by Jim Lobe
(IPS) WASHINGTON -- If the people of the rest of the world could vote in November's U.S. elections, Democratic Sen. John Kerry would beat President George W. Bush in a landslide.
That is the finding of a poll conducted by GlobeScan Incorporated and its affiliates during July and August of nearly 35,000 people in 35 countries from all regions of the world.
The survey, which was released by GlobeScan and the University of Maryland's Program on International Policy Attitudes (PIPA) here September 7, found that Kerry was favored over Bush by an average of 46 percent to 20 percent in the 35 countries polled, but by a much larger margin among respondents in traditional U.S. allies in Western Europe.
"Only one in five want to see Bush re-elected," said Steven Kull, PIPA's executive director. "Though he is not as well known, Kerry would win handily if the people of the world were to elect the U.S. president."
In a separate poll of nearly 800 U.S. respondents conducted Sept. 3-7, PIPA found the public was split over their assessment of foreign perceptions of Bush and his record.
Twenty-five percent of respondents said they thought "people around the world" would favor Bush, while 35 percent said they thought Kerry would be preferred. Nearly 40 percent said they thought foreign views would be "about evenly divided."
At the same time, a majority of 51 percent of U.S. respondents said they felt Bush's foreign policy had made "more people feel worse" about the U.S, compared with 16 percent who opted for "better," and 32 percent who said they expected foreign opinion to be "about evenly divided."
One-third of the U.S. respondents said they would concerned "a lot" if "more people around the world say they have been feeling worse about the United States"; 27 percent said they would be "somewhat" concerned; 22 percent said they would be "a little" concerned; and 18 percent said they would be "not at all" concerned by such a negative reaction.
Nearly three-quarters of the U.S. respondents said the preferences of most of the world's people would have no influence on their vote. The U.S. sample was divided between Bush and Kerry partisans at 40 percent each, with an additional 20 percent answering "don't know" when asked how they intended to vote.
This even split was in striking contrast to the international poll, where majorities or pluralities of respondents in 30 out of the 35 countries surveyed said they preferred to see Kerry win, while in only three countries -- the Philippines, Nigeria, and Poland -- was Bush the favoured candidate.
The tally in two Asian countries, India and Thailand, showed the race to be within the margin of error of plus or minus 2.3-5 percent. In India, Kerry led Bush 34-33 percent, while in Thailand, Bush led Kerry 33-30 percent, according to the survey.
Particularly notable was the finding that among countries that have contributed troops to the U.S.-led military operation in Iraq, not only was Kerry heavily favored, but respondents also said their view of U.S. foreign policy has gotten worse under Bush. Countries that fell into this category included Britain, the Czech Republic, Italy, the Netherlands, the Dominican Republic, Kazakhstan, Japan, Norway, and Spain.
The two exceptions were the Philippines and Poland. In the former, 57 percent said they preferred Bush over Kerry and a comparable percentage said their view of U.S. foreign policy had improved since Bush became president.
The survey, however, was taken just before Philippine President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo withdrew Filipino troops from Iraq in the wake of demands by insurgents who had taken a Filipino truck driver hostage. The Philippines was the only country where a majority of respondents said they favored Bush.
In Poland, where only a modest 31-26 percent plurality said they favored Bush over Kerry, 41 percent nonetheless said their view of U.S. foreign policy had gotten worse under Bush, while only 15 percent said it had gotten better.
Overall, a majority or plurality in 31 of the 35 countries said Bush had made them feel "worse" about U.S. foreign policy. Overall, 53 percent of respondents in all countries agreed with that position, while 19 percent said that he had made them feel "better" about Washington's role in the world.
Majorities who said their views of U.S. policy had become "worse" under Bush -- ranging from two-thirds to more than 80 percent -- were particularly heavy among West Europeans and Latin Americans.
"Perhaps most sobering for Americans is the strength of the view that U.S. foreign policy is on the wrong track, even in countries contributing troops in Iraq," said GlobeScan President Doug Miller. GlobeScan, a global consulting firm, polls mainly for private clients -- mostly multinational corporations.
The survey results could play a role in the campaign, if only because both Kerry and Bush have made foreign policy, the U.S. role in the world, and Iraq a central part of their campaign messages. Kerry, in particular, has claimed that Bush's unilateralism in carrying out his "war on terrorism" has needlessly alienated U.S. allies and foreign opinion with potentially disastrous consequences.
His claim, which was based mostly on previous polls by the Pew Global Attitudes Project that showed a sharp drop in the percentage of foreigners, particularly in Europe and the Islamic world, who expressed favourable opinions of the United States over the past four years, is sure to be bolstered the new survey, which polled between 500 and 1,500 people in each of the 35 countries.
Most of the polling was done in face-to-face interviews, although in some countries they were conducted by telephone. In 11 poor countries -- Brazil, China, the Dominican Republic, India, Indonesia, Peru, the Philippines, South Africa, Thailand, Turkey, and Venezuela -- the poll was confined to urban areas.
Overall, an average of about one-third of respondents did not express an opinion when asked which candidate they favored.
Among Washington's traditional NATO allies, Kerry was strongly preferred over Bush. The biggest margin was found in Norway -- 74-7 percent; in Germany, its was 74-10 percent; in France 64-5 percent; the Netherlands, 63-6 percent; Italy (whose prime minister, Silvio Berlusconi, has been a staunch Bush advocate), 58-14 percent; Spain, 45-7 percent; and Britain, 47-16 percent.
In Canada, Kerry was preferred by 61 percent to 16 percent, and in Japan, the margin was a closer 43 percent to 23 percent. In traditionally neutral Sweden, the margin was 58 percent to ten percent.
In Central Europe -- sometimes referred to as the "New Europe" -- the picture was more mixed, with the Poles giving Bush a slight plurality, but the Czechs falling much more into the western European camp, giving Kerry a 42-18 percent edge.
According to the survey, Asian views were also more mixed, although a majority of 52 percent to 12 percent of Chinese respondents preferred Kerry over Bush and a majority of 57 percent of Indonesians opted for the Massachusetts senator versus 34 percent who said they favoured Bush. A majority of Filipinos went for Bush, while Indians and Thais were closely divided.
In Latin America, however, Kerry swept all of the nine countries that were polled. In two cases, he gained a majority -- Brazil (57-14 percent) and the Dominican Republic (51-38 percent). In the rest, he scored strong pluralities, including Venezuela (48-22 percent), Colombia (47-26 percent), Argentina (43-6 percent); Mexico (38-18 percent), Uruguay (37-5 percent), and Bolivia (25-16 percent).
In Africa, Bush did best in Nigeria where 33 percent of respondents said they preferred him versus 27 percent who opted for Kerry. But in five other African countries, Kerry emerged as the clear favourite, including Kenya (58-25 percent), Ghana (48-24 percent), Tanzania (44-30 percent), South Africa (43-29 percent), and Zimbabwe (28-6 percent).
Respondents tended to be least responsive in central Eurasia. In Russia, Kerry was preferred by a margin of 20 percent to 10 percent; in Turkey, the margin was 40 percent to 25 percent; and in Kazakhstan, the margin was 40 percent to 12 percent.
The strongest negative views of U.S. foreign policy under Bush were found in Germany, where 83 percent of respondents said their image of Washington's role in the world had gotten worse. Others with similar perceptions included France (81 percent); Mexico (78 percent); China (72 percent); Canada and the Netherlands (71 percent); Spain (67 percent); Brazil and Italy (66 percent); Argentina (65 percent); and Britain (64 percent).
The only countries where a majority or plurality of respondents said their opinion of the U.S. foreign policy under Bush had improved were the Philippines (58 percent better, 27 percent worse); India (38 percent better, 33 percent worse), and Thailand (35 percent better, 30 percent worse).
Respondents in Nigeria and Venezuela were roughly equally divided.
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