After years of becoming progressively more negative, public views of the United States have begun to improve, according to a BBC World Service Poll across 34 countries.
While views of US influence in the world are still predominantly negative, they have improved in 11 of the 23 countries the BBC polled a year ago, while worsening in just three countries.
The average percentage saying that the US is having a positive influence has increased from 31 per cent a year ago to 35 per cent today while the view that it is having a negative influence has declined from 52 per cent to 47 per cent.
Looking just at the countries that have been polled in each of the last four years, positive views of the US eroded from 2005 (38% on average), to 2006 (32%), and to 2007 (28%); recovering for the first time this year to 32 per cent.
People were asked to rate Brazil, Britain, China, France, Germany, India, Iran, Israel, Japan, North Korea, Pakistan, Russia, the USA and the European Union, as having a mainly positive or negative influence in the world.
As was the case a year ago, Iran and Israel receive the most negative ratings. While negative views of Israel have eased over the last year from 57 to 52 per cent, negative views of Iran's influence have held steady at 54 per cent making it the most negatively rated of the countries tested. Pakistan follows Israel as the third most poorly rated country.
Similar to last year, Japan is among the most positively rated countries. However, it comes a close second to Germany which is included in the ratings for the first time. The European Union comes third.The country with the greatest improvement is Russia.
Positive views of Russia have risen on average from 29 per cent to 37 per cent and negative views have fallen from 40 per cent to 33 per cent. In 12 countries, the view of Russia grew more positive. The BBC World Service Poll has been tracking opinions about country influence in the world since 2005.
These latest results are based on 17,457 in-home or telephone interviews conducted across a total of 34 countries (including the 23 tracking countries) by the international polling firm GlobeScan together with the Program on International Policy Attitudes (PIPA) at the University of Maryland.
GlobeScan coordinated fieldwork between October 31, 2007 and January 25, 2008. Steven Kull, director of PIPA comments, “It may be that as the US approaches a new presidential election, views of the US are being mitigated by hope that a new administration will move away from the foreign policies that have been so unpopular in the world.” GlobeScan president Doug Miller added: “The poll suggests that Iran continues to pay a price for its nuclear stand-off with the United Nations. World opinion continues to see it as the country having the most negative influence.”
Countries that have shown the sharpest increase in their positive views of the US include South Korea (35% in 2007 to 49% today), France (24% to 32%), Portugal (29% to 42%), Brazil (29% to 39%), Chile (32% to 41%), and the UAE (25% to 37%).
While Iran and Israel continue to have the most negative ratings, nearly as negative are views of Pakistan (rated for the first time this year prior to the most recent election there). Fifty per cent view Pakistan as a negative influence while just 18 per cent give it a positive rating.
In no country does a majority give it a positive rating, though Indonesia comes close with 48 per cent. Germany—rated for the first time this year—gets the most positive ratings of all countries. On average 56 per cent say it is having a positive influence with just 18 per cent saying it is having a negative influence. No country gives Germany a majority negative rating. Japan continues to be one of the countries with the most positive ratings.
On average 56 per cent say that it has a mostly positive influence and 21 per cent say mostly negative—statistically unchanged from a year ago. Two countries—China and South Korea—continue to have a majority with a negative view of Japan. Britain has also enjoyed an improvement with positive views rising on average from 46 to 50 per cent and negative views dropping from 29 to 24 per cent.
Thirteen countries have improved views of Britain while just three have worsened.When asked for their views of their own country's influence in the world, Japanese citizens are the most modest of those polled, with only 36 per cent saying Japan is having a mainly positive influence.
Americans come next with only 56 per cent saying the US is having a positive influence. Conversely, fully 91 per cent of Chinese citizens and 78 per cent of Russian citizens say their country is having a positive influence.
In total 17,457 citizens in Argentina, Australia, Brazil, Canada, Chile, China, Costa Rica, Egypt, El Salvador, France, Germany, Ghana, Great Britain, Guatemala, Honduras, India, Indonesia, Israel, Italy, Japan, Kenya, Lebanon, Mexico, Nicaragua, Nigeria, Panama, the Philippines, Portugal, Russia, South Korea, Spain, Turkey, the UAE, and the United States were interviewed face-to-face or by telephone between October 31, 2007 and January 25, 2008. Polling was conducted for the BBC World Service by the international polling firm GlobeScan and its research partners in each country. In 16 of the 34 countries, the sample was limited to major urban areas. Given that country ratings were given by samples of about 500 per country, the margin of error per country ranges from +/-3.4 to 4.6 per cent.