Pew Survey: What the World Thinks of the US

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Atkinson Helen / Sipa

Protestors clash with police in protests against George Bush in Parliament Square at the entrance to Whitehall, London.

They like us — they really like us. Well, slightly more than they did last year, at least. Except for Turkey. Turkey still hates us.

This year's edition of the Pew Global Attitudes Project — a worldwide survey that has been around since 2002 — polled more than 24,000 people in 24 nations on a wide swath of topics, from their opinions on Iran and its nuclear program to which nation they think is doing the most damage to the environment (answer: We are. Also China.). Many of the report's conclusions are fairly obvious — the majority of countries surveyed describe their economic conditions as bad, and many citizens in Muslim nations consider America to be their enemy.

First, the important question — what does the world think of America? For the first time since the commencement of the Iraq War, there was a slight uptick in favorable attitudes towards the U.S., with positive views increasing since 2007 in half of the countries for which comparative data was available. Such statistics are good news for the nation, but perhaps not so much for George W. Bush, whose departure from the White House next January is the likely cause for the increases. Only three nations — Tanzania, Nigeria, and India — had majorities who expressed confidence in Bush's handling of world affairs. Each of the other 21 countries, by wide margins, held little to no confidence in President Bush.

Majorities in 39% of nations polled believe that whoever replaces Bush will change U.S. foreign policy for the better, though in 20 out of 23 nations surveyed, more people have confidence in Sen. Barack Obama than in Sen. John McCain. America also scores high ratings for the quality of its democracy. Majorities in two-thirds of countries surveyed say that the U.S. respects the personal freedoms of its citizens.

That's the good news. The bad news is that, "with few exceptions, the American economy is now seen as having a negative impact on national economies, both large and small, in all parts of the world," according to the study's authors. Additionally, the majority of nations included think that the U.S. is extremely influential in their nations — and that such influence is not a good thing. More than half the nations polled see the United States as the world's top polluter — and Americans are considered among the least concerned about the effects of global warming. The nation most trusted to "do the right thing in protecting the world's environment" — Germany.

We're not alone in the hate, though, because China parallels the United States in several of these categories: it too is criticized for its unilateralist approach to foreign affairs and its hands-off approach to environmental issues. China, though, is knocked for its anti-freedom attitudes, many of which have been brought to greater light in recent months as a result of this summer's Beijing Olympics. And most Asian and Western nations express skepticism and concern over Chinese-made products, many of which have been subject to recall in the past year.

Other interesting tidbits:

• 96% of South Koreans and 76% of Chinese "believe that Japan has not apologized sufficiently for its military actions during the 1930s and 1940s." The Japanese, on the other hand, are split almost down the middle on whether or not they should apologize.

• 58% of Japanese citizens oppose changing the constitution to allow the nation to establish a military. Such a change would overturn the government's policy of not having a traditional military, an edict that was established following the end of World War II.

• Only 15% of Americans see international trade as a very good thing, the lowest percentage of all 24 countries.

• 57% of Russians "favor a 'leader with a strong hand'" over the 33% who prefer democracy to solve the nation's problems.

As full of fun facts as the Pew Report is, however, it has a fairly limited scope. Lots of numbers and percentages are bandied about but with very little historical context or explanation. Why, for example, do Russians prefer powerful leaders over straight-up democracies? Why do Tanzanians like President Bush so much? Oh, and why does Turkey dislike America so much? More so than Egypt or Pakistan or Indonesia, the other majority Muslim nations on the list, Turkey holds an abysmally low opinion of the United States. Just 12% see America in a favorable light, and 70% of Turks surveyed see it as an enemy. That's fascinating. Please, Pew — tell us why.