World public sees EU as a ‘positive influence’

In 24 out of 27 countries, a majority of public opinion believes that the EU plays a constructive role in the world, with most saying that they would like the EU to be more influential than the US, according to the findings of a BBC World Service poll.

The poll will offer some comfort to European leaders in advance of the EU’s 50th anniversary celebrations on 25 March. The poll, carried out for the second year running, shows that an average of 53% worldwide view the EU as a positive influence, with 19% – mainly in the Middle-East and Arab world, saying that its influence is negative. Even when not including public opinion from within the EU – the most supportive group – 48% of opinion in the remaining 19 countries say that the EU has a positive influence, with 22% saying that it is negative.

As regards the US, its influence is viewed more negatively than that of the EU in more than 24 of the 27 countries – only Nigeria, Kenya and the Philippines view the EU’s influence as equal or worse than that of the US. A majority, even when not including EU member states, would like to see Europe grow stronger than the US. A growing number of Americans see the EU’s role as constructive (53%, up from 42%) with 20% believing that it is negative. 

In the Middle East, Egypt and the UAE view the EU’s role negatively, although a large number took no position. Turkey showed a growing body of negative public opinion to the EU, perhaps as a result of its troublesome accession talks. Turkish opinion is divided with 32% (up from 16%) holding negative views and 30% viewing the EU’s influence positively, down from 40%.

Latin American opinion was broadly in favour of the EU, with three out of the four countries polled holding a positive view – Brazil being the exception. 38% of Brazilians view the EU’s influence as negative, perhaps due to clashes with the EU over trade policy.

A majority of Chinese (58%, 12% negative), Russians (46%, 18% negative) and Indians (31%, 20% negative) view the EU’s influence as positive.

Israel, Iran and the US were viewed as the most negative influences worldwide, according to the survey.

The BBC poll was conducted by GlobeScan and the Program on International Policy Attitudes of the University of Maryland between November 2006 and January 2007.

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