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Survey Says America's Image Slips as Support for War on Terror Declines


A study on global attitudes toward the United States shows that America's image has declined along with support for the war on terror.

Andrew Kohut, director of the Pew Research Center for the People and ther Press, was blunt in delivering the results of this year's survey to reporters on Tuesday. "This year we did a poll of more than 1,700 people in 15 countries, 14 countries plus the United States, and our overall finding is that the U.S. is going in the wrong direction again. The most serious problem is backsliding in the image of the U.S. in countries where we saw improvements last year, specifically in India and Indonesia, where tsunami aid appeared to have made a real difference," he said.

And Kohut warned this global trend will not be easily reversed. "There will be no quick fixes, there will not be just one thing America does that will bring the image of America back to what it was in the 1990's and earlier," he said.

Kohut says support for the U.S.-led war on terrorism is waning in the countries surveyed. A majority of people asked, he says, believe the Bush administration will not achieve its goals in Iraq. "Clearly, the U.S. presence in Iraq is a drag on the image on the United States. It is cited more often than the current Iranian government as a threat to regional stability and world peace. There is near universal opposition to Iran possessing nuclear weapons. There are increased worries about Iran in the US but only modest increases in Muslim countries," he said.

Kohut says the drop in a favorable image of the United States was most dramatic in three countries: Spain, where a favorable rating of the US fell from 41 percent to 23 percent; Russia, going down from 52 percent to 43 percent and India down to 56 percent from a high of 71 percent.

He said one of the extraordinary discoveries in his poll was the widespread awareness of the threat of Avian flu. He says of the 15 nations polled, there were only two countries in which the percentage of people having heard of bird flu was under 95-percent (Pakistan and China). He added the concerns are predominantly in Asian nations.

Included in the Pew Survey were, in addition to the United States, Britain, France, Germany, Spain, Russia, Indonesia, Egypt, Pakistan, Jordan, Turkey, Nigeria, Japan, India and China

William Kristol, the editor of the conservative magazine "The Weekly Standard," disagrees with Kohut. He says the Pew study's findings are hardly catastrophic or even that dramatic. "Nothing in this survey surprises me, very little particularly alarms me and, in fact, I think this is the way it's going to be. I mean, this is the world we are living in. It's not the world of the 1990's," he said.

Susan Rice, a former US Assistant Secretary of State for African Affairs and a senior fellow at the Brookings Institution disagreed strongly, warning that the real message behind the survey is security and cooperation. "In order to deal effectively with transnational threats that can pop up anywhere on the planet, it stands to reason that we need the effective cooperation and willing cooperation of the maximal number of countries around the world," she said.

Despite Andrew Kohut's gloomy report, William Kristol, occasionally a fierce critic of the Bush administration, says this poll does not make the case that the United States is getting less effective cooperation from other nations than in the past, when, Kristol says, world policy concerns seemed to be a lot simpler and easier.