June 13, 2006

America’s Image Slips, But Allies Share U.S. Concerns Over Iran, Hamas

III. Global Concerns and Issues

Public attentiveness to major global events and issues is typically higher in major industrialized countries than in less developed countries. But awareness of news developments varies widely, by country and by issue.

The German public consistently expresses broad familiarity with events and issues. While attention to reports of abuses at Abu Ghraib and Guantanamo is high across all major industrialized countries, nearly every German interviewed (98%) says they have heard of the prison abuse. That compares with about 90% in other Western European countries and Japan, and 76% in the U.S.

Among Muslim publics, sizable majorities in Egypt (80%), Jordan (79%), and Turkey (68%) have heard of the prison abuse reports. But public attentiveness is far lower in Indonesia (28%) and Pakistan (21%).

For the most part, Americans are significantly less aware of events and issues than are the publics in Germany and other major industrialized countries. And as is typically the case with news interest among Americans, there are significant gender and age differences in attentiveness. For instance, 83% of men say they have heard of the abuse reports at Abu Ghraib and Guantanamo, compared with 69% of women. Just 57% of young people under age 30 have heard of these reports; in other age categories, 75% or more have heard of the prison abuse reports.

The Chinese public is broadly aware of the bird flu (93%) and global warming (78%) but not of events in the Middle East. Only about four-in-ten Chinese say they have heard of reports of abuse at Abu Ghraib and Guantanamo (38%) and the Iran nuclear dispute (37%), and even fewer have heard of the Hamas Party’s victory in the Palestinian election (27%).

Pakistanis show little familiarity with global and even some regional developments. Just 12% of Pakistanis say they have heard of global warming, and only 37% are aware of the nuclear dispute in neighboring Iran. But one recent development that has drawn broad interest in Pakistan – aside from bird flu – is the U.S. aid program for the country in response to last fall’s earthquake. Fully 85% of Pakistanis have heard of the American assistance program. That compares with 69% of Americans and nearly as many Germans (66%).

Global Warming

Americans express relatively little concern over global warming, especially when compared with publics of other major nations. Barely half of the Americans who have heard of global warming say they personally worry about the issue a great deal (19%) or a fair amount (34%). Nearly as many say they worry only a little (26%) or not at all (21%).

The Japanese express the highest level of concern over global warming among the publics of major industrialized nations. Fully 66% of Japanese say they worry about this a great deal, while another 27% say they worry a fair amount. In France, a combined 87% express a great deal (46%) or fair amount (41%) of concern. Roughly the same percentage in Spain (85%) says they worry at least a fair amount about global warming. Smaller percentages in Great Britain (67%) and Germany (64%) voice significant concern about global warming.

The American public is deeply divided politically in concerns over global warming. Only about a third of Republicans (34%) say they worry a great deal (10%) or a fair amount (24%) over global warming, based on those who have heard about the issue. About two-thirds of Democrats (66%) and 57% of independents express at least a fair amount of concern over global warming. Roughly four-in-ten white evangelical Protestants (41%) express have at least a fair amount of concern about global warming; that compares with 53% of white mainline Protestants, and 64% of seculars.

More Sympathy for Israel

In past Global Attitudes surveys, the American public’s strong pro-Israel stance set it apart from other countries. But that has changed as Germans, in particular, have become much more sympathetic to Israel in its dispute with the Palestinians.

Nearly four-in-ten Germans (37%) say they sympathize with Israel in the Mideast conflict compared with 18% who sympathize with the Palestinians. In March 2004, Germans’ sympathies were evenly divided (24% Israel, 24% Palestinians).

The French also have become more sympathetic to Israel. Four years ago, French respondents sympathized with the Palestinians over Israel by roughly two-to-one (36% to 19%). Today, identical percentages sympathize with each side in the Israel-Palestinian dispute.

Among Western European countries, the Spanish stand out for their strong support for the Palestinians. Roughly a third of Spanish (32%) say they sympathize more with the Palestinians, compared with just 9% who feel more sympathetically to Israel.

The Muslim publics surveyed continue to overwhelmingly side with the Palestinians. Turks sympathize with the Palestinians over Israel by 63% to 5%, which reflects almost no change since 2004. And virtually all Jordanians and Egyptians (97% each) say they sympathize with the Palestinians.

U.N. Ratings

In most countries, opinions of the United Nations have been stable in recent years. But the publics in Turkey and Russia, in particular, have grown more negative toward the world body.

Just 29% of Turks express favorable opinions of the U.N., down from 51% in March 2004. Fewer Russians also feel favorably toward the U.N.; 49% now, compared with 60% in March 2004. Positive ratings of the U.N. also have declined somewhat in Great Britain since 2004 – from 74% to 65%.

The American public’s view of the U.N. has been falling for several years. As recently as September 2001, before the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks, 77% expressed a favorable opinion of the United Nations; today, just 51% do, although that represents a slight improvement from last fall (48% in October 2005).

Opinions of the U.N. in the Muslim countries surveyed vary widely. More than three-quarters of Indonesians (78%) express positive views of the U.N., but Egyptians are almost evenly divided (49% favorable/51% unfavorable). The U.N.’s image in Turkey has plummeted, but positive views of this institution have increased modestly in Jordan (to 30% from 21% in 2004) and Pakistan (to 42% from 35%).

Dubai Ports Debate

The controversy earlier this year over an Arab-owned company possibly running U.S. ports stirred considerable public anger in the U.S. But it did not resonate widely in predominantly Muslim countries. Just 45% in Egypt, 36% in Jordan, and significantly smaller numbers in other Muslim countries, say they have heard of the ports debate.

However, Muslims who have been following the debate largely believe that American opposition to the ports deal reflected prejudice against Arabs, rather than reasonable concerns over port security. By 69%-13%, Egyptians feel U.S. opposition to the ports proposal was based on prejudice rather than reasonable security concerns, and opinion is comparable in Jordan (72% prejudice/23% reasonable concerns).

Cite this publication: “America’s Image Slips, But Allies Share U.S. Concerns Over Iran, Hamas.” Pew Research Center, Washington, D.C. (June 13, 2006) http://www.pewglobal.org/2006/06/13/americas-image-slips-but-allies-share-us-concerns-over-iran-hamas/, accessed on July 22, 2014.