World views US 'more positively'

Attitudes to the United States are improving, an opinion poll carried out for the BBC World Service suggests. ( BBC )

The average percentage of people saying that the US has a positive influence has risen to 35% from 31% a year ago, according to the survey.

Those saying the US has a negative influence fell five percentage points to 47%.

The poll, part of a regular survey of world opinion, interviewed more than 17,000 people in 34 countries.

The survey period was the three months up to the end of January 2008.

However, the poll finds that views of US influence in the world are still mainly negative, though they improved in 11 out of the 23 countries also polled a year ago.

Perceptions of the US worsened in three - Canada, Lebanon and Egypt.

The World Service poll has been canvassing opinions about the influence of countries since 2005.

Of the 17 countries surveyed every year since 2005, positive views of the US have recovered for the first time this year to 32% after showing a steady decline over the previous three years.

Reacting to the poll results, senior US state department official Kurt Volker acknowledged perceptions had been negative in recent years, but said 2003 and 2004 had been an "anomaly" because of the Iraq war.

"I would say public opinion is a lagging indicator of what we are doing, working together with European governments and other elites," he said in a BBC interview.

"Everyone wants to be loved," he said.

But he added: "We are a superpower. We have tremendous responsibility, a large economy, large diplomatic reach and military reach, so naturally the world looks at the US with much greater attention than any other country in the world."

Of other countries rated, Iran and Israel are viewed most negatively.

Negative views of Iran's influence remained at 54%. But Israel's negative rating went down from 57% to 52%.

Pakistan was the third most poorly rated country.

Germany, included in the ratings for the first time, is viewed most positively, with a 56% positive score to 18% negative.

Japan comes in a close second, with 56% positive to 21% negative. But a majority of those surveyed in neighbouring China and South Korea expressed negative views of Japan.

Russia showed the greatest improvement, with positive views rising on average among the countries surveyed from 29% to 37%.

The survey was carried out by the international polling firm GlobeScan with the Program on International Policy Attitudes (PIPA) at the University of Maryland.

PIPA director Steven Kull said the improved rating of the United States could be linked to the forthcoming presidential election.

"It may be that as the US approaches a new presidential election, views of the US are being mitigated by hope that a new administration will move away from the foreign policies that have been so unpopular in the world," he said.

People were asked to rate Brazil, Britain, China, France, Germany, India, Iran, Israel, Japan, North Korea, Pakistan, Russia, the US and the European Union as having positive or negative influence.

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