Global BBC poll shows improved U.S. image
The wide-ranging survey, conducted in 34 countries, also found that Russia's status has significantly increased.
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"There is a perception that having one center of power [the US] has not led to a more stable and balanced world system, and so people see Russia's emergence as a positive thing," says Fyodor Lukyanov, editor of Russia in Global Affairs, a Moscow-based foreign-policy journal.Skip to next paragraph
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Dmitri Trenin, an expert with the independent Carnegie Centre in Moscow, adds that Russia's improving image "is because people abroad see Russia as an independent force that has its own interests in the world. It doesn't interfere in the affairs of other countries and it doesn't let anyone interfere in its own affairs."
Nations' views of themselves
The wide-ranging survey also produced numerous other intriguing, and sometimes counterintuitive, findings: British attitudes toward Russia improved, despite the frosty rhetoric and tit-for-tat antics redolent of the cold-war era that have poisoned bilateral relations of late. Americans think less of the Brits for some reason, perhaps to do with slight strains over the Iraq coalition.
But if Japan has the most self-effacing view of its own global image, China and Russia err in the other direction.
An overwhelming 91 percent of Chinese citizens and 78 percent of Russians say their country is having a positive influence on the world. Where do they get their chutzpah from? Culture and economics, say analysts.
"It's clear that there is a nationalism going on in China and in Russia that doesn't necessarily speak to authoritarianism," says Doug Miller, president of GlobeScan, an international polling firm that also helped conduct the survey. "They are chuffed about themselves, that much is clear. Whether it is problematic is another question."
Oleg Savelyev thinks it is. A researcher with the independent Levada public opinion center in Moscow, which took part in the polling project, he says that public opinion has been manipulated by the authorities. "They control 95 percent of the mass media, information is monopolized, they are manipulating the statistical figures to make people believe that life is better. The influence of propaganda should also be taken into account."
US views of British worsen
Among the more curious survey findings: Americans are getting sniffy about their transatlantic cousins, the British. Why? Most other countries have a favourable view of Britain, elevating the country to fifth spot behind Germany, Japan, the European Union, and France. Yet among Americans, only 45 percent had a positive view of the British, down from 67 percent the previous year. Is it because of all the reality TV shows exported across the pond in recent years?
Analysts think not. One reason may be detectable in the British decision to scale down its involvement in Iraq. Another may be the decision to install a leader who is not Tony Blair. Blair was, after all, far more popular in Washington than in Westminster.
"Our sense is that it may be down to the clear change that Gordon Brown has signaled right from the beginning, when he took over from Tony Blair," says Mr. Miller.
"His announcement of withdrawing troops from Iraq appears to have registered with Americans; whether this is a momentary blip we'll have to wait and see," he adds.
Fred Weir contributed from Moscow.
Highlights from an international report card
In its annual poll on global attitudes, the BBC World Service found that the percentage of those holding positive views of the US increased in 11 of 23 countries polled last time.
Country Positive view Percent change
Biggest increase: S. Korea 49 percent 14 percent
Biggest decrease: India 18 percent -12 percent
Most support: Kenya 80 percent 10 percent
Least support: Mexico 10 percent -2 percent
Source: BBC World Service poll, conducted in 34 countries including Canada, the US, Mexico, Costa Rica, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, Nicaragua, Panama, Brazil, Argentina, Chile, Britain, Germany, France, Spain, Portugal, Italy, Russia, Turkey, Lebanon, Israel, United Arab Emirates, Egypt, Nigeria, Kenya, Ghana, India, China, South Korea, Japan, Philippines, Indonesia, Australia.