'Freedom fries' to friends: US opinion of France nears high

The U.S. public’s view of France is near an all-time high amid President François Hollande’s trip to the United States, according to a recent survey. 

A Gallup poll released Tuesday found 78 percent of people in the United States have a favorable view of the country — nearly tied with the all-time high of 79 percent. In 2003, favorability hit a low of 34 percent when France refused to back the U.S.-led invasion of Iraq.

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The numbers come as Hollande is slated to attend the president’s first state dinner of his second term later Tuesday night. The two held a joint press conference earlier Tuesday and toured Monticello, former President Thomas Jefferson’s estate, the day before.

France’s opinion of U.S. leaders has also rebounded from a low of 9 percent late in President George W. Bush’s second term. Forty percent of those surveyed said they approved of the leadership of the United States. Another 26 percent disapproved, while 34 percent had no opinion either way. 

The two presidents penned an op-ed Monday touting the two nations’ “transformed” relationship over the past decade. 

“A decade ago, few would have imagined our two countries working so closely together in so many ways,” the two wrote, acknowledging the strained relationship between the two countries in the lead-up to the Iraq War, as France failed to back the authorization of force agreement in the United Nations. 

The two cited agreement on Iran’s nuclear program, Syria’s chemical weapons, climate change and trade. 

On Monday, an official said the two countries had come a long way since “freedom fries,” a reference to cafeterias in the House of Representatives — and other restaurants around the country — changing the name of French fries at the time. That year, “Freedom Toast” was also included in the menu on Air Force One. 

The public’s opinion of France peaked in 2002 and 1991. Gallup noted the 1991 rating might be attributed to favorable sentiment for the country’s participation in the Gulf War, while the 2002 poll came shortly after the terrorist attack on the World Trade Center on 9/11.

The poll surveyed 1,018 people last week and has a 4-percent margin of error.