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Public Diplomacy by the Numbers, 2011

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

The 2011 Arab Public Opinion Poll: Favorable views of the U.S. increase, but Turkey viewed as the big winner of the Arab Spring. Released 21 November 2011

While a majority of Arabs polled continue to express unfavorable views of the United States (59%) the number of those who have favorable views of the US has increased from 10% in 2010 to 26% in 2011. This improvement could be related to the perception of the American handling of the Arab Spring, as 24% of those polled identified the US as one of the two countries they believe played the most constructive role in the Arab Spring.

A majority of Arabs polled (52%) remain discouraged by the Obama administration policy in the Middle East, though this is down from 65% in 2010 and up from only 15% in 2009. A plurality of those polled (43%) have negative views of President Obama while 34% have positive views. This constitutes an improvement from 2010 for Obama, but a decline from 2009.

Turkey is the biggest winner of the Arab Spring. In the five countries polled, Turkey is seen to have played the “most constructive” role in the Arab events. Its prime minister, Recep Erdogan, is the most admired among world leaders, and those who envision a new president for Egypt want the new president to look most like Erdogan. Egyptians want their country to look more like Turkey than any of the other Muslim, Arab and other choices provided.

Iran suffered mixed results. More people in 2011 identify Iran as one of the two biggest threats they face than ever before (18%), and, in contrast with 2010, a plurality (35%) of those polled now believe that if Iran acquires weapons of mass destruction it would be negative for the Middle East. On the other hand, Iran’s president, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, remains relatively popular, and most (64%) Arabs still feel that Iran has the right to its nuclear program and should not be pressured by the international community to halt it.

A majority of those polled (55%) are more optimistic about the future of the Arab world in light of the Arab Spring, 16% are pessimistic and 23% feel no change. A majority feel that the Arab Spring is mostly about “ordinary people seeking dignity, freedom and a better life,” while 19% believe it is about foreign powers trying to stir trouble in the region and 16% feel it is about opposition parties or sects seeking to control governments.

A majority of Arabs polled (675) continue to say that they’re prepared for peace with Israel based on a two state solution along the 1967 borders. At the same time, a majority (53%) say that such a solution will never happen. Yet a majority (54%) also believes that if the two state solution is no longer on the table, this will lead to a state of intense conflict for years to come.

The 2011 Arab Public Opinion Poll the Saban Center for Middle East Policy at Brookings Institution, in conjunction with Zogby International. This year’s poll surveyed 3,000 people in Egypt, Morocco, Jordan, Lebanon, and the United Arab Emirates in October 2011, assessing attitudes toward the United States and the Obama administration, prospects for Arab-Israeli peace, the impact of the Arab awakening, the outlook for the Egyptian elections, and opinions on where the region is headed politically.

U.S. Favorability Ratings Remain Positive, but China Seen Overtaking U.S. as Global Superpower. Released 13 July 2011

In most regions of the world, opinion of the United States continues to be more favorable than it was in the Bush years, but U.S. image now faces a new challenge: doubts about America’s superpower status. In 15 of 22 nations, the balance of opinion is that China either will replace or already has replaced the United States as the world’s leading superpower. This view is especially widespread in Western Europe, where at least six-in-ten in France (72%), Spain (67%), Britain (65%) and Germany (61%) see China overtaking the U.S.

Majorities in Pakistan, the Palestinian territories, Mexico and China itself also foresee China supplanting the U.S. as the world’s dominant power. In most countries for which there are trends, the view that China will overtake the U.S. has increased substantially over the past two years, including by 10 or more percentage points in Spain, France, Pakistan, Britain, Jordan, Israel, Poland and Germany. Among Americans, the percentage saying that China will eventually overshadow or has already overshadowed the U.S. has increased from 33% in 2009 to 46% in 2011.

At least some of this changed view of the global balance of power may reflect the fact that the U.S. is increasingly seen as trailing China economically. This is especially the case in Western Europe, where the percentage naming China as the top economic power has increased by double digits in Spain, Germany, Britain and France since 2009.

In other parts of the globe, fewer are convinced that China is the world’s leading economic power. Majorities or pluralities in Eastern Europe, Asia, and Latin America still name the U.S. as the world’s dominant economic power. In the Middle East, Palestinians and Israelis agree that America continues to sit atop the global economy, while in Jordan and Lebanon more see China in this role. Notably, by an almost 2-to-1 margin the Chinese still believe the U.S. is the world’s dominant economic power.

These are among the key findings from a survey by the Pew Research Center’s Global Attitudes Project, conducted March 18 to May 15. The survey also finds that, in the U.S., France, Germany, Spain and Japan, those who see China as the world’s leading economic power believe this is a bad thing. By contrast, those who name the U.S. tend to think it is good that America is still the top global economy. In developing countries those who believe China has already overtaken the U.S. economically generally view this as a positive development. Meanwhile, in China, those who believe the U.S. is still the world’s leading economy tend to see this as a negative.

Compared with reaction to China’s economic rise, global opinion is more consistently negative when it comes to the prospect of China equaling the U.S. militarily. Besides the Chinese themselves, only in Pakistan, Jordan, the Palestinian territories and Kenya do majorities see an upside to China matching the U.S. in terms of military power. Meanwhile, the prevailing view in Japan and India is that it would not be in their country’s interest if China were to equal the U.S. militarily; majorities across Western and Eastern Europe, and in Turkey and Israel, share this view….

Results for the survey are based on telephone and face-to-face interviews conducted under the direction of Princeton Survey Research Associates International. Survey results are based on national samples except in China. Countries surveyed: Pakistan, Turkey, Jordan, Indonesia, United States, France, Germany, Russia, Britain, Egypt, Lebanon, Spain, India, Poland, China, Japan, Mexico, Brazil, Kenya, Palestinian territories, Israel, Ukraine, Lithuania. Throughout the report results for Pakistan are from interviews conducted in May 2011, following the death of Osama bin Laden. In all other countries, interviews were concluded in April 2011.

Views of US Continue to Improve in 2011
BBC Country Rating Poll. Released 7 March 2011

Views of the US continued their overall improvement in 2011, according to the annual BBC World Service Country Rating Poll of 27 countries around the world.

Of the countries surveyed, 18 hold predominantly positive views of the US, seven hold negative views and two are divided. On average , 49 per cent of people have positive views of US influence in the world–up four points from 2010–and 31 per cent hold negative views. The poll, conducted by GlobeScan/PIPA, asked a total of 28,619 people to rate the influence in the world of 16 major nations, plus the European Union.

In 2007 a slight majority (54%) had a negative view of the United States and only close to three in ten (28%) had a positive view; America was among the countries with the lowest ratings. Views began to rise in 2008, with positive views rising to 32% on average, and now the USA is in a middle tier position, ranking substantially higher than China.

A country that showed even greater improvement this year was Brazil. Positive views of Brazil’s influence jumped from 40 to 49 per cent on average over the previous year, with negative views dropping to just 20 per cent. Views of Brazil are now predominantly positive in all but two of the countries polled (Germany and China).

In the year when South Africa hosted the World Cup, the proportion positively rating its influence in the world rose significantly, from 35 to 42 per cent. Germany was again the most positively viewed nation, with 62 per cent rating its influence as positive (up 3 points).

Overall, positive ratings increased of 13 of the 16 nations rated. These also included the United Kingdom, whose positive ratings rose five points to 58 per cent, making it, for the first time, the second most positively rated country. This upwards movement for many countries counters a downward movement found in 2010, but also, in most cases, surpasses the levels found in earlier years.

In marked contrast, the three most negatively viewed countries saw their average ratings go from bad to worse, including Iran (59% negative, up 3 points since 2010), North Korea (55%, up 6 points), and Pakistan (56%, up 5 points). There was a significant increase in negative views of Iran in key Western countries including the United Kingdom (up 20 points), Canada (up 19 points), the USA (up 18 points), and Australia (up 15 points). However, Israel, for many years among the least positively viewed nations, bucked this trend, keeping its negative ratings at 49 per cent and showing a slight lift in positive ratings from 19 to 21 per cent.

The BBC World Service Country Rating Poll has been tracking opinions about country influence in the world since 2005. The latest results are based on 28,619 in-home or telephone interviews conducted across a total of 27 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 December 2, 2010 and February 4, 2011.

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