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US sinks to new low in eyes of Australians
The Sydney Morning Herald
By Louise Williams
February 16, 2006

AUSTRALIANS are more hostile than ever towards the United States and view China's global influence more favourably than that of Canberra's key ally, a new global poll has found.

The poll, released yesterday in the influential US magazine Foreign Policy, describes America as globally "red, white and booed", noting: "The United States's standing dropped sharply as a result of the Iraq war, and it hasn't hit rock bottom yet."

In interviews conducted between last October and January, only 29 per cent of Australians had a "mainly positive" attitude towards the US, while 60 per cent were "mainly negative" and 11 per cent undecided. This is down on last year, when 40 per cent of Australians were positive about the US.

America's popularity also fell, but less sharply, among allies such as Britain and South Korea. Only the French and Germans, opponents of the invasion of war in Iraq, are less enthusiastic about the US than Australians.

"The Bush Administration is a very difficult export for the US … and you can see the same responses in other liberal democracies," said Allan Gyngell, executive director of the Lowy Institute for International Policy.

A big poll by the Lowy Institute last year revealed similarly critical views of the US and a more benign attitude to China.

"When you are the world's superpower and the focus of attention is upon you, then all these [critical] issues like the Abu Ghraib torture photos get circulated globally," he said. But, he said, many Australians still pragmatically support our security alliance with the US, despite their misgivings.

Mr Gyngell said instant global communications, like the internet, SMS and satellite TV, meant governments had to recognise that all diplomacy was now public diplomacy.

Although Australians still feel more comfortable about China, it has also lost some of its shine. Australia's "mainly positive" attitudes fell from 56 per cent last year to 43 per cent. This may be the consequence of the protracted war of words over the defection of the Chinese diplomat Chen Yonglin last year. Mr Chen claims China is running an extensive overseas spy network, including agents in Australia.

The global poll also looked at attitudes to coalition forces in Iraq and Afghanistan. In Iraq, only 27 per cent of people view the US-led forces favourably, compared with 72 per cent of Afghans.

But it seems Iran is failing to rally the rest of the world "against the rich and powerful West", despite rattling the nuclear sabre. The respondents in 33 countries may not like America much, but they like Iran even less.