International attitudes towards the United States, Iraq, war on Iraq

PEW Research Centre latest findings Released 4 December 2002

Full report: http://people-press.org/reports/display.php3?ReportID=165


"Huge majorities in France, Germany and Russia oppose the use of military force to end the rule of Saddam Hussein. The British public is evenly split on the issue. More than six-in-ten Americans say they would back such an action. But the six-nation poll finds a significant degree of agreement in Europe that Iraq is a threat to the stability of the Middle East and to world peace. More people in all countries polled say the current Iraqi regime poses a danger to peace than say the same about either North Korea or Iran.

Majorities in Great Britain, Germany and France also agree with Americans that the best way to deal with Saddam is to remove him from power rather than to just disarm him. However, the French, Germans and Russians see the conflict between the Israelis and Palestinians as a greater threat to stability in the Middle East than Saddams continued rule. The American and British publics both worry more about Iraq than the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

Turkish respondents differ from Europeans about the danger posed by Iraq. They are divided on whether the regime in Baghdad is a threat to the stability of the region, and just a narrow 44% plurality thinks Saddam Hussein should be removed from power.

Fully 83% of Turks oppose allowing U.S. forces to use bases in their country, a NATO ally, to wage war on Iraq. Further, a 53% majority of Turkish respondents believe the U.S. wants to get rid of Saddam as part of a war against unfriendly Muslim countries, rather than because the Iraqi leader is a threat to peace.

While Europeans view Saddam as a threat, they also are suspicious of U.S. intentions in Iraq. Large percentages in each country polled think that the U.S. desire to control Iraqi oil is the principal reason that Washington is considering a war against Iraq. In Russia 76% subscribe to a war-for-oil view; so too do 75% of the French, 54% of Germans, and 44% of the British. In sharp contrast, just 22% of Americans see U.S. policy toward Iraq driven by oil interests. Two-thirds think the United States is motivated by a concern about the security threat posed by Saddam Hussein.

In addition, respondents in the five nations surveyed (aside from the U.S.) express a high degree of concern that war with Iraq will increase the risk of terrorism in Europe. Two-thirds of those in Turkey say this, as do majorities in Russia, France, Great Britain and Germany. By comparison, 45% of Americans are worried that war will raise the risk of terrorist attacks in the U.S.

Suspicions about U.S. motives in Iraq are consistent with criticisms of America apparent throughout the Global Attitudes survey. The most serious problem facing the U.S. abroad is its very poor public image in the Muslim world, especially in the Middle East/Conflict Area. Favorable ratings are down sharply in two of Americas most important allies in this region, Turkey and Pakistan. The number of people giving the United States a positive rating has dropped by 22 points in Turkey and 13 points in Pakistan in the last three years. And in Egypt, a country for which no comparative data is available, just 6% of the public holds a favorable view of the U.S.

The war on terrorism is opposed by majorities in nearly every predominantly Muslim country surveyed. This includes countries outside the Middle East/Conflict Area, such as Indonesia and Senegal. The principal exception is the overwhelming support for Americas anti-terrorist campaign found in Uzbekistan, where the United States currently has 1,500 troops stationed.

Sizable percentages of Muslims in many countries with significant Muslim populations also believe that suicide bombings can be justified in order to defend Islam from its enemies. While majorities see suicide bombing as justified in only two nations polled, more than a quarter of Muslims in another nine nations subscribe to this view.

U.S. image problems are not confined to Muslim countries. The worldwide polling conducted throughout the summer and fall finds few people, even in friendly nations, expressing a very favorable opinion of America, and sizable minorities in Western Europe and Canada having an unfavorable view. Many people around the world, especially in Europe and the Middle East/Conflict Area, believe the U.S. does not take into account the interests of their country when making international policies. Majorities in most countries also see U.S. policies as contributing to the growing gap between rich and poor nations and believe the United States does not do the right amount to solve global problems.

U.S. global influence is simultaneously embraced and rejected by world publics. America is nearly universally admired for its technological achievements and people in most countries say they enjoy U.S. movies, music and television programs. Yet in general, the spread of U.S. ideas and customs is disliked by majorities in almost every country included in this survey. This sentiment is prevalent in friendly nations such as Canada (54%) and Britain (50%), and even more so in countries where America is broadly disliked, such as Argentina (73%) and Pakistan (81%).

Similarly, despite widespread resentment toward U.S. international policies, majorities in nearly every country believe that the emergence of another superpower would make the world a more dangerous place. This view is shared even in Egypt and Pakistan, where no more than one-in-ten have a favorable view of the U.S. And in Russia, a 53% majority believes the world is a safer place with a single superpower.

The American public is strikingly at odds with publics around the world in its views about the U.S. role in the world and the global impact of American actions. In contrast to people in most other countries, a solid majority of Americans surveyed think the U.S. takes into account the interests of other countries when making international policy. Eight-in-ten Americans believe it is a good thing that U.S. ideas and customs are spreading around the world. The criticism that the U.S. contributes to the gap between rich and poor nations is the only negative sentiment that resonates with a significant percentage of Americans (39%).

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