When it comes to having a positive influence on world affairs, Germany tops the list. A poll found that more than nearly three out of five people see Germany's influence as "mainly positive."
some 56 percent of people polled said they had a positive view of Germany
Germany is not just seen as an economic powerhouse, but as a positive force in world affairs, according to poll results released Wednesday, April 2.
Germany came out ahead of 23 other countries, winning a 56 percent positive assessment by the 17,000 people surveyed. The survey was conducted for the BBC World Service.
Germany's strong showing came as a complete surprise. It was the first time Germany had been included in the yearly survey, which has been gauging world opinions since 2005. As in recent years, Japan, the European Union and Britain also had strong showings while Iran and Israel were at the bottom of the list.
Taking a leadership role
It's about more than beer
Under conservative Chancellor Angela Merkel, Germany has continued its leadership role in European affairs. Merkel played a key role in getting her skittish European partners to agree to a reform treaty last year that, if passed, will usher in important changes to how the European Union is governed.
Germany's reputation as a political and economic stalwart was most strongly reflected in the opinion of its neighbors.
According to University of Maryland's Program on International Policy Attitudes (PIPA), which helped conduct the survey along with London-based GlobeScan, 3 of 4 Spaniards, Portuguese and French as well as a whopping 82 percent of Italians said they viewed Germany as a "mainly positive" force in world affairs.
Germany is also popular among people in the Asia-Pacific region and Africa. Latin Americans tended to be more mildly favorable. Only two countries, Turkey (42 percent) and Egypt (43 percent) had predominantly negative views.
Elections help US image
More people said they had a positive impression of the United States
The poll also found that attitudes towards the United States are improving, with 35 percent viewing the country positively in contrast to 31 percent a year ago. The poll found that the views of US influence in the world remain mostly negative.
The US image took a hit in the wake of the 2003 invasion of Iraq. US President George W. Bush has tried to counter this trend creating a public diplomacy unit within the State Department. But pollsters believe it is the upcoming presidential election that had the biggest influence on changing views of the US.
"It may be that as the US approaches a new presidential election, views of the US are being mitigated by hope that a new administration will move away from foreign policies that have been so unpopular in the world," said Steven Kull, director of University of Maryland program.
Little love for Iran
Worries exist about Iran's nuclear ambitions
Similar to last year's results of the poll, Iran and Israel were viewed most negatively. Negative views of Iran's influence remained at 54 percent.
Pollsters said Iran's nuclear enrichment program appeared to be behind the negative ratings. There are fears that Iran wants to create nuclear weapons, a charge which it denies.
"The poll suggests that Iran continues to pay a price for its nuclear standoff with the United Nations," said Doug Miller, president of polling company GlobeScan. "World opinion continues to see it as the country having the most negative influence."
But Israel's negative rating went down from 57 percent to 52 percent. Pakistan was the third most poorly rated country. Russia showed the greatest improvement, with positive views rising on average among the countries surveyed from 29 percent to 37 percent.