WASHINGTON – The United States’ popularity in many countries – including longtime allies in Europe – is lagging behind even communist China.
The image of the U.S. slipped sharply in 2003, after its invasion of Iraq, and two years later has shown few signs of rebounding either in Western Europe or the Muslim world, an international poll found.
“The U.S. image has improved slightly, but is still broadly negative,” said Andrew Kohut, director of the Pew Research Center for the People & the Press. “It’s amazing when you see the European public rating the United States so poorly, especially in comparison with China.”
In Britain, which prides itself on its “special relationship” with Washington, almost two-thirds of Britons – 65 percent – saw China favorably, compared with 55 percent who held a positive view of the United States. In France, 58 percent had an upbeat view of China, compared with 43 percent who felt that way about the U.S. The results were nearly the same in Spain and the Netherlands, the Pew poll found.
The United States’ favorability rating was lowest among three Muslim nations that are also U.S. allies – Turkey, Pakistan and Jordan – where only about one-fifth of those polled viewed the U.S. in a positive light. Only India and Poland viewed the U.S. more positively than they viewed China.
“Clearly, with or without this poll we know we have a public diplomacy challenge, and that challenge is not lessening by the day,” said State Department spokesman Adam Ereli.
He said the United States is trying to combat that image problem, citing the frequent travels of Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, who was ending a six-day swing through the Middle East and Europe on Thursday.
The poll found suspicion of the United States in many countries where people question the war in Iraq and are growing leery of the U.S.-led war on terror.
“The Iraq war has left an enduring impression on the minds of people around the world in ways that make them very suspicious of U.S. intentions and makes the effort to win hearts and minds far more difficult,” said Shibley Telhami, a senior fellow at the Brookings Institution.