Israel, Iran, US
Least-Liked Countries

A majority of people from around the world hold predominantly negative views of Israel, Iran, and the United States, according to a survey [.pdf] of more than 28,000 respondents in 27 countries.

The survey, which was sponsored by the BBC World Service and designed by Globescan and the Washington-based Program for International Policy Attitudes (PIPA), found that 56 percent and 54 percent of all respondents said they had mainly negative views of Israel and Iran, respectively.

Fifty-one percent and 48 percent said the same about the United States and North Korea, respectively.

At the other end of the spectrum, 54 percent said they felt “mainly positive” about both Canada and Japan, while the European Union and France, with a 53 percent and 50 percent “positive” rating, were the next highest among the 12 countries rated in the survey.

“It appears that people around the world tend to look negatively on countries whose profile is marked by the use or pursuit of military power,” said PIPA director Steven Kull.

“This includes Israel and the U.S., who have recently used military force, and North Korea and Iran, who are perceived as trying to develop nuclear weapons,” he said, adding, “Countries that relate to the world primarily through soft power, like Japan, France, and the EU in general, tend to be viewed more positively.”

Respondents in the multi-nation survey, some findings of which have been previously released, included randomly selected samples of between 800 and 1,200 people in the three nations of North America (the U.S., Canada, and Mexico); three South American countries (Chile, Argentina, and Brazil); six Asian countries (India, the Philippines, South Korea, Australia, Indonesia, and China); and two African countries (Nigeria and Kenya).

Nine European countries (Russia, Italy, Britain, France, Portugal, Greece, Germany, Poland, and Hungary) and four predominantly Muslim countries (the United Arab Emirates [UAE], Lebanon, Egypt, and Turkey) were also included.

Each respondent was asked to assess whether the influence of the 12 subject countries, which also included Britain, China, India, Russia, and Venezuela, was either “mainly positive” or “mainly negative.” An average of about one out of four respondents declined to express an opinion one way or another.

Israel, according to the survey, stood out as having not only the largest number of respondents express a negative opinion about it, but also majorities in the greatest number of countries – 23 out of 27. Iran was regarded unfavorably in 21 countries, and the U.S. and North in 20 out of the 27.

Israel, whose war with Hezbollah last summer in Lebanon undoubtedly affected the results, was seen most negatively in the Arab world and Turkey (where only two percent of respondents gave it a “positive” rating) and in much of Europe. In Lebanon itself, 85 of respondents said they had a negative opinion of the Jewish State, followed by 78 percent in Egypt, and 76 percent in Turkey.

At the same time, 77 percent of German respondents expressed a negative opinion, as did around two-thirds of Greek, French, British, and Australian respondents. In Latin America and Asia, Brazil (72 percent) and Indonesia (71 percent) were the most negative, respectively.

Nations that were most positive about Israel were Nigeria (45 percent positive), the U.S. (41 percent), and Kenya (38 percent).

For Iran, the strongest negative opinions were found in Europe, particularly in France (86 percent), Italy (84 percent), Germany (78 percent), Portugal (77 percent), and Britain (76 percent). Three out of four Canadians and Australians also expressed mainly negative opinions about Iran, which Washington and other Western powers have accused of pursuing nuclear weapons. In the U.S., 63 percent of respondents gave a negative assessment, a remarkably sharp drop from the 81 percent who expressed a negative opinion in a similar BBC poll take in late 2005.

In Lebanon, opinions on Iran were roughly evenly split, while positive views of the Islamic Republic were most prevalent in Egypt (51 percent positive, 18 percent negative) and Indonesia (50 percent positive, 31 percent negative). In Latin America the greatest negativity was found in Brazil (69 percent); in Africa, Kenya (60 percent); and in East Asia, South Korea (69 percent).

On North Korea, opinions were most negative in Anglophone North America, Australia, and South Korea. Nearly nine out of 10 Germans and Australians expressed negative views, nearly eight of 10 South Koreans expressed similar views, as did three out of four U.S., Canadian, and French respondents.

Several countries, however, leaned slightly positively toward Pyongyang, including Lebanon (38 percent positive, 27 percent negative); Turkey (31 percent positive, 22 percent negative); Nigeria (42 percent positive, 28 percent negative); Indonesia (40 percent positive, 37 percent negative); and India (26 percent positive, 18 percent negative).

Among the more positively viewed countries, Japan was seen most favorably by Indonesians (84 percent), Kenyans and Canadians (74 percent), and Filipinos (70 percent), despite Tokyo’s occupation of the archipelago during World War II. Less surprisingly, the most negative views were found in South Korea (58 percent negative) and China (63 percent), both of which have long demanded apologies by Tokyo for abuses committed by its occupation forces.

The EU was viewed positively in 24 out of 27 nations in the survey and given particularly high ratings in EU member-countries themselves, and by Canada, Chile, and South Korea. On the other hand, it was given slightly negative ratings by Turkey (30 percent positive, 32 percent negative), Egypt (10 percent positive, 33 percent negative), and Brazil (31 percent positive, 38 percent negative).

France was given ratings of 54 percent or greater in all European countries, with the exception of Poland (51 percent) and Hungary (40 percent); the two African nations, Lebanon and Canada. In Asia, favorable views were most prevalent in China (62 percent) and South Korea (55 percent).

The most negative views toward France, whose outspoken opposition to the U.S. war in Iraq has won it wide notice, were found in Turkey (69 percent negative, nine percent positive) and the U.S. (41 percent negative, 38 percent positive). The latter finding actually marked an improvement over the previous year two years. In 2004, 52 percent of U.S. respondents said they had mainly negative views of Paris.

On China, the most negative views were found in Europe and the U.S, while the most positive opinions were found in Africa, the Arab world, Indonesia, the Philippines, and Chile. An average of 42 percent of all respondents (except those in China itself) said they had a positive view of Beijing; 32 percent said their view was mainly negative.

(Inter Press Service)

Author: Jim Lobe

Jim Lobe writes for Inter Press Service.