by Alan Travis
George Bush has squandered a wealth of sympathy around the world towards America since September 11 with public opinion in 10 leading countries – including some of its closest allies – growing more hostile to the United States while he has been in office.
According to a survey, voters in eight out of the 10 countries, including Britain, want to see the Democrat challenger, John Kerry, defeat President Bush in next month’s US presidential election.
The poll, conducted by 10 of the world’s leading newspapers, including France’s Le Monde, Japan’s Asahi Shimbun, Canada’s La Presse, the Sydney Morning Herald and the Guardian, also shows that on balance world opinion does not believe that the war in Iraq has made a positive contribution to the fight against terror.
The results show that in Australia, Britain, Canada, France, Japan, Spain and South Korea a majority of voters share a rejection of the Iraq invasion, contempt for the Bush administration, a growing hostility to the US and a not-too-strong endorsement of Mr Kerry. But they all make a clear distinction between this kind of anti-Americanism and expressing a dislike of American people. On average 68% of those polled say they have a favourable opinion of Americans.
The 10-country poll suggests that rarely has an American administration faced such isolation and lack of public support amongst its closest allies.
The only exceptions to this trend are the Israelis – who back Bush 2-1 over Kerry and see the US as their security umbrella – and the Russians who, despite their traditional anti-Americanism, recorded unexpectedly favourable attitudes towards the US in the survey conducted in the immediate aftermath of the Beslan tragedy.
The UK results of the poll conducted by ICM research for the Guardian reveal a growing disillusionment with the US amongst the British public, fuelled by a strong personal antipathy towards Mr Bush.
The ICM survey shows that if the British had a vote in the US presidential elections on November 2 they would vote 50% for Kerry and only 22% for Bush.
Sixty per cent of British voters say they don’t like Bush, rising to a startling 77% among those under 25.
The rejection of Mr Bush is strongest in France where 72% say they would back Mr Kerry but it is also very strong in traditionally very pro-American South Korea, where fears of a pre-emptive US strike against North Korea have translated into 68% support for Mr Kerry.
In Britain the growth in anti-Americanism is not so marked as in France, Japan, Canada, South Korea or Spain where more than 60% say their view of the United States has deteriorated since September 11. But a sizeable and emerging minority – 45% – of British voters say their image of the US has got worse in the past three years and only 15% say it has improved.
There is a widespread agreement that America will remain the world’s largest economic power.
This is underlined by the 73% of British voters who say that the US now wields an excessive influence on international affairs, a situation that 67% see as continuing for the foreseeable future.
A majority in Britain also believe that US democracy is no longer a model for others.
But perhaps a more startling finding from the Guardian/ICM poll is that a majority of British voters – 51% – say that they believe that American culture is threatening our own culture.
This is a fear shared by the Canadians, Mexicans and South Koreans, but it is more usually associated with the French than the British. Perhaps the endless television reruns of Friends and the Simpsons are beginning to take their toll.
? ICM interviewed a random sample of 1,008 adults aged 18 and over by telephone between September 22-23 2004. Interviews were conducted across the country and the results have been weighted to the profile of all adults.