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Survey Shows Australians Losing Faith in United States


Australians have suffered a dramatic loss of confidence in the ability of the United States to manage international affairs. The first survey of attitudes by a center set up by the Howard government to improve relations, finds a significant deterioration in the way Australians feel towards the U.S. due largely to the Iraq War. From Sydney, Phil Mercer reports.

This is the most detailed survey ever undertaken of Australian attitudes towards the United States.

It was carried out by the U.S. Studies Center at the University of Sydney, which was set up by the Australian government to enhance understanding with the United States.

The study sought the opinions of 1,200 Australians and found that the Iraq War has severely dented their confidence in the U.S.

Support for President George W. Bush has also hit rock bottom. His popularity here has shrunk to an all-time low.

Asked to name something they disliked about the United States, the most common response was the President himself.

Professor Murray Goot from the University of Sydney says the survey shows America's reputation has been damaged.

"The proportion of people thinking the U.S. can deal well with international problems has really dropped from 66 percent before the war to 37 percent," he said. "Those are the sort of measures we're looking at and it's because of the Iraq War and because of President Bush. President Bush's popularity is - whichever way we measured it - it's barely above 25 percent."

Almost three-quarters of respondents believe Australia's involvement in the war on terror has made their country more of a target for extremists.

Many Australians believe that close military ties to Washington are important for their long-term security, but consider the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan unnecessary.

Half of those questioned disapproved of the U.S.-led campaign in Afghanistan.

A large number of those surveyed also believed the threat of Islamic fundamentalism has been exaggerated and that climate change is a more pressing issue.

Many of these views are at odds with those of Prime Minister John Howard, ahead of elections in which his opponent, Kevin Rudd, promises to bring combat troops home from Iraq but not Afghanistan.

Australia and the United States agreed a formal security treaty in the 1950's, which is still in force.

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