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Global Poll Shows Preference for Europe Over US in World Affairs


A new public opinion poll taken in 23 nations around the globe shows people in many countries would prefer that Europe become more influential than the United States in world affairs. Analysts say the results reflect resentment that the United States is the world's sole superpower and continued opposition to the conflict in Iraq.

The poll of more than 23,000 people was conducted by the University of Maryland's Program on International Policy Attitudes and Globescan, an international public opinion research firm.

People were asked to react positively or negatively to possible future trends in world power and influence.

On average, across all countries polled, 58 percent favor Europe becoming more prominent than the United States in global affairs.

Steve Kull of the University of Maryland directed the poll and presented the results at a recent forum in Washington.

"Not only is there right now a fairly negative feeling toward the United States, historically in that direction, movement in that direction is historically high, but there are correspondingly positive feelings appearing toward Europe, apparently looking more to Europe as a center of leadership," he said.

According to the poll, the most highly regarded individual country is France, which is seen as having a positive influence in 21 of the 23 countries polled.

Only in the United States does a majority of the people polled say that France is having a negative influence in the world.

Philip Gordon is a former director for European Affairs in the White House, at the National Security Council. He is currently a senior fellow in foreign policy studies at the Brookings Institution.

Mr. Gordon says it is no surprise many people around the world have more positive feelings toward Europe than the United States.

"There is always resentment of power and there is particularly resentment of great and unilateral power," he said. "It so happens that the United States is the greatest and most unilateral power the world has seen for a very long time. And immediately in people's minds, I suspect, the United States gets associated with, especially at the time of the question, we are occupying Iraq with military power, invasion, occupation, unilateralism, containment, and sanctions. This is what people think of and naturally that doesn't inspire in them a great desire to support U.S. leadership."

People in 14 countries that were polled view China as having a positive influence, an opinion, analysts say, that is closely related to the country's economic role rather than its potential as a military superpower.

Only people in five countries say Russia is having a positive influence, with those polled in 14 countries viewing Russia negatively.

Steve Kull of the University of Maryland says those countries that engage the world through primarily economic relations are seen as having a mostly positive influence, while countries with large militaries that have recently used them in a prominent way are often seen in a more negative light.

"You basically do not seem to see a lot of fear out there of Chinese economic power," he said. "There is not a single country where a majority sees it as a negative possible future trend for China to continue to grow economically. But, when asked about China becoming more powerful militarily, you get quite a different picture. Fifty-nine percent, on average, see it as mainly negative."

Of the countries polled, seven are in Europe, six in Asia, six are in the Americas, one in Africa and one in the Middle East.

Among those countries viewing the United States in a positive way are the Philippines and India.

Jeffrey Bader, who spent a 27-year career as a specialist on Asia with the State Department and National Security Council, says the three countries have something important in common.

"It is very striking that India and the Philippines had highly positive views of the United States, unlike countries in Europe or even Australia," he said. "I think those two, it is clearly a reflection of the war on terror and the sense in both countries that they are under threat from Islamist terrorism."

Philip Gordon, the foreign policy fellow with the Brookings Institution, points out the poll on global influence was completed in early January of this year.

Mr. Gordon says world events since then may have improved world opinion toward the United States.

"After the Iraqi elections went better than most people thought and after some other positive developments in the Middle East such as elections in the Palestinian Authority, some positive political change in Egypt, Saudi Arabia and Lebanon, maybe the feelings about U.S. leadership would be a little bit better now than then," he said. "And also on the point about the charm offensive of the Bush administration, the trip to Europe by Secretary Rice and the president, and what seemed to be a sincere desire to reach out, put the past differences behind us and work together."

Recently President Bush turned to one of his closest advisers to lead efforts to repair the U.S. image overseas. Last month he appointed former counselor to the president Karen Hughes to be undersecretary of state for public diplomacy.

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