Tuesday, January 23, 2007

U.S. image around world sharply worsens: BBC poll

U.S. image around world sharply worsens: BBC poll

LONDON (Reuters) - The image of the United States has deteriorated around the world in the past year because of issues such as Iraq and prisoners at Guantanamo Bay, according to a poll by the BBC World Service released on Tuesday.

The proportion of people believing the United States has a mainly positive influence in world affairs dropped seven points from a year ago -- to 29 percent from 36, the results from 18 countries that were also polled the previous year showed.

Fifty-two percent thought U.S. influence was mainly negative, up from 47 percent a year ago, the poll found.

The survey, released on the day President George W. Bush gives his State of the Union speech to Congress, found sharp disagreement with U.S. policy on Iraq which is ravaged by violence nearly four years after the U.S.-led invasion.

In all, 26,381 people were questioned in 25 countries. Almost three in four people disapproved of U.S. policy on Iraq, while two-thirds disapproved of U.S. handling of terrorism suspects held at the Guantanamo Bay camp in Cuba.

"The U.S. administration's recent decision to send more troops to Iraq is at odds with global public opinion ... This policy is likely to further hurt America's image," Doug Miller, president of pollsters GlobeScan, said.

Sixty-five percent disapproved of U.S. policy on last year's war between Israel and Hezbollah guerrillas, 60 percent of its handling of Iran's nuclear program, 56 percent of its stance on global warming and 54 percent of its policy on North Korea's nuclear program.

More than two-thirds believed the U.S. military presence in the Middle East provoked more conflict than it prevented and only 17 percent thought U.S. troops there were a stabilizing force.

The poll found that the American public also seemed to have serious doubts about U.S. foreign policy. Majorities of Americans polled disapproved of how the United States was handling the war in Iraq (57 percent) and global warming (54 percent) while half disapproved of U.S. policy on Guantanamo and Iran.

Fifty-three percent of Americans said the U.S. military presence in the Middle East "provokes more conflict than it prevents", the survey said.

The poll found U.S. policy was regarded poorly in Britain, Bush's closest ally in Iraq. A majority (57 percent) of the British public saw U.S. influence in the world as mainly negative and 81 percent disapproved of U.S. actions in the war in Iraq, the BBC World Service said.

The poll, carried out between November 3 and January 9, covered Argentina, Australia, Brazil, Chile, China, Egypt, France, Germany, Britain, Hungary, India, Indonesia, Italy, Kenya, Lebanon, Mexico, Nigeria, the Philippines, Poland, Portugal, Russia, South Korea, Turkey, United Arab Emirates and the United States.