Global Unease With Major World Powers
Chapter 6. Views of World Leaders and Institutions
Around the world, confidence in President Bush as a world leader continues to erode. But Russian President Vladimir Putin fares no better when it comes to international public opinion. Aside from Russia itself, where Putin is increasingly popular, there are just a handful of countries where majorities express even some confidence in the Russian leader.
The trend in recent years has been decidedly negative for both leaders. In most countries where trend data are available, confidence in both leaders to “do the right thing” in foreign policy has declined significantly since 2003.
Other key world figures also face broad doubts about their leadership. President Hugo Chavez of Venezuela, a sharp critic of the United States and an ally of Cuba, inspires little confidence outside of his home country, either across Latin America or around the world.
Outside of some countries in Asia and Africa, Chinese President Hu Jintao is not widely trusted in his dealings with other nations. New German Chancellor Angela Merkel is well regarded throughout much of Europe and Africa. But among those with an opinion, majorities or substantial pluralities in most countries of the Middle East have little confidence in her foreign policy, and she remains largely unknown in much of Latin America.
Bush’s Ratings Sag
In 37 of the 47 countries surveyed, including the United States, majorities say they have little or no trust in Bush to do the right thing in world affairs. Only in Israel and six of the 10 nations surveyed in sub-Saharan Africa do majorities express confidence in Bush. And in most countries where trend data are available, confidence in Bush has either declined in recent years or held steady at very low levels.
The lack of confidence in Bush’s handling of world affairs is most apparent among predominantly Muslim publics in the Middle East. In the Palestinian territories, about nine-in-ten (91%) say they have little or no confidence in Bush to do the right thing regarding world affairs; 84% say they have “no confidence at all” in Bush’s leadership. Opinions about Bush are about as negative in Turkey, where just 2% express even some confidence in Bush and 89% have little or no confidence. Confidence in Bush’s leadership has plummeted in Kuwait, from 62% to 25% since 2003, but has risen significantly in Lebanon, where 34% today say they have at least some confidence in the U.S. president, up from 17% in 2003.
Negative opinions of Bush’s leadership are nearly as extensive in the predominantly Muslim nations of Asia. In Bangladesh, Indonesia, Malaysia and Pakistan, fewer than one-in-five express confidence in Bush. In Pakistan, confidence in Bush has been very low since 2003; in Indonesia, it is only modestly higher than it was four years ago (14% now, 8% then).
In each of the seven Latin American countries surveyed, more distrust than trust Bush by margins of at least two-to-one. Confidence is particularly low in Argentina (87% little or no confidence) and Brazil (80%). Bush is equally unpopular among U.S. allies in Europe. Eight-in-ten or more express little or no confidence in Bush in Spain (88%), France (85%) and Germany (80%); even in Great Britain, 70% express doubt about Bush’s ability to do the right thing in world affairs.
While doubts about Bush’s approach to foreign policy were already widespread in Germany, Spain and Italy at the outset of the Iraq war in 2003, confidence has eroded substantially in all three nations. In both Canada and Great Britain, confidence in Bush has fallen from majorities in 2003 (59% in Canada, 51% in Britain, respectively) to minorities in the current survey (28% and 24%, respectively).
Bush retains majority support in Israel, where 57% express confidence in his leadership. But this represents a decline of 26 percentage points since 2003. Aside from Israel, confidence in Bush’s leadership is extensive only in some African nations where the overall U.S. image is quite positive. This is particularly true in the Ivory Coast (82%), Kenya (72%), Ghana (69%) and Mali (66%). Moreover, confidence in Bush has grown from 52% to 62% in just the last year in Nigeria.
Putin Also Viewed Skeptically
Over the past four years, confidence in Vladimir Putin’s leadership has plummeted in Western Europe and other advanced democracies. The biggest decline has occurred in Germany, where confidence in Putin’s handling of world affairs fell from 75% in 2003 to just 32%. Fully two-thirds of Germans say they have little or no confidence in Putin, and substantial majorities in France (81%), Spain (76%), Sweden (68%) and Italy (60%) also express minimal confidence in his approach to international relations.
In Great Britain, confidence in Putin has fallen from 53% to 37% since 2003. Yet even with these declines, more Britons and Germans trust Putin to do the right thing regarding world affairs than trust George W. Bush.
In Asia, roughly two-thirds of Japanese (68%) and about half of South Koreans (51%) express little or no confidence in Putin. Just a year ago, 40% of Japanese said they had a lot or some confidence in Putin’s foreign leadership, but just 19% say the same today. But in China and India, confidence in Putin is on the rise. A solid majority of Chinese (58%) expresses confidence in Putin as a world leader, an eight-percentage point increase in the past year. In India, the percentage expressing confidence in Putin to do the right thing is up slightly from 36% to 43%.
While the world remains broadly suspicious of Putin, he has never been more popular in his home country. Currently, 84% of Russians say they have confidence in their leader to do the right thing in international affairs, a nine-point increase in the past year.
Perhaps the starkest contrasts in views of Putin are among the Eastern European countries formerly tied to the Soviet Union. Putin receives his worst rating in Poland, where fully 81% have little or no confidence in how he handles world affairs, and just 7% express trust in his leadership. Yet in the Ukraine, 56% give Putin positive marks on the same question. Views of Putin are more divided in Bulgaria (44% a lot or some confidence, 38% little or none) and Slovakia (40%, 54%), while Czechs tend to view Putin with suspicion (70% little or no confidence).
Little Confidence in Chavez in Latin America
While Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez is not nearly as visible on the world stage as Bush and Putin, he is widely recognized – and widely mistrusted – throughout Latin America. While most respondents in Venezuela (54%) express at least some confidence in Chavez to do the right thing in world affairs, 45% say they have little or no confidence in him.
Elsewhere in the region, views of Chavez are far more negative. In Chile and Brazil, about three-quarters express doubts about Chavez (75% and 74%, respectively), and nearly as many in Peru (70%) say the same. In fact, majorities in both Brazil (56%) and Peru (53%) say they have “no confidence at all” in Chavez to do the right thing regarding world affairs. Smaller majorities in Mexico (66%) and Bolivia (59%) say they have little or no confidence in Chavez, while in Argentina, views on Chavez are mixed: 40% say they have a lot or some confidence in the Venezuelan president, while 43% disagree.
Chavez is viewed a bit less negatively, though he is less widely known, in Africa. More than half (53%) of those in the Ivory Coast express confidence in Chavez as a world leader while 45% disagree. And in Mali, the proportion with a positive view of Chavez’s ability to handle foreign affairs (50%) outnumber those who had little or no confidence in him (32%).
In the United States, a 55% majority expresses little (17%) or no confidence (38%) in Chavez’s leadership, while just 18% say they have some or a lot of confidence in him. This is comparable with opinion in other Western nations, though in many countries Chavez is not widely known. Skepticism is greatest in Spain, where 70% say they have little or no trust in Chavez and just 16% have at least some. In Great Britain, by comparison, opinion is less one-sided, with 32% expressing little or no confidence in Chavez, 21% a lot or some, and fully 47% unable to say one way or the other.
Mixed Views in Middle East Toward Iranian President
Among Muslim nations in the Middle East, attitudes toward Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad are largely negative. Clear majorities in Kuwait (55%), Lebanon (69%), Egypt (72%), and Jordan (78%) have little or no confidence in Ahmadinejad. In the Palestinian territories, however, opinion on the Iranian leader tilts positive, with 47% expressing a lot or some confidence and 40% saying they have little or no confidence. Similarly in Africa, negative evaluations outweigh positive views of him, although opinions are more divided in predominantly Muslim countries (Mali and Senegal).
But in the predominantly Muslim nations in Asia there is greater confidence in Ahmadinejad. Nearly two-thirds of those interviewed in Bangladesh (64%) express at least some confidence in him as a world leader. In Indonesia, 51% say they have confidence in him while 24% said they do not. Overall, positive evaluations also outweigh negative views in neighboring Pakistan (41% confident vs. 21% not confident), but many people (37%) express no opinion.
Western publics are broadly mistrustful of Ahmadinejad, who has signaled his country’s intention to move forward with its nuclear weapons program. Overwhelming majorities in the United States (72%), Canada (67%), France (89%), Germany (85%), Britain (70%), Italy (74%) and Spain (71%) express little or no confidence in the Iranian leader. Not surprisingly, the Israelis give Ahmadinejad extremely low ratings; 88% say they have little (8%) or no confidence at all (80%) in him to do the right thing regarding world affairs.
In Asia, Divided Views of China’s Hu Jintao
Chinese President Hu Jintao remains largely unknown in many parts of the world. Even in many countries in his own region as many as a third or more do not know enough to offer an opinion of him. In Asia, confidence in the Chinese leader varies widely, while in Africa, where China’s growing economic influence has been welcomed, opinions are strongly positive. This question was not asked in China itself.
The balance of opinion on Hu’s leadership is strongly positive in Malaysia, Bangladesh and Pakistan; in all three countries, approximately half express at least some confidence in Hu to do the right thing in world affairs, while much smaller numbers have little or no confidence. In Indonesia, those who are confident in Hu as a world leader also outnumber those who do not by a 42% to 29% margin.
In South Korea and Japan, views of Hu stand in stark contrast to the other Asian nations surveyed. In both nations, 57% have little or no confidence in Hu to do the right thing regarding world affairs, while only about a quarter in each express a lot or some confidence.
Opinion of the Chinese leader is divided in two of China’s other important neighbors. In India, 31% express a lot or some confidence in Hu, while 34% do not. In Russia, the balance of opinion is somewhat more favorable, with 35% at least somewhat trusting of Hu when it comes to world affairs and 25% expressing little or no confidence.
Opinions of Hu are mostly negative in the West. In the United States, 29% have at least some confidence in the Chinese leader while 46% do not. Views also are negative in much of Latin America and in Europe. In France, for example, 70% doubt Hu’s leadership, while just 27% have some confidence in him. Views divide more evenly in Great Britain, where 33% trust Hu and 39% do not.
Merkel Broadly Popular in Europe
Majorities in most European countries say they have confidence in German Chancellor Angela Merkel to do the right thing in matters of foreign policy. And in some countries, notably Great Britain, the percentage expressing confidence in Merkel’s leadership has grown since last year.
Confidence in Merkel is as high in France as it is in her home country. Nearly nine-in-ten French (87%) say they have at least some confidence in her as a world leader, as do 85% of Germans. Substantial majorities share high regard for the German chancellor in the Czech Republic (73%), Slovakia (67%), Sweden (65%) and Britain (62%). Positive evaluations also outweigh negative views in Russia and the Ukraine. In Spain, however, views are sharply divided: 36% express confidence, while 38% do not.
In both Germany and France, positive opinion of Merkel’s leadership has edged upward since 2006 (eight points in Germany, seven points in France). And in Great Britain, the balance of opinion toward Merkel is considerably more positive than it was last year: Currently, 62% of the British express at least some confidence in Merkel to do the right thing on world affairs, while 16% have little or no confidence. Last year, 51% said they were confident in Merkel, while 26% said they had little or no confidence in her.
Views of Merkel are far more negative throughout the Middle East. Seven-in-ten Palestinians (71%) say they have little or no confidence in her, and attitudes toward Merkel are almost as negative in Israel (61% little or no confidence). And in Turkey, just 10% express confidence in Merkel, while more than six times as many (63%) lack confidence in her ability to do the right thing in world affairs.
Osama bin Laden Widely Mistrusted
Confidence in Osama bin Laden remains very low in most countries surveyed. In several, confidence in the al Qaeda leader has declined sharply. Large majorities in most nations outside of the Middle East say they have little or no confidence in bin Laden.
Among Muslims, bin Laden is widely mistrusted in all but a handful of countries, including overwhelming majorities of Muslims in Lebanon (95%), Turkey (74%), Egypt (69%), Jordan (69%) and Kuwait (68%). Only in the Palestinian territories and Nigeria do majorities of the Muslim populations say they have at least some confidence in bin Laden to do the right thing in world affairs. Among Palestinians, 57% express confidence in the al Qaeda leader while 35% do not. But even here, bin Laden’s support has decreased: In 2003, 72% of Palestinians said they trusted him to do what is right.
Across the Muslim world, attitudes toward bin Laden have grown more negative, with the exception of Nigeria. In Jordan, the proportion trusting him on foreign affairs has fallen from 56% in 2003 to 20% in the current poll. Similarly in Indonesia, 41% of Muslims interviewed have a positive view of him as a world leader, down 18 percentage points in the past four years. Positive views of bin Laden among Muslims in Pakistan and Kuwait have declined the least. Currently, 38% of Pakistani Muslims say they have at least some confidence in bin Laden, down eight percentage points. The share of Kuwaiti Muslims expressing his view has declined by seven points, though it was from a much smaller base: Today, 13% of Muslims in Kuwait have a positive opinion of bin Laden as a world leader.
Views of the United Nations
Majorities in 33 of the 47 countries surveyed have a favorable view of the United Nations, but the institution’s image varies widely. Support for the U.N. tends to be overwhelming in sub-Saharan Africa, especially in Kenya (88% favorable) and Ghana (85%).
However, opinions of the U.N. are sharply negative in Jordan, Turkey and Egypt, as well as in Israel and the Palestinian territories. About two-thirds of Jordanians (66%) are critical of the U.N., as are 57% of Turks and 55% of Egyptians. The U.N. has been consistently rated negatively in Jordan over the past three years, but Turkish opinion has shifted dramatically since 2004. A 51% majority in Turkey felt favorably toward the U.N. in 2004; fewer than half that number (23%) feel the same today.
Israelis and the Palestinians find rare common ground in their dislike of the U.N. Large majorities of both publics say they have an unfavorable view (69% in the Palestinian territories, 58% in Israel). The balance of opinion toward the U.N. is also negative in Morocco and Pakistan, though nearly half of respondents in these countries have no opinion. As in Turkey, Pakistani views have turned decidedly negative over the past three years, with half the number expressing favorable views today as did so in 2004.
At the same time, however, the U.N. is seen in an overwhelmingly favorable light in a number of other predominantly Muslim nations around the world – more than three-quarters in Indonesia (81%), Bangladesh (80%), Senegal (79%) and Mali (76%) express a favorable view of the United Nations. In addition, Lebanese respondents stand apart from those in neighboring Middle Eastern nations surveyed, with a 62% majority expressing a favorable opinion of the U.N.
Among the advanced industrial democracies surveyed, publics in Japan and the United States have the least favorable views of the United Nations. The Japanese are divided, with 41% expressing a favorable opinion of the U.N., and 40% unfavorable. This represents a favorability drop of 15 points since 2006. Americans have a somewhat more favorable opinion of the U.N. About half (48%) have a positive opinion of the world body, down seven points from March, 2004, and 39% have a negative impression.
Favorable views of the U.N. have also declined in some Western European nations, though the balance of opinion there remains largely positive. In Great Britain, 58% feel favorably toward the U.N., down from 74% in 2004, and there has been a smaller decline in Germany (from 71% to 64% today.) Spanish and French respondents feel somewhat more favorably (63% and 66%, respectively) and nearly eight-in-ten Swedes (79%) hold a positive view of the U.N.
The balance of opinion about the U.N. is similar in Eastern Europe to that in Western Europe, with majorities in every country surveyed expressing favorable opinions of the institution. In addition, 58% of Russians have a positive impression of the United Nations.
In five of the seven Latin American countries surveyed, pluralities or majorities have a favorable impression of the organization, ranging from 43% in Bolivia (33% unfavorable) to 58% in Peru. An equal number of Brazilians express favorable (45%) and unfavorable (44%) opinions, and in Argentina, opinions are decidedly negative: 41% have an unfavorable view of the U.N. while 24% are supportive.
Views on European Union Positive
Majorities in 33 of the 47 countries surveyed have a favorable view of the European Union. Only in the Middle East are negative impressions widespread, with majorities in Jordan (70%), the Palestinian territories (60%) and Turkey (58%) expressing an unfavorable opinion of the EU.
Large majorities in most of the 10 EU member countries included in the survey have a positive view of the organization. Only in Great Britain and the Czech Republic is the balance of opinion less than decisive. Narrow majorities in both countries – 54% in the Czech Republic and 52% in Great Britain – express a favorable opinion of the EU while 44% and 37%, respectively, feel unfavorably. Opinion is most favorable in Poland (83%), Bulgaria (81%), Spain (80%), Slovakia (79%) and Italy (78%).
As with the United Nations, views of the EU are mostly positive in Africa, with more mixed opinions elsewhere. In the United States, 47% have a favorable opinion while 22% are negative and the remainder do not have an opinion. This represents an improvement in favorable judgments from three years ago, when 39% of Americans felt favorably toward the EU, but is still a bit lower than the 53% favorable rating for the EU in the 2002 Global Attitudes survey.
Russian opinions of the EU remain strongly positive. Roughly six-in-ten Russians express a positive view of the European Union, unchanged from 2004. By comparison, publics in China and India have more mixed opinions of the EU. In China, as many people have an unfavorable opinion as a favorable one (40% each), while in India a modest plurality has a positive impression of the European Union.
The ongoing frustration in Turkey over its on-again, off-again membership negotiations with the European Union are vividly reflected in these data. Currently only about one-in-four Turks (27%) have a favorable view of the EU, down from 58% in 2004. At the same time, the proportion with an unfavorable opinion increased from 35% to 58%. Last December, EU commissioners officially voted to partially suspend membership talks with Turkey, in part over the failure of Turkey and Greece to make progress on the Cyprus issue.