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IRAN: Foreign policy ain't no popularity contest

April 3, 2008 |  9:01 am

An annual poll commissioned by the British Broadcasting Corp. ranked Iran as the country with the most negative influence on the world.

But its arch-rival Israel shouldn't gloat too much: the Jewish state ranked as the country with the second most negative influence.

Popularity_3 The poll results, released this week, show that while Israel's negatives slipped from 57% to 52%, negative views of Iran’s influence have held steady at 54%, making it the most negatively rated of the countries tested for the second year in a row.

“The poll suggests that Iran continues to pay a price for its nuclear stand-off with the United Nations," said Doug Miller or GlobeScan, who was among the pollsters.

Pakistan followed Israel as the third most unpopular country.

The pollsters asked 17,457 people across 34 countries between Oct. 31, 2007, and Jan. 25, 2008, to rate whether Brazil, Britain, China, France, Germany, India, Iran, Israel, Japan, North Korea, Pakistan, Russia, the U.S.A. and the European Union had a mostly positive or negative impact on the world.  In addition to GlobeScan, the Program on International Policy Attitudes at the University of Maryland oversaw the survey.

Among the countries that fared well in the study were Japan, Germany and the European Union who scored the highest marks, while America's standing improved slightly after years of deterioration.

Those who say the U.S. has a negative influence declined from 52% to 47%, while those who give Uncle Sam the big thumbs up increased from 31% to 35%.

Pollster Steven Kull suggests the worldwide hoopla over the prospect of a President Barack Obama or Hillary Clinton may have bolstered America's image abroad:

It may be that as the US approaches a new presidential election, views of the US are being mitigated by hope that a new administration will move away from the foreign policies that have been so unpopular in the world.

Russia's image showed the greatest improvement. Its positives jumped from 29% to 37% this year and negatives dropped from 40% to 33%.

Tell us below which countries you think have the best and worst influence on the world.

Borzou Daragahi in Beirut

Graphic: Changing attitudes toward the U.S. Credit: BBC World Service