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Public Diplomacy by the Numbers, 2008

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Reports from multi-national opinion surveys on U.S. standing and related issues

Global polling, 2002 – 2007 (archive page)

Europeans favor Obama presidency; Americans and Europeans share concerns on terrorism, international economy, Russia
Transatlantic Trends. Released 10 September 2008

A new survey shows that nearly half of Europeans (47%) believe that relations between the United States and Europe will improve if Senator Barack Obama is elected the next U.S. president, compared with 29% who believe relations will stay the same, and 5% who believe relations will worsen. If Senator John McCain is elected, only 11% believe that transatlantic relations will improve, compared to 49% who believe relations will stay the same, and 13% who believe that relations will worsen….

TNS Opinion conducted the survey and collected the data from the United States and 12 European countries: Germany, France, the United Kingdom, Italy, the Netherlands, Poland, Portugal, Slovakia, Spain, Turkey, Romania, and Bulgaria. Interviews were conducted by telephone using CATI (Computer Assisted Telephone Interviews) in all countries except Poland, Slovakia, Turkey, Bulgaria, and Romania (where lower telephone penetration necessitates face-to-face interviews), between June 4 and June 24, 2008. In each country, a random sample of approximately 1,000 men and women, 18 years of age and older were interviewed. The margin of error is plus/minus three percentage points….

Sixty-nine percent of Europeans viewed Senator Barack Obama favorably, compared with 26% who viewed Senator John McCain favorably. The highest favorability ratings for Obama were found in France (85%), the Netherlands (85%), and Germany (83%), and the highest favorability ratings for McCain were found in Portugal (35%), the Netherlands (33%), Spain (33%), and the United Kingdom (33%). Among Europeans who felt that U.S. leadership in world affairs is “undesirable,” 50% believed that relations will improve under an Obama presidency and 10% believed that relations will improve under McCain….

While most Europeans continue to feel that Europe should take a more independent role in security and diplomatic affairs apart from the United States, modest increases in the percentage of those who felt relations should become closer were found in all countries. The overall percentage who felt relations should become closer increased from 27% in 2006 to 31% in 2008. The percentage of Europeans who felt that Europe should be more independent declined from 52% in 2006 to 46% in 2008, and the largest percentage of Americans (47%) continued to feel that the partnership should be closer. …

Pew Global Attitudes Project
Released June 2008

Favorable views of the United States have increased modestly since 2007 in 10 of 21 countries where comparative data are available. Perhaps more importantly, the polling finds many people around the world paying close attention to the U.S. presidential election. Moreover – except in countries that are extremely anti-American – those who are paying attention generally believe the next president may well change U.S. foreign policy for the better. In nearly every country surveyed, greater numbers express confidence in presidential candidate Barack Obama than in John McCain.

However, the survey of more than 24,000 people in 24 countries, conducted March 17 to April 21, finds another change in global opinion that could present a formidable challenge to the United States in the future. Around the world, people have a new concern: slumping economic conditions. And they have a familiar complaint – most think the U.S. is having a considerable influence on their economy, and it is largely seen as a negative one.

Majorities in 18 of the 24 countries surveyed describe current economic conditions in their country as bad. Assessments have worsened over the past year among countries surveyed in both this year and 2007. The median percentage rating their national economy as bad rose from 50% in 2007 to 61% in the current poll. The proportion of respondents expressing a positive view of their nation’s economy has declined in 14 of the 22 countries since last year.

The publics of two emerging Asian superpowers – China and India – remain upbeat about national economic conditions, though Indians are less positive than they were a year ago. In contrast, some of the most negative evaluations of economic conditions come from citizens of advanced Western countries. Positive views of the economy have declined sharply over the past year in Great Britain, the United States and Spain. France, where most people were already quite negative about the economy, registered a further decline; in the current survey, just 19% of the French view the national economy as good, down from 30% in 2007. …

Countries and regions included in the survey, March-April 2008:

The Americas: Argentina, Brazil, Mexico, United States
Europe: Britain, France, Germany, Poland, Russia, Spain,
Middle East: Egypt, Jordan, Lebanon, Turkey
Asia/Pacific: Australia, China, India, Indonesia, Japan, Pakistan, South Korea
Africa: Nigeria, South Africa, Tanzania
Data based on national samples except in Brazil, China, India, and Pakistan where the samples are disproportionately urban.

Worldwide Publics Support Media Freedom and Oppose Internet Limits
PIPA/ Released May 2008

A new poll of nations around the world finds worldwide support for the principle of media freedom and broad opposition to government having the right to limit access to the Internet. In many countries people want more media freedom than they have now, but in many Muslim countries and in Russia, there is substantial support for regulation of news or ideas that the government thinks could be politically destabilizing….

Interviews were conducted in 20 nations, though in three of them not all questions were asked. Those nations interviewed include most of the world’s largest nations –China, India, the United States, Indonesia, Nigeria, and Russia–as well as Argentina, Azerbaijan, Britain, Egypt, France, Iran, Jordan, Mexico, Peru, Poland, South Korea, Turkey, Ukraine, and the Palestinian Territories. These nations represent 59 percent of the world population….

Presented the issue of Internet censorship, a majority in all but two of the countries that were asked this question say that “people should have the right to read whatever is on the Internet.” On average six in ten endorse full access while three in ten say that the government should have the right to “prevent people from having access to some things on the Internet.”

In China, a country whose Internet censorship policies have received a great deal of international attention, 71 percent of the public say that “people should have the right to read whatever is on the Internet:” only 21 percent of Chinese endorse their government’s right to limit access.

The only two publics to not endorse full access are Jordan and Iran. In Jordan 63 percent support government regulation of the Internet as do 44 percent in Iran (32% favor unlimited access)….

The poll of 18,122 respondents was conducted by, a collaborative research project involving research centers from around the world and managed by the Program on International Policy Attitudes (PIPA) at the University of Maryland. Polling was conducted between January 10 and March 20, 2008.

Europeans and Americans desire closer relations.
PIPA/ for the British Council. Released March 2008

A poll of seven European countries, Canada, and the United States finds widespread support for closer relations between Europe and the United States. However, currently, cooperation between Europe and North America is seen as largely ineffective and overall transatlantic feelings are fairly cool, especially on the side of the Europeans. Yet Americans, Canadians and Europeans hold surprising consensus on the issues of greatest importance for their countries to address together….

Americans overwhelmingly favor closer relations with Europe (91%). On average among all European countries polled, 62 percent favor closer European-American relations. This includes large majorities of Poles (77%), Germans (75%), Irish (70%), and Spaniards (67%). More modest majorities of Turks (53%) and Britons (51%) favor closer relations. The one exception is the French. Only a minority (39%) of the French favor closer relations, while a modest majority (53%) is opposed. Most Canadians (61%) favor closer European-American relations as well….

Asked how effectively Europe and North America are working together on nine different areas, people give a generally negative assessment. On average majorities give negative assessments of such cooperation in eradicating poverty (65%), combating climate change (58%), managing international migration and immigration (53%). In just one area is there a predominantly positive view. On business and trade half 47% give a positive rating. Views lean negative for cooperation in conducting effective peacekeeping missions, protecting human rights, fighting global terrorism, and linking educational institutions and individuals. Views are mixed but lean positive on transatlantic cooperation to fight killer diseases such as HIV/AIDS and malaria…..

The poll was sponsored by the British Council, the UK’s international cultural relations organization, as part of the Transatlantic Network 2020 program, designed to foster greater dialogue and problem-solving among emerging leaders in North America and Europe. The poll was developed and analyzed by GlobeScan together with the Program on International Policy Attitudes. The poll was conducted between 7 January and 22 January 2008. Sample size in most countries was 500, with larger samples in the United States (2,001) and United Kingdom (1,019) giving the findings a margin of error of plus or minus 3-4.5 percent.

Large Majorities in Many Countries Favor Equal Rights for Women.
PIPA/ March 2008

According to a new poll of 16 nations from around the world there is a widespread consensus that it is important for “women to have full equality of rights” and most say it is very important. This is true in Muslim countries as well as Western countries.

In nearly all countries most people perceive that in their lifetime women have gained greater equality. Nonetheless, large majorities would like their government and the United Nations to take an active role in preventing discrimination….

An overwhelming majority of people around the world say that it is important for “women to have full equality of rights compared to men.” Large majorities in all nations polled take this position ranging from 60 percent in India to 98 percent in Mexico and Britain. On average across the 16 nations 86 percent say women’s equality is important, with 59 percent saying it is very important.

Attitudes vary about whether such equality is very important or somewhat important. In seven countries large majorities say it is very important–Indonesia (71%), France (75%), China (76%), US (77%), Turkey (80%), Britain (89%), and Mexico (89%). Smaller percentages say it is very important in Egypt (31%), Russia (35%), India (41%), South Korea (43%), Ukraine (44%), and Iran (44%).

Support for equal rights is also robust in all Muslim counties. Large majorities say it is important in Iran (78%), Azerbaijan (85%), Egypt (90%), Indonesia (91%), Turkey (91%), and the Palestinian territories (93%).

The poll of 14,896 respondents was conducted by, a collaborative research project involving research centers from around the world and managed by the Program on International Policy Attitudes (PIPA) at the University of Maryland. Interviews were conducted in 16 nations including most of the largest countries: Azerbaijan, China, Egypt, France, Great Britain, India, Indonesia, Iran, Mexico, Nigeria, the Palestinian territories, Russia, South Korea, Turkey, Ukraine, and the US. The nations included represent 58 percent of the world population.

Unease about economy and globalization.
PIPA/ for the BBC. February 2008

In 22 out of 34 countries around the world, the weight of opinion is that “economic globalization, including trade and investment,” is growing too quickly, according to a BBC World Service Poll of 34,500 people. On average one out of two (50%) hold this view, while 35 percent say globalization is growing too slowly.

In the G-7 countries … an average of 57 percent say globalization is growing too quickly.

Related to this unease is an even stronger view that the benefits and burdens of “the economic developments of the last few years” have not been shared fairly. Majorities in 27 out of 34 countries hold this view – on average 64 percent.

In developed countries, those who have this view of unfairness are more likely to say that globalization is growing too quickly – especially in France, Italy, Spain, South Korea, Japan, and Germany (and to a lesser extent Britain and the US).

In contrast, in some developing countries, those who perceive such unfairness are more likely to say globalization is proceeding too slowly. These include Turkey, the Philippines, Indonesia, Brazil, Kenya, Mexico and the countries of Central America. Only 19 percent overall say globalization is growing much too quickly, while 32 percent say it is growing a bit too quickly….

In total 34,528 citizens in Argentina, Australia, Brazil, Canada, Chile, China, Costa Rica, Egypt, El Salvador, France, Ghana, Germany, Great Britain, Guatemala, Honduras, India, Indonesia, Israel, Italy, Japan, Kenya, Lebanon, Mexico, Nicaragua, Nigeria, Panama, the Philippines, Portugal, Russia, South Korea, Spain, Turkey, UAE, and the United States were interviewed face-to-face or by telephone between October 31, 2007 and January 25, 2008. Polling was conducted for the BBC World Service by the international polling firm GlobeScan and its research partners in each country. In 16 of the 34 countries, the sample was limited to major urban areas. The margin of error per country ranges from +/-2.4 to 4.4 percent.

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