The Pew Research Centre’s Global Attitudes Project finds that humanitarian aid has a limited effect on improving the USA’s international image around the world. For example, in 2011, 85% of the 700 Japanese people who were surveyed reported a favourable view of America versus 66% of the Japanese participants in 2010. While the Pew Centre acknowledges that various reasons might contribute to an increased positive view of the USA, it seemed that America’s humanitarian commitment had a big impact in Japan. Then again, while the Pew Centre finds that America’s overseas aid improves its image in some countries, the link between humanitarianism and public goodwill is limited.
In Indonesia, the USA’s image improved in 2005, a couple of months after it delivered aid in the Banda Aceh region after a devastating tsunami. This positive view was not as strong as it was prior to the Second Gulf War.
In Pakistan, the USA’s public image improved modestly after it delivered aid to Northern Pakistan after a major earthquake in 2005, but this public image slipped again just one year later. By 2010, public goodwill towards the USA had slipped even further, despite America pledging humanitarian assistance following the floods.
Richard Wike, Associate Director for the Pew Global Attitudes Project writes:
The lesson for disaster relief efforts is that they are more likely to have a significant effect on public attitudes in countries where there is at least a reservoir of goodwill toward the U.S. In nations such as Pakistan, where countervailing issues and deeply held suspicions drive intense anti-Americanism, enhancing America’s image through humanitarian aid may prove considerably more difficult.
Read more about the surveys here.