Testimony of Pew Reseach Center President Andrew Kohut before the House Committee on Foreign Affairs, Subcommittee on International Organizations, Human Rights and Oversight

Source Organization: Pew Research Center

Speaker: Andrew Kohut

Pew Reseach Center President

Venue: House Foreign Affairs Subcommittee on International Organizations, Human Rights, and Oversight

03/04/2010 - Thank you for the opportunity to help this committee address the issue of "Restoring America's Reputation in the World." The Pew Global Attitudes Project, the largest ever series of continuing multi-national surveys focusing on worldwide issues, has been monitoring views of the United States and of the American people since 2002. It has conducted more than 200,000 interviews in 57 countries.

These surveys chronicled the rise of anti-Americanism around the world for much of the past decade. Favorable ratings of the U.S. plunged in many countries following the invasion of Iraq and remained low through 2008. In 2009, we began to document a revival of America's global image in many parts of the world reflecting confidence in its new president, Barack Obama.

By mid-2009, opinions of the United States in Western Europe, as well as major countries in Asia and Latin America, were about as positive as they were at the beginning of the decade, before George W. Bush took office. The improvement of the American image was especially evident in Western Europe, where opinion of the U.S. had remained at a low ebb for many years. For example, America's favorable rating in Germany jumped from 31% in 2008 to 64% in 2009. A comparable increase in positive opinion was apparent in France (42% to 75%). While improvements in the U.S.'s ratings were most dramatic in Western Europe, changes in a positive direction were apparent in major Asian and Latin American countries and elsewhere.

In sharp contrast, there was little indication of a better view of the U.S. in the Muslim world. Opinions in the Middle East remained largely unfavorable, despite some positive movement in the numbers in Jordan and Egypt. Strong animosity toward the U.S. continued to run deep and unabated in Turkey, the Palestinian territories and Pakistan, new president notwithstanding. The clear exception in the Muslim world was Indonesia, where people were well aware of Obama's family ties to the country and where favorable ratings of the U.S. increased from 37% to 63% between 2008 and 2009.

Analysis of the Pew Research survey found that personal confidence in Barack Obama rather than opinion about his specific policies was fueling the resurgence of the U.S. image in many countries. The belief that Obama will "do the right thing in world affairs" was nearly universal in Western countries, where lack of confidence in President Bush had been almost as prevalent for much of his time in office. In France and Germany, no fewer than nine-in-ten expressed confidence in the new American president, exceeding the ratings achieved by Nicolas Sarkozy and Angela Merkel in their own countries.

Read the rest of Andrew Kohut's opening statement Restoring America's Reputation in the World on the Pew Research Center's Web site.

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