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WASHINGTON, Apr 19 2010 (IPS) - Global perceptions of the U.S. have improved over the past year but ratings of many other countries, including Britain, Japan, Canada and the European Union, have declined over the same period, according to a poll released Sunday.
The BBC survey, conducted by GlobeScan/PIPA across 28 countries, found that the U.S. is viewed positively in 20 of 28 countries, with an average of 46 percent of respondents holding a positive view of the influence of the U.S. in the world. Thirty-four percent say the U.S. has a negative influence.
“People certainly perceive a changed posture and a changed tone coming out of the U.S. [Former president] George W. Bush was negatively perceived. [Pres. Barack] Obama is overwhelmingly positively perceived. America has gone from negatively perceived to mildly positively perceived,” Steven Kull, director of PIPA, told IPS.
“The U.S. has not moved to the top tier of countries but it has gone from being in a low tier to a middle tier,” added Kull.
Negative ratings of the U.S. have dropped nine percent from last year and positive ratings have gone up four percent.
The strong drop in negative perceptions but less of a sizable jump in positive ratings suggests that global opinion of the U.S. is neutral, or mildly positive – an improvement over the negative sentiments expressed during the previous presidential administration but still not overwhelmingly positive.
Only Turkey and India exhibited perceptions of the U.S. which became more negative over the past year.
The only two countries to have majorities of respondents with negative views of the U.S. were Turkey, 70 percent, and Pakistan, 52 percent.
Germany is the most favourably viewed nation, averaging a 59-percent rating; followed by Japan, 53 percent; Britain, 52 percent; Canada, 51 percent and France, 49 percent.
Surprisingly, a number of countries experienced sizable decreases in their popularity ratings.
Britain and Japan both lost three points from their favourability rating. Canada lost six points and the European Union was down four points.
The least favourably viewed countries were Iran, 15 percent; Pakistan, 16 percent; North Korea, 17 percent; Israel, 19 percent and Russia, 30 percent.
Surprisingly, China has failed to make much headway on its international favourability rating from previous years, with 41 percent of survey respondents feeling it has a positive influence on the world and 38 percent viewing it negatively.
China’s favourability ratings stayed roughly the same since the poll was conducted last year.
“I think the fact that China is stuck in neutral is quite interesting. Between two years ago and last year China went down in public approval which is surprising with the Beijing Olympics and all that. This year they were basically flat,” said Kull.
“They do put effort into improving their image around the world but they don’t seem to be getting much traction. It’s quite significant that the U.S. has superseded China,” Kull concluded.
Iran exhibited the highest negative ratings with 56 percent viewing the country negatively.
Most significantly, views of Iran in Russia and China have taken a noticeable decline.
As permanent veto-wielding members of the United Nations Security Council, China and Russia will have to make difficult decisions if a vote on sanctions is brought to the floor of the Council.
Positive views of Iran amongst the Chinese public have dropped 11 percent, bringing their favourability rating of Iran down to 30 percent, and negative views of Iran have taken a 13 percent jump among the Russian public, bringing their negative rating of Iran up to 45 percent.
“The Chinese and Russian publics are quite negative about Iran which suggests that politically those governments would be in a good position if they decided to apply sanctions. But what we don’t see is a picture of the governments being constrained by public opinion,” said Kull.
The poll was conducted among more than 29,000 adults.
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