America's Image Slips a Little Further
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America's Image Slips a Little Further

A 47-nation survey finds global public opinion increasingly wary of the world’s dominant nations—notably the United States and Russia—and disapproving of their leaders. Anti-Americanism remains almost universal—as it has been for the past five years.

Paul Holmes

A 47-nation survey finds global public opinion increasingly wary of the world’s dominant nations—notably the United States and Russia—and disapproving of their leaders. Anti-Americanism remains almost universal—as it has been for the past five years—while the image of China has slipped significantly among the publics of other major nations. Opinion about Russia is mixed, but confidence in its president, Vladimir Putin, has declined sharply. In fact, the Russian leader’s negatives have soared to the point that he is almost as unpopular as George W. Bush.

Global distrust of American leadership is reflected in increasing disapproval of the cornerstones of U.S. foreign policy. Not only is there worldwide demand for the withdrawal of U.S. troops from Iraq, but there also is considerable opposition to U.S. and NATO operations in Afghanistan. In addition, global support for the U.S.-led war on terrorism has ebbed ever lower. And the United States is the nation blamed most often for hurting the world’s environment, at a time of rising concern about environmental issues.

At the same time, China’s expanding economic and military power is triggering considerable anxiety. Large majorities in many countries think that China’s growing military might is a bad thing, and the publics of many advanced nations are increasingly concerned about the impact of China’s economic power on their own countries.

Russia and its president also are unpopular in many countries of the world. But criticisms of that nation and its leader are sharpest in Western Europe where many citizens worry about overdependence on the Russian energy supply.

The Pew also finds an increase in the percentage of people citing pollution and environmental problems as a top global threat. Worries have risen sharply in Latin America and Europe, as well as in Japan and India. Many people blame the United States—and to a lesser extent China—for these problems and look to Washington to do something about them.

The U.S. image remains abysmal in most Muslim countries in the Middle East and Asia, and continues to decline among the publics of many of America’s oldest allies. Favorable views of the U.S. are in single digits in Turkey (9 percent) and have declined to 15 percent in Pakistan. Currently, just 30 percent of Germans have a positive view of the U.S., down from 42 percent as recently as two years ago, and favorable ratings inch ever lower in Great Britain and Canada.

But the U.S. image remains positive in Africa. In several African countries, such as Ethiopia and Kenya, it is overwhelmingly positive. In addition, majorities in two of America’s most important Asian trading partners—India and Japan—continue to express favorable opinions of the United States. And the U.S. image has improved dramatically in South Korea since 2003.

Among key U.S. allies in Western Europe, the view that the U.S. acts unilaterally is an opinion that has tracked closely with America’s overall image over the past five years. Ironically, the belief that the United States does not take into account the interests of other countries in formulating its foreign policy is extensive among the publics of several close U.S. allies. No fewer than 89 percent of the French, 83 percent of Canadians and 74 percent of the British express this opinion.

U.S. policies also are widely viewed as increasing the gap between rich nations and poor nations. This is one of the few criticisms of the U.S. that is widely shared around the world and with which a plurality of Americans (38 percent) agree.

Critiques of the U.S. are not confined to its policies, however. In much of the world there is broad and deepening dislike of American values and a global backlash against the spread of American ideas and customs. Majorities or pluralities in most countries surveyed say they dislike American ideas about democracy, and this sentiment has increased in most regions since 2002. Majorities in 43 of 47 countries surveyed (including 63 percent in the United States) say that the U.S. promotes democracy mostly where it serves its interests, rather than promoting it wherever it can.

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