Views of China and Russia decline : BBC World Service poll

Public views of China and Russia have slipped considerably in the past year, according to a new BBC World Service poll across 21 countries.Views of the United States have improved modestly over the past year but remain predominantly negative, even though the poll was taken after President Obama’s election.

In last year’s BBC poll across the same countries, people leaned toward saying China and Russia were having positive influences in the world. But views of China are now divided, with positive ratings having slipped six points to 39%, while 40% are now negative. Negative views of Russia have jumped eight points so that, now, substantially more have a negative (42%) than a positive view (30%) of Russia’s influence.

Views of the US showed improvements in Canada, Egypt, Ghana, India, Italy and Japan. But far more countries have predominantly negative views of America (12), than predominantly positive views (six).

Most Europeans show little change and views of the US in Russia and China have grown more negative. On average, positive views have risen from 35% to 40% but they are still outweighed by negative views (43%, down from 47%).

As was the case last year, Iran, Israel and Pakistan are the three countries rated most negatively. Iran had the poorest average ratings of the countries people were asked to rate, with 55% feeling it has a negative influence in the world. Fourteen of the 21 countries see it as having a negative influence.

Pakistan also gets very low ratings with 53% giving negative ratings and 17% positive ones. Eighteen countries see Pakistan as having a negative influence.

The largest number of countries – 19 out of 21 – give negative ratings to Israel. The two exceptions are Americans (where slightly more are positive) and Russians (who are divided). On average, 51% in countries polled say it is having a negative influence and 21% say it is having a positive influence.

It should be noted that most polling occurred before Israel undertook its military operation in Gaza, and before the recent interruption in Russian gas supplies to Europe.

As last year, the most positive views are of Germany, with positive ratings rising even higher from 55% to 61% on average. Every country polled has a favourable view of Germany.

The UK has also moved up seven points, with an average of 58% today saying it is having a positive influence. The BBC World Service poll has been tracking opinions about country influence in the world since 2005.

The latest results are based on 13,575 in-home or telephone interviews conducted across a total of 21 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 21 November 2008 and 1 February 2009.

GlobeScan Chairman Doug Miller comments: “Our poll results suggest that China has much to learn about winning hearts and minds in the world. It seems that a successful Olympic Games has not been enough to offset other concerns that people have.

“As for Russia, the more it acts like the old Soviet Union, the less people outside its borders seem to like it.”

Steven Kull, Director of PIPA, comments: “Though BBC polls have shown that most people around the world are hopeful that Barack Obama will improve US relations with the world, it is clear that his election alone is not enough to turn the tide. People are still looking to see if there are significant changes in US policies.”

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