Bush is unpopular abroad, but other leaders catching up

McClatchy NewspapersJune 27, 2007 

WASHINGTON — At last, President Bush can take some solace in being dissed by much of the planet: At least he's not alone.

Support for the United States and Bush's foreign policies remains low, according to a poll in 47 nations and territories released Wednesday. But skepticism of Russian President Vladimir Putin and wariness of China's rising power are growing.

Two would-be challengers to the global order, Iran's Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and Venezuela's Hugo Chavez, aren't very popular, either.

Even Osama bin Laden's favorables are down, particularly among Muslims.

The poll of 45,200 people by the Pew Global Attitudes Project paints humankind as increasingly worried about the environment, unsettled by Iran's apparent quest for nuclear weapons and distrustful of the world's major powers.

"Clearly, people are troubled by a whole range of problems in the world, and there's no one they look to and say, 'Oh, there's a solution,' " said Andrew Kohut, the president of the Pew Research Center.

The poll is particularly bad news for Bush and Putin, who are due to meet Sunday and Monday in Maine to try to stem the slide in U.S.-Russian relations.

In 37 of the countries surveyed, overwhelming majorities had little or no trust in Bush "to do the right thing in foreign affairs." Suspicion of U.S. efforts to promote democracy abroad is nearly universal. Even in Eastern Europe, post-Cold War affection for the U.S. is dissipating.

Putin — who's squelched dissent at home and played hardball with Russia's energy resources — got a "no confidence" vote from a majority of the public in 22 countries.

"Over the past four years, confidence in Vladimir Putin's leadership has plummeted in Western Europe and other advanced democracies," with the sharpest declines in Germany, where it fell from 75 percent confidence in 2003 to 32 percent, the poll's authors said.

Views of China were mixed. People in many countries in Africa and Latin America view China's growing influence in their regions as positive; more positive than U.S. influence, in fact.

But people in advanced economies see China's economic challenge differently. Fifty-five percent in Germany, 64 percent in France and 45 percent in the United States consider China's economic impact a "bad thing." In South Korea, Japan, India and elsewhere, there's worry about Beijing's expanding military.

Majorities in 30 countries have little confidence in Iran's Ahmadinejad, while majorities in 14 countries distrust Venezuela's Chavez.

The poll, based on interviews by telephone and in person, was conducted in April and May. The margin of error is 2 to 4 percentage points, varying by country.

No polling was conducted in Iraq, Iran, Cuba, North Korea or Syria.

While previous surveys have found a tailspin in support for the United States since the invasion of Iraq, the Pew poll contains disturbing new findings:

_ The least favorable views of the United States were in Turkey, a longtime NATO ally, where they stood at 9 percent.

_ There's widespread support worldwide for pulling U.S. and NATO troops out of Afghanistan, with Islamic countries overwhelmingly in favor and people in NATO countries divided. That could indicate that anger with the Iraq war has tainted the effort in Afghanistan, which had widespread legitimacy after the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks.

_ Majorities in 43 of the countries surveyed — including in the United States — say Washington promotes democracy mostly where it serves its own interests.

As McClatchy Newspapers first reported, Undersecretary of State Karen Hughes issued a national public-diplomacy strategy last month intended to reverse the decline in America's global image, particularly in the Muslim world.

But Kohut said that to change Muslims' attitudes, "you have to change American policies, not do a better job of explaining them."

The poll's most surprising finding might be this: In Israel, a plurality of 42 percent said the United States was too supportive of their country.

McClatchy Newspapers 2007

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