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Poll Indicates Continuing Disapproval of US Foreign Policies - 2004-03-17

Nearly one year after the U.S.-led war in Iraq began, a public opinion poll in several countries has found continuing disapproval of U.S. foreign policies. The poll found that Americans continue to view the war very differently than people in Russia, several predominantly Muslim countries and Western European nations.

The Pew Global Attitudes Project survey found that European support for the United States has eroded since last May, although among the polled Muslim countries there is less "hatred" for U.S. policies.

In the report released Tuesday, about 60 percent of Americans said they continue to support the war in Iraq, down from 74 percent when President Bush declared an end to major hostilities last May. During the same period in Great Britain, support has dropped dramatically from 61 percent in favor to 43 percent in the current survey.

Among countries that do not support the war, there is skepticism of the motives behind the U.S. effort in Iraq. The survey found majorities of people in France, Jordan, Morocco, Pakistan, and Turkey said they think the United States is using the war on terror to control Mideast Oil and dominate the world.

Following the report's release in Washington, Pew Research Center Director Andrew Kohut said the survey shows disagreement among Western nations and Muslim countries about the leadership of Saddam Hussein.

"Despite criticisms of the war, Western publics at least believe that the Iraqi people will be better off in the long run without Saddam Hussein," says Mr. Kohut. "The very surprising results in this survey is the Muslim publics that we questioned had an opposite view. Most said they thought the Iraqi people would be worse off or at best divided about it."

There were also deep divisions between people in the United States and other countries on whether the war in Iraq has helped or hurt the war on terrorism.

Former U.S. Secretary of State Madeline Albright chairs the survey project. She says despite encouraging evidence that perception of U.S. policies in Muslim nations has slightly improved since the last survey, there are some disturbing trends. "It is disturbing that Americans are the only ones surveyed who believe the war in Iraq helped rather than hurt in fighting al Qaida," says Mrs. Albright. "It's also troubling that the Iraqi conflict has caused each of the other countries polled to lose confidence in America's honesty and commitment to democracy."

While many people questioned the motivations behind the U.S. led war in Iraq, support for the U.S. war on terrorism has slightly increased in several countries. Russians in particular increased their support for U.S. anti-terror efforts from 51-percent last May, to 73 percent in the current survey.

Kurt Campbell is a security analyst at the Center for Strategic and International Studies. He says many of those surveyed view the war in Iraq as separate from the war on terrorism. "I think globally there is a greater distinction between the war on terrorism and the war in Iraq that we make domestically in the United States, for obvious political and other reasons," he says. "And I think this is born out through much of this report."

Despite the vast differences between nations over the war in Iraq, there is a broad consensus on how much still needs to be done there. Overwhelming majorities in all surveyed countries said it will take longer than a year to establish a stable government in Iraq.