|Bush falls from favor abroad,
By Jim Lobe
If United States President George W Bush was surprised
on his recent trip to Indonesia by the negative image
the country's Muslim leaders had of his administration,
he is unlikely to be reassured by two new surveys from
Latin America and Europe.
Nearly 90 percent of
more than 500 elite figures in six Latin American
countries polled by the University of Miami School of
Business and Zogby International gave Bush a negative
rating. Fifty percent of respondents gave his
performance the lowest possible rating: "poor".
Bush's highest negatives were found in the
region's traditional powerhouses: Brazil (98 percent),
Argentina (93 percent) and Mexico (92 percent),
according to the survey.
A second poll carried
out by Eurobarometer for the European Commission of all
15 European Union (EU) countries found that more than
two-thirds of citizens saw the US-led war in Iraq as
Only 6 percent of the 7,515
people polled said that they believe Washington should
be in charge of security in Iraq, while 43 percent
agreed the job should be given to the United Nations.
Even in Baghdad itself, pollsters found
skepticism about US intentions running high, according
to a new Gallup poll of the Iraqi capital.
4 percent of respondents there said they accepted
Washington's main stated reason for going to war - to
eliminate weapons of mass destruction. More than four in
10 said that they believed the principal objective was
to secure Iraq's oil reserves.
The three polls
come amid continuing erosion in Bush's poll standings at
home, where his approval ratings for the past several
weeks have fallen below where they stood before
September 11, 2001.
Worse for Bush, a new poll
released on Tuesday by USA Today, CNN and Gallup found
that 57 percent of political independents who are likely
to decide next year's election now disapprove of his
performance in Iraq, and that only 35 percent of
independent voters say they intend to vote for Bush.
Rising casualties in Iraq, where US servicemen
have been killed at an average rate of one a day for the
last two weeks, are fueling the perception by a majority
of voters that the administration lacks a plan for
achieving its goals there.
Violence - including
a rocket attack on a central Baghdad hotel that housed
senior US civilian and military officials and four
suicide car-bombings - over the past three days is
likely to have further eroded public confidence in the
But if Bush's
popularity has plummeted at home, his standing abroad is
much worse. Last June, a month after he announced the
end to major hostilities in Iraq, the Pew Global
Attitudes Project found that strong majorities in
Washington's chief North Atlantic Treaty Organization
allies supported a more independent relationship with
the US in both diplomatic and security matters.
The same poll, which measured attitudes towards
the US in eight predominantly Islamic countries - from
Nigeria in the west to Indonesia in the east - found
that "the bottom has fallen out of support for America
in most of the Muslim world".
where Bush met Islamic leaders on his recent Asia tour,
only 15 percent of respondents expressed favorable
opinions for the US, a steep decline from 61 percent who
did so just last summer.
The same survey found
US favorability ratings in Turkey also at 15 percent, in
Pakistan at 13 percent and at only 1 percent in the
Palestinian territories occupied by Israel and in
Jordan, a staunch US ally.
The same survey found
a rapidly growing percentage of people throughout the
Muslim world who see the US as a serious threat to
Islam, a notion that apparently was echoed in Bush's
meeting in Bali, after which the president was reported
to have asked his aides, "Do they really believe that we
think all Muslims are terrorists?"
international polls are not quite as alarming, but still
demonstrate the degree to which the administration's
policies appear to have isolated the US from many of its
traditional allies, both in Latin America and Europe.
The results were especially surprising in the
Miami/Zogby poll of Latin American elites. Not only did
Bush identify the region as his top foreign policy
priority during his presidential campaign three years
ago, but the elite figures - most of them in politics
and business - interviewed for the survey have
traditionally identified more closely with Washington
than do the general populations of those nations.
But virtually all the respondents indicated that
they felt that Bush had badly neglected Latin America
during his tenure. Only one in eight rated his job
performance concerning the region as positive. Bush
received his most positive ratings from elites in
Colombia and Venezuela, where 23 percent of respondents
rated his performance either "good" or, much less often,
The survey also found unexpected
skepticism about whether the region could benefit from
free trade with the US, with more than one-half of
respondents saying the northern nation would be the
The notion that a
free-trade accord would favor Washington over Latin
America was particularly strong in the region's two
biggest economies, Brazil and Mexico, where three of
four respondents said the US would benefit most.
Almost 40 percent said a free-trade accord would
benefit both sides more or less equally. That view was
strongest in Venezuela (71 percent), Argentina (48
percent), Colombia (46 percent) and Chile (45 percent).
In Mexico and Brazil, only 18 percent of respondents
The survey also found that those leaders
who have been most critical of US policies enjoy the
greatest support from the region's elite. Brazilian
President Luis Lula da Silva, who has led Latin American
resistance to US trade policy and has spoken out
strongly against Bush's unilateralism, scores highest in
terms of overall job approval, at 69 percent. Argentine
President Nestor Kirchner, who has also stressed his
independence from Washington and the International
Monetary Fund, ranks second with a 56 percent approval
(Inter Press Service)