Highly developed, English-speaking countries that are predominantly white have the strongest negative perceptions of race relations in the United States, according to new survey data from 17 countries, but people all over the world perceive colorism as rampant in the United States.
How the World Perceives U.S. Race Relations
How wealth, race and language impact views of U.S. race relations
- Canada, the United Kingdom and Australia — all of which hold a trifecta of high development, majority-white populations and majorities of native English speakers — are the most negative about U.S. race relations, possibly due to higher consumption of U.S. media and news.
- Views were more mixed in wealthy non-English speaking countries. Just under half of respondents in Japan and France — the world’s third- and seventh-largest economies by gross domestic product — rate U.S. race relations as “poor” or “terrible.” In Germany, the world’s fourth-largest economy, the share with negative opinions is slightly smaller than the share who say race relations are “fair,” “good” or “excellent.”
- In Chile, the most prosperous economy in South America in per capita terms, 46% have negative perceptions compared with 42% with positive ones. Nearly 9 in 10 Chileans describe themselves as white or non-indigenous.
In developing countries, views tend to be less negative
The reviews aren’t as harsh in countries with nonwhite majorities where English is widely spoken, though usually as a second language. For instance, in Kenya and South Africa, people are about twice as likely to characterize race relations as “good” or “excellent” than in Canada, the United Kingdom and Australia. Meanwhile, adults in Malaysia are split on the state of U.S. race relations, with roughly equal shares expressing positive and negative views, and in Ghana a slim majority say relations are at least “fair.”
Some developing countries with highly diverse populations that have experienced their own racial issues, such as Malaysia, Brazil and Indonesia, are among the most equanimous in their characterizations of U.S. race relations.
How the World Sees America’s Colorism
Darker-skinned people get short shrift in U.S., outsiders say
- In 14 of the 17 countries surveyed, the share of adults who say people with darker skin are treated worse by ordinary people in the United States than in their own countries exceeds the share who say such people are treated better or about the same.
- At least a third of respondents in every country but Poland said people with darker skin are treated worse in the United States than at home. Similarly, 62% of Polish respondents said darker-skinned people are treated about the same or better in America, beating out the next most positive country, Indonesia, by 15 percentage points.
- On the other hand, respondents in all 17 nations surveyed say ordinary people with lighter skin are treated better or about the same in the United States compared with their own country.
- Racial demographics in respondent countries appear to have some impact on global perceptions, with Kenyans and Ghanaians holding particularly negative views of how people with darker skin are treated in comparison with their own country.
The Morning Consult surveys were conducted Oct. 14-18, Oct. 26-29, Nov. 16-21 and Dec. 15-30, 2022, among a representative sample of 1,000 adults in each country, with unweighted margins of error of plus or minus 3 percentage points.