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After years of decline, global perceptions of America may be starting to improve

For the first time in way too long, global perceptions of America may be tentatively headed for an improvement, if we can get through the last months of the Bush Administration without making them even worse.

The damage to the U.S. reputation among the people of the world is a very serious problem, which we ignore at our peril. Among the most authoritative of those who track those perceptions is the Pew Research Center with its annual Global Attitudes Survey.

Over recent years, it has shown wide, steady decline in reaction to the Iraq War, general U.S. disregard for multinational efforts, and a perception that the United States is a global bully.

The new Pew Global Attitudes Survey, based on interviews in 24 nations in March and April and released moments ago, indicates that while America’s image remains very worrisome, views of the United States have improved modestly over the past year in 10 of the 21 nations that were surveyed in both 2007 and this year.

• Many people believe that U.S. foreign policy will change for the better under the next president.

• Most of the world has more confidence that this will happen if Barack Obama is the next president, rather than John McCain.

• But, in what will presumably be the last time Pew measures global perceptions of  President Bush, the Pew press release unveiling the survey says that “huge majorities around the world continue to express little or no confidence in him.”

On other matters:

• Majorities in most countries (but notably not in China and India) describe their current economic conditions as bad, and getting worse.

• The U.S. economy, according to the Pew summary, “is now seen as having a considerable influence – and a negative impact — on national economies, both large and small, in all parts of the world.”

• China is increasingly perceived negatively around the world. Its image is beginning to resemble ours, with both countries “seen as unilateralist and as having considerable influence on other nations.”

A pdf of the full report, which I haven’t been able to read yet, is available here.

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