YOU WOULDN'T KNOW IT from George Bush's dismal approval rating, but 70 percent of Americans still "favor the U.S.-led efforts to fight terrorism." At least that was the finding of a Pew Global Attitudes Survey conducted this spring and released late last month.
For those inclined to discount such polling, the results may be of scant interest. But for what it's worth, this year's survey offers discouraging news about European support for the war on terrorism; encouraging news about the lack of Latin American support for Venezuela's Hugo Chávez and Muslim support for Osama bin Laden; predictable news about the rise of China; plus revealing news about the Sunni-Shia rift, and more.
First the predictable: "Anti-Americanism is extensive, as it has been for the past five years. At the same time, the image of China has slipped significantly among the publics of other major nations." In particular, China's growing economic and military clout has made it less popular among many Western Europeans.
Not surprisingly, Iraq remains radioactive. "Opposition to American military operations in Iraq is widespread," reports Pew, "with at least half of those surveyed in 43 of 47 countries saying the U.S. should remove its troops from Iraq as soon as possible."
While opposition to the Iraq war has grown, so has resistance to President Bush's broader anti-terror campaign. According to Pew, majorities in Spain (67 percent), France (57 percent), Canada (56 percent), Sweden (52 percent), and Germany (51 percent) "oppose the U.S.-led efforts to fight terrorism." A large plurality of Britons (49 percent) oppose such efforts. In a 2003 Pew survey, support stood at 63 percent in Spain, 60 percent in France, 68 percent in Canada, 60 percent in Germany, and 63 percent in Great Britain.
Remarkably, support for America's war on terrorism is now higher in China (26 percent) and Egypt (26 percent) than it is in Spain (21 percent), where the 2004 Madrid train bombings killed nearly 200 people.
What about Afghanistan--the "good war"? Well, according to Pew, majorities in Spain (67 percent), Poland (63 percent), Italy (55 percent), and France (51 percent) want to remove U.S. and NATO troops from Afghanistan as soon as possible, as do pluralities of Canadians (49 percent), Germans (49 percent), and Swedes (45 percent). Britons favor keeping U.S. and NATO forces to withdrawing them by a slim margin of 45 percent to 42 percent. Even 42 percent of Americans wish to pull out of Afghanistan.
Pew also finds evidence that Latin Americans hold broadly negative opinions of Venezuelan president Hugo Chávez. Large majorities in Chile (75 percent), Brazil (74 percent), Peru (70 percent), Mexico (66 percent), and Bolivia (59 percent) have little or no confidence in Chávez "to do the right thing regarding world affairs." (Bolivia, remember, is currently run by Chávez chum Evo Morales.) Indeed, majorities in Brazil (56 percent) and Peru (53 percent) have "no confidence at all" in the Venezuelan leader.
As Pew puts it, "He is widely recognized--and widely mistrusted--throughout Latin America." Even in Argentina, perhaps the most anti-American country in the region, a plurality of people (43 percent) have little or no confidence in Chávez.
And his superpower nemesis? "The image of the United States has eroded since 2002 in all six Latin American countries for which trends are available." Still, majorities in Peru (61 percent), Mexico (56 percent), Venezuela (56 percent), and Chile (55 percent) continue to hold a "favorable" view of the U.S. Only 44 percent of Brazilians regard America favorably, but that number is up from 35 percent in 2003. And in Chile (29 percent to 14 percent), Peru (29 percent to 15 percent), and Mexico (28 percent to 17 percent), more people express confidence in George Bush than in Chávez.
Disturbingly, most Palestinians (57 percent) still express confidence in Osama bin Laden. (Really.) But this number is down from 72 percent in 2003, and in general Pew reports that Muslim support for bin Laden has declined, in some cases "sharply." Between 2003 and 2007, Muslim confidence in the al Qaeda leader dropped by 36 percentage points in Jordan, 19 points in Lebanon, and 18 points in Indonesia.
"Among Muslims," says Pew, "bin Laden is widely mistrusted in all but a handful of countries, including overwhelming majorities of Muslims in Lebanon (95 percent), Turkey (74 percent), Egypt (69 percent), Jordan (69 percent), and Kuwait (68 percent)."
In Lebanon and Kuwait, Muslim attitudes toward the Shia-led Iranian theocracy reflect a stark sectarian divide. Only 8 percent of Lebanese Sunnis have a favorable view of Iran, compared with 86 percent of Lebanese Shia. Likewise, 34 percent of Kuwaiti Sunnis view Iran favorably, compared with 51 percent of Kuwaiti Shia.
This same fissure is evident when Lebanese Muslims are asked about the United States. Overall, 47 percent of Lebanese hold a favorable opinion of the U.S., up from 27 percent in 2003. Yet while 82 percent of Lebanese Christians and 52 percent of Lebanese Sunnis regard the U.S. favorably, a whopping 92 percent of Lebanese Shia view the U.S. unfavorably. Lebanese Sunnis seem to be more pro-American than many of their Middle Eastern brethren. As Pew observes, "Sunnis in Lebanon are less likely to hold negative views of the U.S. than are Sunnis in Jordan and Egypt."
Finally: American enthusiasm for democracy promotion has waned, probably because of Iraq and other troubles in the Middle East. The souring has been most apparent among Democrats. According to Pew, 74 percent of Republicans "say U.S. foreign policy should feature democracy promotion," compared with 59 percent of independents and only 54 percent of Democrats. Whether a President Hillary or a President Obama would change this dynamic remains to be seen.
Duncan Currie is a reporter at THE WEEKLY STANDARD.