Maps of global polarization

October 10, 2013

The map below (click to enlarge) shows the ideologies of states in 2012 as estimated from their votes in the U.N. General Assembly. It is the global equivalent of maps you may have seen of the U.S. where more liberal districts are different tones of blue and conservative ones red. So, in Latin America you see that Venezuela, Cuba and Nicaragua are dark red, which means that they are further removed from the U.S. than Chile and Argentina, which are orange/yellow. Note that this map does not measure alliances: Saudi Arabia is quite distinct from the U.S. in its foreign policy preferences even though the two countries often work together for pragmatic reasons.

The U.S. is very lonely. There are a few dark blue countries but you can barely see them because they are so small (Israel and a few Pacific islands). Moreover, as I showed in an earlier post, the situation has gradually gotten worse. This cannot just be blamed on President George W. Bush: Alienation from the U.S. started before him and the tide was not turned by President Obama. Perhaps it is because of China, or domestic politics, or just the price of being the only true superpower.

For comparison, the map below is from 1995: There is more blue, although much of that is due to a few (rather important) countries: Russia, Argentina  and Turkey. There is also evidence for the often-heard assertion that the U.S. pivot toward Asia has alienated Latin American countries. Asia looks a little less red in 2012 than in 1995. The reverse is true for Latin America.

Finally, a map from the Cold War (sorry, I was too lazy to adjust state boundaries).  There are two power blocs that are heavily polarized with a distinct middle group of nonaligned states. We should be grateful that global polarization does not look this way in 2012.

 

This paper (co-authored with  Michael Bailey and Anton Strezhnev) explains the methodology. The data (all the way back to 1946) is here.

Erik Voeten is the Peter F. Krogh Associate Professor of Geopolitics and Justice in World Affairs at Georgetown University's Edmund A. Walsh School of Foreign Service and the Department of Government.
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