Security Council

International polls have found support in all countries polled for adding new countries as permanent members of the UN Security Council (UNSC). Specifically, majorities or pluralities in nearly all countries have favored including Germany, Japan, India, Brazil and South Africa. On average, majorities have supported the inclusion of Germany and Japan, while pluralities have favored adding India, Brazil, and South Africa. Download full chapter (PDF).

EU Seat in the UN Security Council

Most European nations favor having a single permanent seat on the UNSC even if it means replacing the permanent seats of the United Kingdom and France. The British public, however, is opposed. Download full chapter (PDF).

Veto Override

International polling has found robust support for giving the UN Security Council the power to override the veto of a permanent member if all other members are in favor of a resolution. This position is favored in the United States, Great Britain, and China, while views are divided in Russia and France. Download full chapter (PDF).

Democratizing the UN

There is strong international support for various approaches for making the UN more democratically representative. Large majorities around the world favor direct elections of their country’s UN representative to the General Assembly, a new UN parliament with directly elected representatives, and giving non-governmental actors a formal role in the United Nations. Download full chapter (PDF).

Views of the World Bank, IMF and WTO

In general, majorities in most countries have expressed a positive view of the influence of international financial institutions, including the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund (IMF). While both get mildly positive ratings in nearly all countries, the World Bank is more popular than the IMF and a few countries, particularly Argentina and Brazil, have distinctly negative views of the IMF. Publics in many beneficiary countries tend to show high levels of enthusiasm, while those in donor countries are more modest in their support, though still predominantly positive. The WTO has a positive image in Europe and the United States and most countries polled, including the United States, say that their government should comply with adverse WTO decisions. Download full chapter (PDF).

International Courts

Publics in a majority of countries, especially in Europe and Africa, express confidence that the International Court of Justice would rule fairly and impartially in cases involving their country. However substantial numbers also express doubts. A poll of African and majority-Muslim countries found more support than opposition to the International Criminal Court indictment of Sudanese President Omar Bashir for his alleged role in displacing and killing civilians. Download full chapter (PDF).

General Support for NATO

Most Europeans and Americans agree that NATO is still essential, think that it needs to be strengthened, and do not want to cut spending for it. But Europeans and Americans also agree that Europe should have its own defense alliance, and Europeans overwhelmingly believe that decisions about European defense policy should be made by the European Union or national governments rather than by NATO. Large majorities of Europeans and Americans agree that their country should contribute troops to defend a NATO member that has been attacked. Download full chapter (PDF).

Members’ Views of the European Union

European Union members’ views of their membership in the European Union are quite varied and on the whole only moderately positive. But when it comes to decisions that have foreign policy implications, Europeans show very strong support for decisions being made not simply by their own national government, but jointly within the European Union. This includes fighting terrorism, defense and foreign affairs generally, and energy. Europeans tend to agree that European Union membership aids in dealing with the costs and benefits of globalization; but it is more often pluralities, rather than majorities, that hold this view. Download full chapter (PDF).

International Views of the EU’s Role in the World

Polls from around the world show the European Union is widely perceived as playing a positive role in the world. EU members show far more enthusiasm for the European Union’s international influence than they do about the benefits of membership. Download full chapter (PDF).


Asian publics polled tend to express positive feelings toward ASEAN and favor the idea of the ASEAN countries entering into a free trade agreement. However, confidence in ASEAN is mixed. When asked who should decide policies on the environment, refugees, aid to developing countries, and peacekeeping, only small minorities say that it should be ASEAN together with Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) forum. Most say the UN or national governments should decide such policies. Download full chapter (PDF).

Latin American Multilateral Institutions

Majorities or, more often, pluralities in most Latin American countries have positive views of Mercosur, the Andean Community, the Central American Parliament, the Central American Integration System, the Organization of Ibero-American States, and the Organization of American States. Download full chapter (PDF).

African Union

Limited polling of African countries has shown modest levels of confidence in the African Union (AU). Download full chapter (PDF).

More on:


International Organizations


Top Stories on CFR

Public Health Threats and Pandemics

In the absence of U.S. leadership, multilateral responses to COVID-19 have been inadequate to date.

Public Health Threats and Pandemics

For more than a century, countries have wrestled with how to improve international cooperation in the face of major outbreaks of infectious diseases. A pandemic of a new coronavirus that originated in China in 2019 underscores the urgency.