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Survey: Negative Views of US, Bush Still Prevail in Europe

The anti-American feelings that surged through much of Europe over the U.S.-led war in Iraq have shown modest signs of abating, but still persist. One consequence of that is that many of Washington's long-time European allies express a desire for more independence from the United States.

Opposition to the U.S. government remains high in Western Europe, with a majority of French, Germans and Spaniards saying they don't trust America, they dislike President Bush, and they want to see a loosening of the trans-Atlantic alliance.

Those are findings of the latest survey on global attitudes toward the United States taken by the Washington-based Pew Research Center in April and May and released last month.

The survey was conducted in six European countries: Britain, France, Germany, the Netherlands, Poland and Spain. Only in Britain and Poland did a majority of respondents have a favorable opinion of the United States.

State Department spokesman Adam Ereli, commenting on the poll's findings, says Washington is well aware of the problem.

"We know we have a public diplomacy challenge and that challenge is not lessening," he said. "We are being open and upfront about what we think, what we believe in, what we stand for, and trying to explain that and present a case for our actions and beliefs."

The Pew survey shows that, in France and Germany, which fiercely opposed the Iraq war, and in Spain, which pulled its troops out of Iraq after the Madrid terrorist attacks last year, anti-U.S. feelings have diminished slightly in comparison to a year earlier.

Professor Jerome Sheridan, an expert in trans-Atlantic relations who heads American University's Brussels Center, says anti-American feelings are entrenched but not entirely irreversible. He thinks Europeans have a general fear of the United States.

"The fear stems from America's overwhelming military superiority and willingness to use it in the world, and that frightens Europeans …There is a perception that America is quite reckless in the way it uses this military power," he said. "Most Europeans that I've encountered think that Iraq has made the world less safe than before. They think that America is basically generating the next generation of terrorists that will come back and get them and that America is using its military power without really thinking about its consequences on other people or the rest of the world."

Among America's traditional allies in Western Europe, President Bush was cited as the single largest factor behind anti-American feelings. In Spain, for example, 76 percent of those surveyed said Mr. Bush is the main reason for anti-U.S. sentiment, compared to 65 percent in Germany and 63 percent in France.

Big majorities in all of the Western European countries, but not in Poland, said Mr. Bush's re-election made them feel less favorable to the United States. Professor Sheridan says that has led to a disconnect between Europeans and Americans.

"The election has kind of underscored that George Bush is popular in the United States, and, so I think there has become a more general tendency to think 'well, that's who they want to be their president; he must reflect the way they think about the world," he said. "…And Europeans then think 'well, maybe we don't understand Americans as much as we used to or like we thought we used to.'"

Most Europeans still like Americans as a people, but European surveys taken after Mr. Bush's re-election show that they are beginning to doubt whether they still share core values with Americans. They are not only concerned about what they see as Washington's use of unilateral military force but also its failure, in their view, to fight global warming and its tolerance of the death penalty.

State Department spokesman Ereli says his government is trying to listen to what people in other nations think about the United States and its policies and wants to be responsive to their concerns.

But most Europeans, including Britons and Poles, continue to believe that United States foreign policy does not take their interests into account. And most Western Europeans surveyed by the Pew project say they want their governments to adopt more independence from the United States in security and diplomatic affairs.

The war in Iraq remains as unpopular as it was in 2003 and 2004, and most of those polled dispute President Bush's view that the world is safer without Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein. But a majority of respondents in every country except Spain, and especially in Poland and the Netherlands, continue to support the U.S.-led campaign against terrorism.