by Jim Lobe
(IPS) WASHINGTON -- As George W. Bush prepares to be sworn in for his second term as U.S. president, a strong majority of the world's people are concerned his tenure is likely to produce more setbacks to the cause of world peace and security, according to a major international poll released Wednesday.
The survey of nearly 22,000 people in 21 countries, conducted by GlobeScan with the Program on International Policy Attitudes (PIPA) of the University of Maryland for the British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC), found that pessimists about Bush's impact on global security outnumbered optimists by more than a two-to-one margin.
"The research makes very clear that the re-election of President Bush has further isolated America from the world," said Doug Miller, GlobeScan's president. "It also supports the view of some Americans that unless his administration changes its approach to world affairs in its second term, it will continue to erode America's good name, and hence its ability to effectively influence world affairs."
Fifty-eight percent of the respondents predicted that Bush's re-election would be bad for international peace and security, compared to only 26 percent, concentrated primarily in India (62 percent), the Philippines (63 percent), and Poland (44 percent), who insisted it would be good.
The mammoth poll, which was conducted in each country during December, also found that 42 percent of respondents worldwide said Bush's re-election had made them feel worse about the U.S. public, compared to 25 percent who said it made them feel better, and 23 percent who said it made no difference.
Global sentiment also appeared to be overwhelmingly negative about U.S.-led military operations in Iraq.
Overall, 70 percent of respondents said they were opposed to their countries contributing troops to the operation. In no country -- including those, like Poland, that are in fact contributing troops in Iraq -- did either a majority or plurality of respondents say they thought their country should contribute troops.
"This is quite a grim picture for the U.S.," said PIPA director Steven Kull, who noted that overwhelming sentiment against sending troops to Iraq suggested not only that Bush was highly unlikely to sign up any new volunteers for his dwindling "Coalition" in Iraq, but also that "in the future the prospects for getting foreign participation in any U.S.-led military operations that is not sanctioned by the United Nations or some other multilateral body are very poor."
The poll, which covered Washington's closest allies in Western Europe and East Asia, as well as several South American countries, Mexico, South Africa, Lebanon, Russia, Turkey, Australia, South Africa, China and India, comes amid indications of growing concerns about Iraq, in particular, at home.
The Los Angeles Times Wednesday released its own poll that found that the percentage of U.S. citizens who believe Iraq was "worth going to war over" has sunk to a new low of 39 percent, down from 44 percent last October, one month before the presidential elections. Fifty-six percent now believe the war was a mistake.
Consistent with the findings of the international poll, the Times survey also found that nearly twice as many people now believe that the war in Iraq "destabilized" the Middle East than those who believe the region has been stabilized, and that two-thirds of the public believe that the image of the U.S. has been "hurt" by the U.S. intervention.
Only 10 percent said Washington image had improved, while the remainder either had no opinion or said it had no impact.
The Globescan-PIPA poll was generally consistent with another survey the two groups released last September on global attitudes about the U.S. presidential election.
Carried out in 35 countries in July and August, that poll found that Massachusetts Sen. John Kerry was favoured over Bush by pluralities or majorities in 30 countries and by an average of 46 to 20 percent.
Consistent with latest poll, Kerry was favoured by the greatest margins in Europe, predominantly Muslim countries, and South America, while Bush actually bested Kerry in only three countries -- Philippines, Poland, and Nigeria. In India, Bush and Kerry were virtually tied.
In the latest poll, the countries that felt most negative about Bush's impact on global security included Turkey (82 percent), Argentina (79 percent), Brazil (78 percent), Germany (77 percent, France (75 percent), Indonesia (68 percent), although the survey was carried out before U.S. relief operations after last month's tsunami, Canada (67 percent), Lebanon and Britain (64 percent), and Chile (62 percent).
Asked whether Bush's re-election made them feel worse about the U.S. public, respondents from Turkey (72 percent), France (65 percent), Brazil (59 percent), and Germany (56 percent) were the most negatively affected, while only in the Philippines (78 percent) and India (65 percent) did majorities say it made them feel better.
Anti-U.S. attitudes, however, generally trailed behind the negative attitudes expressed for Bush in the new poll.
Asked whether they felt "mainly positive" or "mainly negative" about U.S. influence in the world, Filipino respondents were by far the most positive -- 88 percent, while majorities ranging from 52 percent to 56 percent also described U.S. influence as "mainly positive" in Poland, India, South Africa, and South Korea.
On the other hand, majorities in 12 countries -- ranging from 50 percent in Chile and Britain to 64 percent in Germany and 65 percent in Argentina -- described U.S. influence as "mainly negative, while pluralities in Lebanon, China, and Japan agreed.
"I'm quite confident that there's never been any period where you could find such high levels of negative feelings towards the U.S. in polling data," Kull told IPS, noting, however, that the combined polls do not yet show that a majority worldwide sees the U.S. as having a negative influence on the world.
"That suggests there may be some underlying openness to repairing relations with the U.S.," he added.
Italy was found to be the most pro-U.S. Western European country, with nearly half of respondents insisting that Washington's influence was still mainly "positive".
In Britain, Washington's closest ally, the margin was 44 percent positive versus 50 percent negative; in Australia, it was 40-52, only slightly more positive than France where the margin was 38-54.
Overall, the poll found that those with higher education and income levels tended to be somewhat more negative about Bush's re-election and to feel worse about U.S. influence. Muslims were much more likely to be negative on both counts than Christians.
In addition to the 21 countries surveyed, a poll of 1,000 U.S. respondents was also carried out. Fifty-six percent of Americans considered Bush's re-election positive for world security, and 71 percent assessed the U.S. as having a mainly positive influence.
Countries least eager to contribute troops to Iraq included Mexico where no respondent favored the idea, Russia (2 percent), Argentina (3 percent), Turkey (6 percent), and France, Lebanon, and Chile (9 percent). Support for troop contributions ran highest in countries that have contributed troops: Australia (37 percent), Philippines (36 percent), South Korea (34 percent), Britian (31 percent) and Italy (28 percent).
With the exception of the Philippines (500), Brazil (800), and Poland (943), more than 1,000 respondents were surveyed in each country. Nation-wide polls were conducted in all of the industrialized nations polled, while polling was combined to urban centers in Brazil, Chile, China, India, Indonesia, the Philippines, South Africa, and Turkey.
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