World starts to love UK again as memories of the war in Iraq fade


Chris Green
Thursday 05 June 2014 18:35 BST
Britain back to being great: the UK has improved its standing more than any other country
Britain back to being great: the UK has improved its standing more than any other country

The rest of the world feels more positively about the UK than it has for almost a decade, according to the findings of an international survey.

The Country Ratings Poll asked more than 24,500 people from 24 nations whether they felt positive or negative about 16 countries and the EU. The UK finished third, with 56 per cent of those surveyed saying they thought it was having a good influence internationally.

The only countries to place higher were Germany on 60 per cent and Canada on 57 per cent. Iran was the most unfavourably viewed country, with a negativity rating of 60 per cent, followed by Pakistan and North Korea.

Since 2005, when the survey was first conducted, the UK has improved its standing more than any other country. At that time, the Iraq war – and Britain’s role in it – continued to dominate the international agenda.

“As we know, the UK was regarded not very positively by the world for blindly supporting [former US president] Bush, and the way [Tony] Blair went there walking in Bush’s footsteps, so perhaps that had an impact,” said Lionel Bellier, project manager at GlobeScan, the polling company that carried out the survey. “It’s only in 2009 that we have an uptick which coincides more or less with the withdrawal of the British troops.”

The poll, commissioned by the BBC World Service, also showed that global opinion about the EU is currently at its lowest in a decade, with only 47 per cent feeling it has a positive influence.

Mr Bellier said this may have helped lift Britain up the table, with its bullish attitude towards the EU playing well among other countries. The UK’s recovering economy and the continuing glow of the London 2012 Olympics may also have contributed, he added.

The most favourable attitudes toward the UK were found in the US and Canada, whose ratings have never been higher. All EU countries rated British influence positively, but the picture was a mixed one. While 72 per cent of French respondents were well disposed towards the UK, only 51 per cent of their counterparts in Germany felt the same way.

The world’s superpowers did not fare well. Global opinions about Russia have plunged and are now at their lowest since 2005, the survey showed. “Though the polling period mostly predated the action in Crimea and overlapped the Sochi [Winter Olympics] … it was also a period during which [Vladimir] Putin had pressed Ukraine to not move toward the EU, and when the first riots took place in the streets of Kiev,” said Dr Steven Kull, director of the University of Maryland’s Program on International Policy Attitudes, which contributed to the research.

Positive opinions about China have also declined more than any other country over the past decade, falling from 48 per cent in 2005 to 35 per cent this year, with negative views also rising sharply.

Views of the US have also worsened, which pollsters ascribed in part to revelations about mass surveillance by the country’s National Security Agency (NSA), exposed by whistleblower Edward Snowden last year. Negative opinions about the US rose significantly in Spain, Germany and Brazil, all of learned through leaked documents that their politicians and civilians had been monitored.

“There’s been a renewal of this perception of the US as being somewhat hegemonic and heavy-handed, but that does not seem to have bled over that much to the UK,” said Dr Kull. “Some people might make the case that it should – that in fact there is a substantial amount of collaboration between the US and the UK on some of these surveillance activities.”

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