Global poll shows wide distrust of United States
By Meg Bortin
Copyright by The International Herald Tribune
Published: June 27, 2007
PARIS: Distrust of the United States has intensified across the world, but overall views of America remain very or somewhat favorable among majorities in 25 of 47 countries surveyed in a major international opinion poll, the Pew Research Center reported Wednesday.
"Anti-Americanism since 2002 has deepened, but it hasn't really widened," said Andrew Kohut, director of the Pew Global Attitudes Project. "It has worsened among America's European allies and is very, very bad in the Muslim world. But there is still a favorable view of the United States in many African countries, as well as in 'New Europe' and the Far East."
Nonetheless, majorities in many countries reject the main planks of current U.S. foreign policy and express distaste for American-style democracy, the survey found.
Respondents worldwide not only want Washington to pull U.S. troops out of Iraq "as soon as possible," but also seek a rapid end to the American and NATO military intervention in Afghanistan, now in its sixth year.
The poll found growing wariness toward other major powers as well. Concerns over China's economic and military might have tarnished its image in many nations, Pew found, and confidence in President Vladimir Putin of Russia has dropped sharply.
The survey, conducted in April and May, is by far the largest Pew has carried out since 2002, covering 47 countries in Europe, Asia, the Middle East, Africa and the Americas, and assessing the opinions of more than 45,000 people. It found that concern about global warming has increased dramatically in the last five years.
"Most of the citizens in the global survey agree the environment is in trouble and most blame the United States and, to a much more limited degree, China," Pew said.
Negative views of Iran have intensified, including in some Muslim countries, Pew found, and respondents in almost all countries surveyed expressed overwhelming opposition to Tehran's acquiring nuclear weapons.
While the survey covered a broad range of issues, it focused intensively on the world's image of the United States, which was largely positive in 2002 - reflecting global sympathy for Americans after the Sept. 11, 2001, terror attacks on New York and Washington - but has declined steeply since 2003, when the Bush administration decided to invade Iraq.
Over the last five years, favorable ratings of the United States have decreased "in 26 of the 33 countries for which trends are available," Pew said.
Confidence in President George W. Bush, which was already sagging, has dropped further in most countries over the past year, as the Iraqi quagmire has deepened and the world's reprobation has increased.
"Global distrust of American leadership is reflected in increasing disapproval of the cornerstones of U.S. foreign policy," Pew said in its report on the findings.
Former Secretary of State Madeleine Albright, co-chair of the Pew Global Attitudes Project, linked this development directly to the Iraq war. "I think Iraq will go down in history as the greatest disaster in American foreign policy," she said.
The poll found that:
Majorities in 43 of the 47 countries surveyed want a quick U.S. troop withdrawal from Iraq. In the United States, 56 percent express this opinion. The exceptions are Ghana, Israel, Kenya and Nigeria.
Majorities or pluralities in 40 countries also want U.S. and North Atlantic Treaty Organization troops out of Afghanistan as soon as possible. This view, strongest in the Muslim world, was also held in many NATO member countries, notably Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Poland, Spain and Turkey.
Support for America's so-called war on terrorism has plummeted since 2002, especially in Europe, where U.S. practices against inmates at the Guantánamo Bay and Abu Ghraib prisons have been harshly condemned.
There is a widespread perception that the United States acts unilaterally in making international policy decisions. This view is especially powerful in Europe, shared by 90 percent in Sweden, 89 percent in France, and 70 percent or more in Britain, Bulgaria, Czech Republic, Germany, Russia, Slovakia and Spain. A full 83 percent of Canadians believe that their neighbor to the south ignores their interests. Middle Easterners overwhelmingly share this view, as do many Asians, including South Koreans and Japanese.
Majorities in most every country believe that the United States promotes democracy mostly where it serves American interests. Only in Nigeria did many say they believe that the United States "promotes democracy wherever it can."
This, according to Pew, helps explain why American ideas about democracy are rejected by vast numbers around the globe. The exception is sub-Saharan Africa, where the majority approves of American-style democracy in all countries polled except Tanzania.
But elsewhere, majorities or pluralities in all but four survey countries excluding the United States itself - China, Israel, South Korea and Japan - say they dislike American ideas about democracy.
The country where America's image is worst is Turkey, a NATO ally, where only 9 percent now have a favorable view, down from 52 percent before the United States went into Afghanistan in late 2001.
In Germany, traditionally one of the closest U.S. allies, only 30 percent now have a positive view, down from 78 percent before Bush took office in January 2001.
There has been serious slippage as well in Britain, America's most reliable ally and its chief partner in the war in Iraq. A slim majority of Britons - 51 percent - now hold favorable views of the United States, down from 75 percent in 2002, before the Iraq invasion.
The picture is more complex with China, which is viewed favorably in more than half of the survey countries, particularly in Africa - where the Chinese have been investing heavily - and in Asia, excluding Japan.
At the same time, the Pew report said, "China's expanding economic and military power is triggering considerable anxiety."
Russia wins mixed reviews, with West Europeans largely unfavorable while opinions are split in Eastern Europe, the Middle East, Asia and Latin America, and generally positive in Africa, Canada and the United States.
With Putin's grip tightening over pipelines to the West, dependence on Russia for energy supplies is worrying many Europeans, Pew found, with majorities expressing concern in Britain, Czech Republic, France, Germany, Italy, Poland, Slovakia and Ukraine.
Confidence in Putin's leadership has plummeted in Europe since 2003, as has confidence in Bush. In contrast, Chancellor Angela Merkel of Germany enjoys high levels of confidence in Europe, although Middle Easterners - including Israelis and Palestinians - do not trust her on foreign affairs.
Asked about the crisis in the Middle East, Western publics were generally optimistic that a solution can be found that accommodates the needs of both Israelis and Palestinians, and Israelis also took that view. But Arabs in the region were pessimistic, with more than 70 percent in Egypt, Jordan, Kuwait and the Palestinian territories believing that "the rights and needs of the Palestinian people cannot be taken care of as long as the state of Israel exists."