Washington – American generosity following the Dec 26 tsunami has led many Asians to have a better opinion of the United States. However, a majority of people worldwide continue to hold a negative view of Uncle Sam, according to a major international opinion poll.
The survey, conducted by the Pew Global Attitudes Project, interviewed nearly 17,000 people in the US and 15 other countries during April and May.
Pew president Andrew Kohut said: "The US image has improved slightly since last year, but America is still viewed in a largely negative way by most of the world."
However, the US saw its approval ratings going up in many Asian countries – even though it must be noted that they started from a low base.
In Indonesia, support for the US more than doubled, from a mere 15 per cent in 2003 to 38 per cent this year. In China, which was polled for the first time in the Pew survey, pro-American feeling hit 42 per cent.
India registered the highest pro-American sentiment of all the nations polled. Seventy per cent of all Indians surveyed said they felt positive about the US, against 54 per cent three years ago.
Not surprisingly, the huge American outpouring of aid for tsunami victims was viewed as the main reason for the upturn in overall opinions of the US in Indonesiaand India.
Mr Don Emmerson, a senior fellow at the Institute for International Studies at California’s Stanford University, cautioned that public opinion in Indonesia is volatile. "The ratings of the US suddenly plunged in Indonesia after the Iraq invasion. Now, it has suddenly more than doubled after the US response to the tsunami. Future events could again whipsaw the figure," he said.
The Pew survey also showed that a majority of the people in all the 15 countries surveyed still held negative views of the US; with the re-election of President George W Bush and the war in Iraq being cited as the main reasons for this.
On the other hand, public opinion in many of the countries surveyed were favourable towards China although they were wary of its growing economic and military power.
* More Asians now think better of US (The Straits Times, June 25)