WASHINGTON — A new survey of global attitudes finds the world more in tune with José Luis Rodríguez Zapatero, the new leader of Spain, than with George W. Bush: Across Europe and in key Muslim countries allied with the US, publics continue to hold negative views of the US, its handling of its leadership position in the world, and the war in Iraq.
Just as Mr. Zapatero causes waves in transatlantic relations - by calling the war in Iraq an "error" and insisting Spain will alter its recent close relations with the US to emphasize closer ties with the rest of Europe - the new survey by the Pew Research Center for the People and the Press promises to feed new debate about America's relations with the world. "The divide between the US and Europe is only getting wider," says Carroll Doherty, editor of the Pew Research Center. "It's beyond a question of America's image, it's now to the point where people want action based on their opposition to the US."
On the anniversary of the war in Iraq, world opinion of the US and its policies is in many countries worse than its already low levels of a year ago. Opinion of the US in France and Germany is at least as negative as at the war's conclusion, the survey finds. More marked is the plummet registered in British views. Last year 61 percent of Britons supported joining the US in the war in Iraq - today 43 percent support the war.
The result is that even Britons want a foreign policy that is independent of the US. "Across Europe, we found people supporting the emergence of a European Union that can stand up and be an equal power to the US," says Mr. Doherty.
At a time when the US continues to wrangle with how to reach Muslim audiences and improve its image with them, the survey offers a sobering picture. Support for Osama bin Laden remains strong in countries ranging from Jordan to Pakistan - where the Al Qaeda leader is viewed favorably by 65 percent of the population.
Doherty says a "glimmer of hope" can be seen in the fact that the percentage of people "very unfavorable" to the US has fallen in all the Muslim countries surveyed since last year. In Turkey for example, it fell from 68 percent to 45 percent.
But he says antagonism to the US, and the desire for leaders that stand up to the US, remains strong. That explains the attraction of Mr. bin Laden. He says, "It's not that people say they support what bin Laden did on Sept. 11, but for people who oppose US policy, he is seen as someone who stands up to America."
The latest survey by the Pew Global Attitudes Project, conducted from late February to early March in the US and eight other nations, shows Muslim anger toward the US remains pervasive, although the level of hatred has eased somewhat and support for the terror war has inched up. Osama bin Laden, however, is viewed favorably by large percentages in Pakistan, Jordan, and Morocco.
Since the end of the Iraq war, gains in support for the terror war were charted in Turkey and Morocco. In Turkey, it has grown from 22 to 37 percent, and in Morocco, from 9 percent to 28 percent. But support has slipped in France and Germany, where only about half of the publics favors the US-led effort.
Moreover, majorities in most countries surveyed believe that American and British leaders lied when they claimed Saddam Hussein's regime possessed weapons of mass destruction in the build-up to the war. About 31 percent of Americans and 41 percent of Britons believe the leaders lied.
One disturbing trend: "Overwhelming majorities in Jordan and Morocco believe suicide attacks against Americans and other Westerners in Iraq are justifiable." the accompanying report says.
• Faye Bowers contributed to this report.