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Global Discontent with U.S. Increasing; U.S. Works to Bolster Image

June 27, 2007 at 6:35 PM EDT

JIM LEHRER: And, finally tonight, a look at how America is seen from abroad. Judy Woodruff begins.

JUDY WOODRUFF: This year’s survey of 45,000 people in 47 nations is the largest ever undertaken by the Pew Global Attitudes Project. It shows that, in the five years since the surveys began, discontent with the United States has deepened, but so has disapproval of two other major powers, China and Russia.

Here to help flesh out the findings for us is Andrew Kohut, president of the Pew Research Center.

Andy, thank you for being with us. It’s not news that the U.S. is held in low regard by other countries, so as you look at this year’s numbers, this year’s survey, what strikes you?

ANDREW KOHUT, Pew Center for the People and the Press: Well, first, a little context, great concern about American policies, but also concern about emerging Chinese power.

And if you look at the overall findings of this survey, the world is sort of disaffected with the powers that be, China, the United States, concern about Putin in Russia, and even the challengers to the global status quo, Hugo Chavez and Ahmadinejad in Iran. They don’t have not only popularity around the world, but they don’t have support in their home regions. And maybe that provides a basis for understanding the kind of word in which America continues to be poorly regarded.

JUDY WOODRUFF: Let’s take a look at some of the numbers, starting out with the Muslim countries. It’s low, but it’s interesting here.

ANDREW KOHUT: Well, what it shows is basically that anti-Americanism is entrenched. Over the past five years, all of these favorability ratings are quite low. We might just focus on Turkey, where it fell all the way down to 12 percent last year, and I thought to myself, “Well, it can’t go any lower.” Well, it went to 9 percent this year, and it had once been 50 percent.

But in all of these Muslim countries and many not shown in this survey, for example, Kuwait, where we’re seeing more positively, there has been a slide or there has been an entrenched discontent with the United States. That’s very powerful, very powerful.

Africa views U.S. more favorably

JUDY WOODRUFF: And we want to make sure the audience knows this is not universal; there are parts of the world that see the U.S. more favorably, Africa.

ANDREW KOHUT: Yes, what our conclusion is, that in many parts of the world, anti-Americanism has deepened, but it hasn't widened. In Africa, for example, we still see Africans expressing favorable views of the United States; in Ivory Coast, 88 percent; in Kenya, 87 percent. Large numbers of Africans saying good things about the United States generally, and when we ask them about the influence of the United States in their country, they say positive things.

JUDY WOODRUFF: Talk about what's driving these attitudes. I mean, clearly everybody immediately thinks about the war in Iraq. But what is it? What do you see that's behind it?

ANDREW KOHUT: Well, it's the war in Iraq, it's the war on terrorism, all of the cornerstones of American foreign policy are disapproved of in large parts of the world. We see ever smaller percentages of people in Europe, for example, supporting the war on terrorism. And that chart shows in Britain that the percentage fell from 69 percent in 2002 to 38 percent; in France, from 75 percent to 43 percent, and so on.

And in the Muslim world, there's never been much support for the war on terrorism. You know, it manifests itself with respect to specific policies. We now not only see calls for withdraw from Iraq, but near majorities in most European countries and Canada saying we want our troops out of Afghanistan. There's great concern about American policies.

Declining opinions of China, Russia

JUDY WOODRUFF: If you pull back -- and you mentioned this at the outset, Andy -- there's also an interesting decline in attitudes toward other major powers. China is one.

ANDREW KOHUT: Yes, China is increasingly seen and people have increasing concerns about its military growth, but its economic power is threatening to many other developed nations. In Britain, for example, the favorability rating of China fell from 65 percent to 49 percent; in Spain, from 57 percent to 39 percent.

These are overall opinions, but when we ask about the economic power of China, we see in other developed countries real concern. In Africa, in developing countries, where China is making investments and has a presence that is recognized by the public, it's a different story. But in the other advanced nations which are competitors of China, the publics are worried. They're worried about their jobs.

JUDY WOODRUFF: Has a lot to do with where you sit. Now, what about Russia? You were just saying complex attitudes, they have a lot to do with who Russia's leader is.

ANDREW KOHUT: Yes, one of the most surprising things in this poll is the extent to which Putin's favorability ratings have fallen over the years. He now mirrors in a lot of countries' disapproval and lack of confidence in President Bush: 37 percent of people in Britain have confidence in Putin, 24 percent Bush, more in a Russian than a American in Britain, that's amazing; in Japan, 19 percent for Putin, 35 percent for Bush.

Putin has become a very unpopular person. President Bush has been unpopular for some time, but Putin has joined him there, with real concern on the part of people about what he's up to and a very mixed view of Russia more generally.

Attitudes towards global warming

JUDY WOODRUFF: Very quickly, we've got less than half a minute, one other thing I want you to mention in brief, and that's attitudes toward global warming, the environment.

ANDREW KOHUT: Five years ago, much less concern than there is today about the environment as the top problem threatening the planet, a gain in 20 of 33 countries for that issue, not the only issue, but it's the one where there is increasing concern.

JUDY WOODRUFF: Across the world?


JUDY WOODRUFF: Andy Kohut, Pew Research Center, thank you very much.

ANDREW KOHUT: Thank you, Judy.