Poll: America Losing Its Credibility | Europe| News and current affairs from around the continent | DW | 17.03.2004
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Poll: America Losing Its Credibility

A new study released Tuesday shows that one year after the start of the Iraq War, dissatisfaction with the United States' foreign policy is still growing around the world.


Criticism of Washington's Iraq policy and unilateralism is growing in Europe and elsewhere.

Researchers from the Washington-based Pew Research Center surveyed a cross-section of the population in the United States, eight European countries and lands in the Islamic world about various issues surrounding the Iraq War. The results showed that particularly in the Islamic world, contempt for the U.S. is growing. Among Europeans, particularly in France and Germany, American foreign policy has lost its credibility.

"It is disturbing that Americans are the only ones surveyed who believe the war in Iraq helped, rather than hurt, in fighting al Qaeda," former U.S. Secretary of State Madeline Albright said on Tuesday. Albright chairs the Pew Global Attitudes Project that produced the report and was on hand to present its findings. "It's also troubling that the Iraqi conflict has caused each of the other countries polled to lose confidence in America's honesty and commitment to democracy."

A growing breach

A majority of those polled in Germany, France, and Turkey -- and half of all Britons and Russians -- believe the Iraq War damaged the fight against terrorism. The loss of trust was particularly great in Germany and France -- 82 percent of Germans and 78 percent of French are more distrustful of the United States than they were one year ago. Even in Great Britain, U.S. President George W. Bush's leading ally in Europe, support for the Iraq War in the last 12 months has sunk by 20 percent.

"The transatlantic breach, that was opened by the original choice to go to war in Iraq, does in fact remain wide," Albright said.

Support for Saddam's ouster

However, even in European countries that opposed the war, the majority of the population thought the fall of ex-President Saddam Hussein had improved the lives of Iraqis. For the most part, Islamic countries surveyed did not share that view. In Jordan, 70 percent of those polled thought Iraqis were worse off now than under Saddam; in Pakistan 61 percent believed that to be the case.

In the some parts of the Islamic world, sympathy for Osama Bin Laden mirrored rejection of U.S. foreign policy. The Pew study found that 65 percent of Pakistanis and 55 percent of Jordanians regarded Bin Laden favorably. In Turkey, 31 percent of respondents said suicide attacks against Americans in Iraq were justified.

Fighting terror

The publishers of the study also identified a change in attitudes toward the global fight against terrorism. On this issue, the diversity of world opinion was greater than on others.

"Support for the U.S.-led war on terrorism in Muslim countries remains very low," said Andrew Kohut, director of the Pew Center. "But we did see a little bit of rebounding in Turkey, which is one of the positive signs, and a good deal of rebounding in Russia, where a majority now support the war on terrorism."

That may be because both Turkey and Russia have been the settings of major terrorist attacks in the past year. The Pew study was carried out before last week's terror attacks in Madrid and thus couldn't take into account of how the attacks might have affected opinions.

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