US image in world recovers, slightly

The way the world views the United States has improved slightly in the past year.

But despite some modest reduction in hostility that surged as a result of the US war in Iraq, negative views of America persist in many nations, according to a new survey of countries in Europe, the Middle East, and Asia.

"Anti-Americanism is entrenched in many countries around the world, especially in Europe - and it is hard to move the needle," says Andrew Kohut, director of the nonpartisan Pew Global Attitudes Project.

The survey of 17,000 people, conducted in April and May in 16 nations, showed that some US policies, including tsunami aid and President Bush's call for democracy in the Middle East, were popular in many countries. And opinions about the US improved in Russia, India, and Indonesia compared to results from a 2004 Pew survey.

Still, pervasive anti-Americanism remains. In 10 of the 16 countries, majorities had an unfavorable view of the US. "Even the opinion of the American people is not as positive as it once was" about their homeland, Mr. Kohut said at a Monitor sponsored breakfast Thursday.

Negative reactions to President Bush's reelection and the continuing war in Iraq were key factors in unfavorable feelings about the US. Roughly three quarters of respondents in Germany, Canada, and France said Bush's reelection has made them feel less favorable to the US. Complete findings are available at www.Pewglobal.org.

The other time, since Vietnam, when the US had a very low image for its policies was in the mid-1980s. "There was real discontent in Europe with Reagan's [arms] buildup and hard line on the Soviets," Kohut said. "But those surveys did not find anywhere near the depth of anti-Americanism" seen today. Iraq appears to be the leading factor: In no country surveyed did a majority think the Iraq war has made the world safer.

President Bush, from the beginning, approached the confrontation with Saddam Hussein as a security imperative, not a move that would necessarily make the US popular. But the protracted insurgency there poses a public-relations challenge recognized by the administration. Mr. Bush has named trusted adviser Karen Hughes to spearhead a public diplomacy effort aimed at improving how America is viewed by the rest of the world.

Still, more broadly, "majorities in all of Europe and all of our allies" favor the US-led war on terror, Kohut says.

Pew found what it called "bad vibes in the neighborhood." Canadians hold increasingly negative views of the US, and most Canadians think Americans are rude.

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