PRINCETON, NJ -- President Bush's diplomatic tour through Europe this week will include visits to three countries Americans feel largely favorably toward, and whose U.S. images now stand close to what they were just prior to the acrimonious run-up to the Iraq war five years ago.
According to Gallup's annual World Affairs survey, conducted Feb. 11-14, 2008, Americans have particularly strong affection for Great Britain, with nearly 4 in 10 saying they have a very favorable view of the country, and a combined 9 in 10 having either a very or mostly favorable view of it.
Still, today's level of favorability toward Great Britain is a bit lower than it was from February 2005 to February 2007, when Great Britain, then led by Prime Minister Tony Blair, figured as one of President Bush's strongest allies in the Iraq war. While overall favorable views of Great Britain remain close to 90% today, the percentage having a very favorable view (now 39%) has dropped below 40% for the first time since 2000 (although it is similar to the 40% recorded in 2004).
Germany also enjoys widespread popularity in the United States today, and is significantly better reviewed than in 2003, when -- with Germany a leading adversary of the United States over the decision to go to war with Iraq -- only 49% of Americans viewed it favorably. U.S. attitudes toward Germany rebounded to 83% last year -- matching the highest reading since Gallup began asking this question in 1991 -- and remain at about that level today. Still, only about half as many Americans view Germany very favorably as feel this way about Great Britain (20% vs. 39%).
With 69% of Americans viewing France very or mostly favorably, this country -- whose then-President Jacques Chirac leveled fierce criticism at the U.S. decision to go to war in Iraq in 2003 -- registers somewhat lower in U.S. public esteem than does either Great Britain or Germany. Furthermore, while neither Great Britain nor Germany attracts more than a smattering of "very unfavorable" mentions from the public, more Americans have a very or mostly unfavorable view than a very favorable view of France.
Current perceptions of France are markedly improved over 2003, at the height of the clash between France and the United States over Iraq policy, when barely one-third of Americans felt favorably toward France. This may reflect a change in French leadership to the more U.S.-friendly president Nicolas Sarkozy.
In addition to these three economic powerhouses, Bush will be visiting Italy and Vatican City in the coming week. Although Gallup has not asked Americans their views of Italy since 2003, it has generally received positive reviews, averaging 79% favorable ratings.
Also, a recent rating of Pope Benedict XVI shows him to be broadly popular in the United States. Nearly two-thirds of Americans polled April 18-20 have a favorable view of him and only 15% an unfavorable view, with 22% offering no opinion. That poll was conducted as the pope was wrapping up his widely praised visit to the United States.
Bush is taking what some observers have described as a "farewell tour" of Europe, where he will attempt to strengthen U.S.-European relations by focusing on Iran, Middle East peace, and other issues the Western allies can agree on.
It may be too little, too late for a president whose foreign policy ratings from the American people are dismally low. As of February 2008, only 32% of Americans said they approved of the job Bush was doing on foreign affairs and only 24% felt that leaders of other countries respect Bush. Still, perhaps by conferring with countries and leaders that Americans feel warmly toward, and engaging in positive dialogue with the new heads of Germany and France, who are eager to restore good relations across the Atlantic, Bush may restore some of his once-stellar image as a global leader.
Results are based on telephone interviews with 1,007 national adults, aged 18 and older, conducted Feb. 11-14, 2008. For results based on the total sample of national adults, one can say with 95% confidence that the maximum margin of sampling error is ±3 percentage points.
Interviews are conducted with respondents on land-line telephones (for respondents with a land-line telephone) and cellular phones (for respondents who are cell-phone only).
In addition to sampling error, question wording and practical difficulties in conducting surveys can introduce error or bias into the findings of public opinion polls.
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