It’s hard to find any
attention paid to it in the Australian media, but the annual global
attitudes survey undertaken by the Washington-based Pew Research Centre
is a item of considerable interest for fans of opinion polls.
Yesterday’s release of the 2006 results, based on interviews with 17,000 people in 15 countries, certainly provides plenty of food for thought.

There
are interesting nuggets of information, such as the fact that 90% or
more in western Europe and Japan have heard about prisoner abuse at Abu
Ghraib and Guantanamo Bay, but only 76% of Americans. And the gap in
relation to global warming is striking – here are the percentages in the
industrialised countries that are concerned about it either “a great
deal” or “a fair amount”:

Japan: 93%
France: 87%
Spain: 85%
Germany: 64%
United Kingdom: 67%
United States: 53%

But
the key message of the survey is that “the Iraq war continues to exact
a toll on America’s overall image and on support for the struggle
against terrorism.” Or, as The Guardian‘s report put it, “the well of international goodwill towards the US in the aftermath of 9/11 is being drained.”

Favourable
opinions of the United States have fallen in most of the countries
surveyed; only in India and Pakistan are they higher than in 2002.
Opinions of Americans are consistently more favourable, but there too
the trend is downwards – the drop in Spain is especially noticeable.
And confidence in George W Bush has fallen sharply in both Europe and
the US.

Solid majorities in all countries except Egypt, Jordan
and Pakistan are opposed to Iran acquiring nuclear weapons. But when
asked what constituted a great danger to world peace, Germany and the
US were the only countries where Iran was a more common choice than the
US occupation of Iraq. And the US-led “war on terror” now commands
majority support only in Russia and India (this question was apparently
not asked in the US).

Peter Fray

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