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Poll finds tsunami aid, war, election affected America's global image

WASHINGTON—U.S. response to the Indian Ocean tsunami in 2004 helped improve the nation's image around the world, but the re-election of President Bush and the Iraq war have solidified anti-American feelings, according to a Pew Global Attitudes poll released Thursday.

Favorable ratings from traditional European allies Germany, France and Spain improved from 2004, when the United States' image was at a low in most countries. The biggest increase in European support was in France, where 43 percent had a favorable view in 2005, compared with 37 percent in 2004.

Ten of the 15 foreign countries surveyed didn't have a favorable view of the United States, and in nine countries respondents said Bush's re-election damaged the U.S. image.

In what may be the most damning assessment of the Iraq war, no majority in any country said the world was safer because Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein had been removed from power. Forty-nine percent of Americans polled thought the world was safer, compared with a paltry 17 percent of Russians, 26 percent of Jordanians and 13 percent of Spaniards.

Further, support is declining for the U.S.-led war on terrorism, even among such allies as Russia, Great Britain and Germany.

Former Republican Sen. John Danforth, co-chair of the Pew project, said Thursday that the United States wasn't shrinking from a leadership role in the war on terrorism. "The unanswered question for the world is, `If you don't agree with the approach the U.S. has taken, what is it you propose?'" he said.

Nine of the countries still support the war on terrorism, which has had considerably more support than the Iraq war, but it's lost some of its luster.

Support has fallen in Russia from 73 percent in 2004 to 55 percent in 2005, and in Great Britain from 63 percent last year to 51 percent this year. Majorities in Pakistan, Lebanon, Turkey and Jordan don't support the war on terrorism.

The poll was conducted in April and May with a sample of almost 17,000 people. The margin of error was 2 to 4 percentage points.

Anti-American feelings were fueled by what's seen around the world as an aggressive U.S. foreign policy that doesn't take others into account, according to the poll.

People in 11 countries, including Jordan, Poland, Turkey and France, said the United States didn't consider others when making foreign policy decisions. Only Indonesians, Indians and Chinese said the United States considered them when making foreign policy decisions. Pakistanis were divided almost evenly on the issue.

But that's only one part of the anti-American formula.

Residents of nine countries, including Britain, Canada, Germany, Turkey, France and Lebanon, viewed Bush's re-election as a stain on the U.S. image.

Not everything in the report is gloom and doom, according to Clinton-era Secretary of State Madeleine Albright, the co-chair of the project: "I see certain hints about how our situation can improve."

She said more efforts to aid needy countries could continue to improve the United States' image.

Seven countries noted tsunami relief as improving the United States' image, but didn't lift it completely out of its decline since the war on terrorism began.

Indonesians' favorable opinion of the United States may be connected to tsunami aid. In 2003, only 25 percent of Indonesians said U.S. foreign policy considered others, compared with 59 percent in 2005.

Americans aren't unaware what the world thinks of them. Sixty-nine percent of the Americans polled said they knew that other nations disliked the United States.

Favorable opinions of the United States were at their highest in 1999-2000, according to data from a comparable State Department poll.

Russia is the only country with a net gain in favorability toward the United States during 1999-2005. Thirty-seven percent of Russians favored the United States in 1999-2000; in 2005, that number climbed to 52 percent.

In Pakistan, an important U.S. ally in the war on terrorism, U.S. favorability fell from 23 percent in 1999-2000 to 13 percent in 2003. It bounced back in 2005 to 23 percent.

Besides the war on terrorism, Europe has had to deal with its own problems that challenge its relationship with the United States.

The Dutch and French rejections of the proposed European Constitution have raised concerns among European Union member countries about the future of the union, but that skepticism hasn't translated into a push for closer relations with the United States, according to Andrew Kohut, the director of the Pew Global Attitudes project. Majorities in Spain, Great Britain, the Netherlands, Germany and France said they wanted more independence from the United States.

Europe wasn't the only region with strong feelings about the balance of international power.

All the countries polled except the United States agreed that things would be better if America had a military equal. Sixty-three percent of Americans said things would not be better if there were an equal military power, compared with 8 percent in Jordan, 38 percent in Canada and 15 percent in Russia.

Who should fill that gap isn't as clear.

When asked about China, nine countries said its economic growth was good for them. But military power was another thing. Only majorities in Pakistan (77 percent), Jordan (77 percent), Turkey (56 percent) and Indonesia (60 percent) said a China with military might equal to the United States would be positive.

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To read the poll online, go to

http://pewglobal.org/reports/pdf/247.pdf or http://www.pewglobal.org/.

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(c) 2005, Knight Ridder/Tribune Information Services.

GRAPHIC (from KRT Graphics, 202-383-6064): 20040623 USIMAGE poll

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