Despite two years of a concentrated effort by
Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and her public diplomacy major-domo Karen
Hughes to boost Washington's global image, more people around the world have
an unfavorable opinion of U.S. policies than at any time in recent memory, according
to a new BBC poll released Monday.
The survey, which polled more than 26,000 people in 25 countries, including
the U.S., between November and January, found that a 49 percent plurality overall
believes the U.S. is playing a "mainly negative" role in the world
today, compared to less than a third (32 percent) who said Washington's influence
was "mainly positive."
And in the 18 countries where respondents were asked the same question in each
of the past two years, the latest poll found a substantial drop in the percentage
who said they viewed U.S. influence as positive, from 40 percent in 2005, to
36 percent last year, to 29 percent in 2007.
"According to world public opinion, these days the U.S. government hardly
seems to be able to do anything right," said Steven Kull, director of the
University of Maryland's Program on International Policy Attitudes (PIPA), which,
along with Canada-based Globescan, conducted the survey.
Germany and Indonesia, where nearly three out of four respondents said they
had a mainly negative opinion of U.S. influence, were the least favorable, while
69 percent of French and Turkish respondents agreed.
The sharpest drops in positive ratings over the past year were found in Poland
(62 percent in 2006 compared to 38 percent in 2007), Indonesia (40 percent to
21 percent), the Philippines (85 percent to 72 percent), and India (44 percent
to 30 percent).
Respondents in the United States also showed greater opposition to their government's
policies than in previous years, according to the survey.
Another Washington Post-ABC News poll, released on the eve of President
George W. Bush's State of the Union speech to Congress Tuesday, found that 65
percent of respondents oppose the so-called "surge" of more than 21,000
additional U.S. troops to Iraq, while 48 percent called the war the most important
The findings of the BBC poll echo those of another major survey of 14 foreign
countries released last June by the Pew Research Center's Global Attitudes Project.
It found that Washington's global image had slipped over the previous year,
particularly in Europe and Asia, as well as predominantly Muslim countries,
and that Washington's continuing intervention in Iraq appeared to be the main
The new BBC poll found that the most negative views were evoked by policies
pursued by the Bush administration in connection with its "global war on
terror" and the Middle East.
Nearly three in four respondents overall (73 percent) said they disapproved
of Washington's role in the Iraq war. Opposition was particularly intense in
Egypt, France, and Lebanon where more than three out of four respondents said
they "strongly disapprove[d]."
At the same time, more than two out of three (68 percent) overall said the
U.S. military presence in the Middle East provokes more conflict than it prevents.
More than four out of five respondents in three Latin American countries
Argentina, Brazil, and Mexico and in two mainly Muslim countries Egypt
and Indonesia took that position.
Conversely, only 17 percent overall said they thought Washington's military
presence exercised a stabilizing influence in the Middle East. The most positive
views on this question were found in Nigeria, the only country where a plurality
(49 percent) said it was stabilizing, the Philippines (41 percent), and Kenya
Perhaps not coincidentally, the same three countries were the only ones, aside
from the U.S. itself, where majorities of respondents said Washington's influence
in the world was "mainly positive."
On related issues, 67 percent of all respondents said they disapproved of Washington's
handling of detainees at Guantanamo, while only 16 percent, concentrated in
Kenya, Nigeria, India, the Philippines, and the U.S., said they approved.
Nearly two-thirds (65 percent) of respondents overall also said they disapproved
of U.S. policy during last summer's war between Israel and Lebanon's Hezbollah,
compared to 21 percent again concentrated in the same five countries who
said they approved.
Opposition to the U.S. role in the conflict, during which Washington strongly
backed Israel and repeatedly defended it in UN Security Council deliberations,
was particularly intense in Argentina (79 percent "strongly disapproved"
of the U.S. role), Egypt (78 percent), Lebanon itself (76 percent), the United
Arab Emirates (UAE) (71 percent), France and Brazil (63 percent).
Sixty percent of respondents overall said they disapproved of Washington's
handling of Iran's nuclear program, while 28 percent, including majorities in
Kenya, Nigeria, and the Philippines and a plurality in India, said they approved.
Disapproval was most intense in Argentina and three predominantly Sunni countries
Egypt, UAE, and Turkey while opinion was most polarized in Lebanon
where 26 percent "strongly approved" of U.S. policies and 54 percent
While disapproval among all respondents of U.S. policies on Middle East issues
ranged from 60 percent (Iran's nuclear program) to 73 percent (the Iraq war),
somewhat smaller overall majorities said they disapproved of Washington's handling
of North Korea's nuclear program (54 percent) and global warming (56 percent)
while compared to 30 percent and 27 percent, respectively, who said they approved.
On North Korea, U.S. policies enjoyed the support of majorities in the two
African countries, and the Philippines, and pluralities in India and Poland.
A plurality in Australia disapproved, as did a small majority in South Korea.
Significantly, in China, 56 percent of respondents said they disapproved, while
27 percent voiced approval.
On global warming, opposition to the Bush administration's policies was highest
among European nations, particularly France and Germany (86 percent), Britain
and Portugal (79 percent), and Italy (74 percent), all of which have ratified
the Kyoto Protocol. In Australia, which, like the U.S., has not ratified the
treaty, 68 percent of respondents said they opposed Washington's policies, while
in Russia, which has ratified Kyoto, a plurality of 46 percent agreed.
Majorities of Filipino, Kenyan, and Nigerian respondents and pluralities of
Chinese, Indian and South Korean respondents said they approved of U.S. policies
on global warming, while, within the developing world, disapproval was most
widespread in Argentina, Brazil, Chile, Mexico, Lebanon, Turkey, and the UAE.
A 54 percent majority of U.S. respondents said they also disapproved of U.S.
policies on global warming.
Overall, 57 percent of U.S. respondents said the country's overall influence
on the rest of the world was "mainly positive," compared to 28 percent
On specific policies, 57 percent said they disapproved of their government's
handling of the Iraq war and of the Israeli-Hezbollah war; 60 percent said they
disapproved of its handling of Guantanamo detainees; and 53 percent said they
believed the U.S. military presence provokes more conflict than it prevents.
A plurality of 50 percent of U.S. respondents said they disapproved of the
government's handling of Iran's nuclear program, while the same plurality said
they approved of its handling of North Korea's.
(Inter Press Service)