U.S. Elections 2004

Poll Shows 8 Out of 10 Countries Back Kerry

Democratic presidential candidiate John Kerry

Democratic presidential candidate John Kerry on Oct. 8, 2004. (Photo: Luke Frazza /A.F.P.-Getty Images)

The world would much prefer John Kerry to be the next president of the United States according to a survey published by 10 of the world's major newspapers.

Global resentment towards the policies of President Bush is not new. But the survey — based on identical polls taken by newspapers around the world — provides striking evidence that the Bush administration has alienated even America's closest allies.

By a wide margin — 57 percent against 20 percent — the people polled said that their opinion of the United States had worsened rather than improved. On average, 68 percent thought the United States was wrong to invade Iraq.

"Over the past three years, to judge by these polls, the Bush administration has squandered a huge wealth of global goodwill towards America - a moral, political and social asset as necessary to managing the world as money or military power," Andrés Ortega wrote in Spain's El País.

The survey includes America's neighbors, Canada and Mexico, as well as Britain, Australia, Israel, South Korea and Japan — all official allies in the "war on terror." The other countries surveyed were France, Spain and Russia.

Results showed that voters in eight out of the 10 countries, excluding Israel and Russia, wanted to see Democratic challenger Kerry beat the Republican Bush in the Nov. 2 presidential election.

Kerry was most popular in France, preferred by 72 percent of those polled to only 16 percent for Bush. The Spanish are more guarded in their support of Kerry (58 percent) but even more hostile to Bush (13 percent). Support for the American president hovers around 20 percent in Canada and Mexico compared to 60 percent and 55 percent respectively for Kerry.

Perhaps the more significant finding was the popularity of Kerry in countries whose governments have joined the United States coalition in Iraq. Kerry is favored over Bush by two votes to one in Britain, America's most loyal transatlantic ally. He receives nearly the same margin of support in Japan and Australia. Sixty-eight percent of South Koreans hope for a Kerry victory in November versus 18 percent for Bush.

Had any Muslim country been included in the survey, the results would have been much more starkly anti-American. A Pew Research Center poll has shown that vast majorities in predominantly Muslim countries continue to hold unfavorable opinions of the United States.

Americans Yes, Bush No

Most of the people interviewed were critical of United States policies rather than Americans. Sixty-eight percent of those questioned said they had a favorable opinion of Americans.

"George Bush gets terrible scores in every category surveyed except one: the supporters of Jean-Marie Le Pen's extreme right National Front party," Claire Tréan observed in Le Monde. "However, Mr. Bush's marked unpopularity in France does not mean that the French dislike Americans: 72% of those surveyed said they still had a high opinion of the American people."

Alejandro Moreno, a reporter for Mexico's Reforma, suggested to readers that the "famous motto from the 1992 U.S. election — 'It's the economy, stupid' — seems to have found new form in Mexico: 'It's Bush, stupid!'"

According to Moreno, "It is not the bilateral relationship per se: about 60% of Mexicans polled considered current relations with the U.S. to be good or very good; it is how Mexicans view the war against terrorism in general and the preemptive war in Iraq in particular. According to the poll, 83% think invading Iraq was wrong."

Yves Boisvert, a columnist with Canada's La Presse, which initiated the worldwide survey, said that the poll result "…tells us that throughout Canada, our opinion of the U.S. and its president is sinking. This does not mean quite the same thing here as it would in Madrid or Berlin ... Canadians like to think of themselves as a fiercely independent people. They reserve their right to boo if they so please — and to be Americans in their own way, if and when it suits or pleases them."

"The Japanese like America," affirmed Hiroshi Hoshi, senior staff writer for the Asahi Shimbun, "but they are much less keen on the war in Iraq. The antagonism within the U.S. has cast a shadow over Japanese attitudes towards the country —and has influenced opinions on Japan's own leadership."

Changing Perceptions

Other poll results show hostility directed not only at the Bush administration but also at the image of the United States.

"One would assume that South Korea should be a country that is most friendly and appreciative to the United States," wrote Young Hie Kim, senior columnist for JoongAng Ilbo. "But that assumption is wrong."

"The perception of the United States among many Koreans has changed drastically," Young continued. "This is especially the case for the younger generation. Now, many see the United States as having moved from a benefactor to an impediment to inter-Korean reconciliation ... there is fear of a pre-emptive U.S. strike against the north."

Alan Travis, home affairs editor for the Britain's Guardian, wrote of the "growing disillusionment with the U.S. amongst the British public, fuelled by a strong personal antipathy towards Mr. Bush" and the fact that "a majority in Britain also believe that U.S. democracy is no longer a model for others."

A "startling finding", according to Travis, 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."

Bush won backing from a majority of respondents in only two countries, Russia and Israel.

"Israel loves the U.S. president because he holds the umbrella that protects it from its enemies," explains Shmuel Rosner who writes for the independent Ha'aretz. "He symbolizes the defense and economic support, and — above all — the moral support that Israel receives from the U.S. ... "The only section of the Israeli public that is not especially fond of the Americans, that does not love President Bush and, even more than that, wants Mr. Kerry to be elected, is the Israeli Arabs."

The Beslan tragedy, in which Muslim terrorists held hostage and later killed hundreds of schoolchildren, their parents and teachers, has changed perceptions of the United States in Russia. "Our poll also showed that, in the aftermath of the Beslan tragedy, Russians feel more sympathy with Americans facing difficulties in Iraq — they say terrorists are vile, ruthless and everywhere, striking without warning," reported Boris Yunanov, diplomatic observer of Moskovskiye Novosti.

Yunanov also stressed the political consequences of the tragedy for his country and the move by President Putin "to change the constitution and partially deprive Russian citizens of their electoral rights."

"Did President Bush ever try to encroach upon the U.S. constitution?" Yunanov asks. "Why has democracy in the U.S. proved to be stronger than that in Russia? ... The U.S. model looks like a distant star on the horizon."

Two thirds of the people questioned in the survey said that it was "important for the United States to play a leadership role on the world stage." But perceptions of that role are clearly changing. "The U.S. President is still the leader of the free world, yet the free world is less inclined to approve of him," wrote Peter Hartcher, international editor of The Sydney Morning Herald.