U.S. sinking in the eyes of the world, poll shows

International survey finds suspicion about motive for wars on terror, in Iraq

March 17, 2004|By Mark Matthews | Mark Matthews,SUN NATIONAL STAFF

WASHINGTON - International opinion of the United States has worsened since America invaded Iraq a year ago, with suspicions about President Bush's war on terror rising even among key European allies, a nine-nation poll has found.

Even in Britain, the Bush administration's closest partner, favorable views have fallen sharply, according to the survey. It also found that Europeans increasingly back a foreign policy more independent of the United States.

Anger toward the United States remains pervasive in the Muslim world. Large majorities in four Muslim states that are key U.S. allies - Jordan, Pakistan, Morocco and Turkey - say they believe America's real motive in conducting a war on terrorism is to control oil and dominate the world.

In two of those nations - Jordan and Morocco - lopsided majorities say they think that suicide bombings against Americans and Westerners in Iraq are justified, the survey showed.

"A year after the war in Iraq," the survey concluded, "discontent with America and its policies has intensified rather than diminished."

The survey was conducted in late February and early March by the Pew Research Center for the People & the Press, before the bombings in Madrid that have been linked to Muslim militants and that led to the toppling of Spain's U.S.-allied prime minister. The results were released yesterday.

"We're facing a disunited, dangerous world where American leadership is still wanted but is widely mistrusted," said Madeleine K. Albright, a secretary of state in the Clinton administration, who joined in presenting the findings at the Center for Strategic and International Studies, a Washington think tank.

Kurt Campbell, senior vice president of CSIS, called the results "rather chilling." Particularly worrisome, he said, is that "we're starting to see signs of things that are structural," or difficult to change, in public attitudes overseas.

Previous surveys have shown the war in Iraq to be widely unpopular in much of the world. But the new results, Campbell said, show the United States has failed to regain goodwill with its costly efforts to rebuild Iraq. Apart from Americans, people in the other countries give the United States and its allies poor marks for "addressing the needs of the Iraqi people."

The poll questioned nearly 8,000 people by telephone or in face-to-face interviews in the United States, Britain, France, Germany, Russia, Pakistan, Turkey, Jordan and Morocco.

Unexpected results

Andrew Kohut, director of the Pew Research Center, said that in light of the time that has elapsed since the Iraq invasion, "we were expecting more positive attitudes" toward the United States than were revealed in a survey released in May. But distrust of U.S. motives and attitudes toward Americans are as bad or worse this time.

Only a minority in Turkey, Morocco and Jordan say they back the U.S.-led war on terrorism, though their numbers have grown since May. One bright spot in the poll is that a large majority of Russians (73 percent) favor the U.S.-led campaign against terrorism.

Overall, outside the United States, the survey found broad agreement that the war in Iraq had hurt, rather than helped, the fight against terrorism. And Osama bin Laden is viewed favorably by 65 percent of people in Pakistan, 55 percent in Jordan and 45 percent in Morocco.

Suicide bombing appears to be gaining legitimacy in much of the Middle East, Campbell said. Such attacks against Americans and other Westerners in Iraq were viewed as justified by 70 percent in Jordan, 66 percent in Morocco, 46 percent in Pakistan and 31 percent in Turkey. Larger majorities in Jordan and Morocco backed Palestinian suicide attacks against Israelis.

Bush is deeply unpopular outside the United States, where the survey showed him with a 61 percent favorable rating. In Britain, he is viewed favorably by 39 percent; in Russia by 28 percent; Turkey, 21; Morocco, 8; Pakistan, 7; Jordan, 3.

International regard for the United States has become an issue in the presidential race. The presumptive Democratic nominee, John Kerry, has denounced Bush's foreign policy as inept and ideology-driven and has claimed that foreign leaders have encouraged him in his effort to defeat the president.

The White House has challenged Kerry to name those leaders. Yesterday, the president said, referring to Kerry, "If you're going to make an accusation in the course of a presidential campaign, you ought to back it up with facts."

Bush's spokesman, Scott McClellan, suggested that the increasingly negative view of the United States in France and Germany did not reflect European opinion as a whole. McClellan pointed to Poland, a key military contributor in Iraq, as a nation that understands life under oppression and that backs the battle against terrorism.

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