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Sunday 13 Jul 2014

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Global views of United States improve while other countries decline

Global views of the United States have improved markedly over the last year while views of many countries have become more negative, according to the latest BBC World Service poll across 28 countries.

For the first time since the BBC started tracking in 2005, views of the United States' influence in the world are now more positive than negative on average.

The survey, conducted by GlobeScan/PIPA among more than 29,000 adults, asked respondents to say whether they considered the influence of different countries in the world to be mostly positive or mostly negative.

It found that the United States is viewed positively on balance in 20 of 28 countries, with an average of 46% now saying it has a mostly positive influence in the world, while 34% say it has a negative influence.

Compared to a year earlier, negative ratings of the United States have dropped a striking nine points on average across the countries surveyed both years, while positive ratings are up a more modest four points.

Ratings of the influence of many other countries, meanwhile, have declined over the past year. On average, positive ratings of the United Kingdom and Japan are down three points, Canada down six points, and the European Union down four points. Ratings of the United Kingdom's influence in the world declined significantly in 11 countries and rose in only three.

Germany is the most favourably viewed nation (an average of 59% positive), followed by Japan (53%), the United Kingdom (52%), Canada (51%), and France (49%). The European Union is viewed positively by 53%. In contrast, Iran is the least favourably viewed nation (15%), followed by Pakistan (16%), North Korea (17%), Israel (19%), and Russia (30%).

While it is not among the most favourably viewed nations, the improvement in the ratings of the United States means it has now overtaken China in terms of positive perceptions. Fifteen countries view China favourably on balance, with an average of 41% feeling it has a mostly positive influence in the world and 38% feeling its influence is mostly negative.

Iran attracts mostly negative views in all countries polled except Mexico and Pakistan—on average, 56% rate it negatively. Views of Iran in China and Russia have deteriorated – positive views have dropped 11 points among the Chinese people (30%) while negative views of Iran have jumped up 13 points among Russians (to 45%).

The BBC World Service Poll has been tracking opinions about country influence in the world since 2005. The latest results are based on 29,977 in-home or telephone interviews conducted across a total of 28 countries by the international polling firm GlobeScan, together with the Program on International Policy Attitudes (PIPA) at the University of Maryland. GlobeScan coordinated fieldwork between 30 November 2009 and 16 February 2010.

GlobeScan Chairman, Doug Miller, comments: "People around the world today view the United States more positively than at any time since the second Iraq war. While still well below that of countries like Germany and the UK, the global standing of the US is clearly on the rise again."

Steven Kull, director of PIPA, comments: "While China's image is stuck in neutral, America has motored past it in the global soft-power competition.

"After a year, it appears the 'Obama effect' is real. Its influence on people's views worldwide, though, is to soften the negative aspects of the United States' image, while positive aspects are not yet coming into strong focus."

Detailed Findings

While positive views of the United States increased in most countries polled, the most significant increases were in Germany (up from 18% in 2009 to 39% this year), in Russia (up from 7% to 25%), in Portugal (up from 43% to 57%) and in Chile (up from 42% to 55%) with negative perceptions also falling significantly.

The only countries where perceptions of the United States became more negative overall were Turkey (where the proportion with positive perceptions of the United States fell from 21% to 13% and negative perceptions increased from 63 to 70%), and in India (where positive perceptions dipped from 43% to 39% and negative views increased from 20 to 28%).

The only two countries to have majorities with negative views of the United States are Turkey (70%) and Pakistan (52%). Russia is also quite negative (50%).

Last year's poll found that views of both Russia and China had deteriorated. Looking at the views of the countries polled in both 2009 and 2010, they appear to have stabilized somewhat this year.

Views of Russia in particular are more muted, with a decline both in the proportion of those rating it positively (from 31 to 29%) and those rating it negatively (42 to 37%).

China's positive ratings remain at 40 per cent, while its negative ratings have fallen a little, to 38%.

European countries continue to have quite negative views of China, including Italy (72% negative), Germany (71%), France (64%), Spain and Portugal (both 54%) as do South Koreans (61%) and Americans (51%). In Africa, views are quite positive with majorities viewing it positively in Kenya and Nigeria (both 73%) and in Ghana (63%).

Views of the European Union remain mostly positive in almost all countries polled (53% overall). But there is a difference of views toward the European Union among the European nations surveyed, with Germany (76%) and France (74%) the most positive about its influence, Italy (64%) and Spain (62%) a little less favourable and the United Kingdom (54%) much less upbeat about it. Turkey – which is also highly negative about most other countries – also rates the European Union unfavourably (with only 29% positive).

Notes to Editors

Note on the calculation of tracking averages

The year-on-year shift in average views of countries cited above is based on the views of the 23 countries in which these questions were asked both in 2009 and 2010.

All other average figures cited above represent the views across all 28 countries surveyed this year.

Where a country was asked to rate itself, these views have not been included in the average views cited here.

In total 29,977 citizens in 28 countries, were interviewed face-to-face or by telephone between 30 November 2009 and 16 February 2010. Nations were rated by half samples in all countries polled. Polling was conducted for BBC World Service by the international polling firm GlobeScan and its research partners in each country. In ten of the 28 countries, the sample was limited to major urban areas. The margin of error per country ranges from +/-2.1 to 6.9%, 19 times out of 20.

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