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Edward Snowden’s NSA leaks haven’t badly tarnished US image, poll finds

NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden spoke to European officials via videoconference during a parliamentary hearing on improving the protection of whistleblowers at the Council of Europe in Strasbourg, France, on June 24.

FREDERICK FLORIN/AFP/Getty Images

NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden spoke to European officials via videoconference during a parliamentary hearing on improving the protection of whistleblowers at the Council of Europe in Strasbourg, France, on June 24.

WASHINGTON (AP) — Widespread global opposition to US electronic surveillance since the revelations by onetime National Security Agency contractor Edward Snowden has not badly tarnished the overall image of the United States, and it remains far more popular around the world than rising power China, according to a poll released Monday.

A survey conducted by the Pew Research Center of nearly 50,000 respondents in 44 countries also found that despite low public approval ratings at home, President Barack Obama is still largely popular around the world. A median 56 percent across those nations said they have confidence that Obama will do the right thing in world affairs — an approval rating little changed from last year.

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The biggest declines in his standings, globally, since last year were found in two nations Germany and Brazil, where the US was reported to have listened to the private phone conversations of national leaders.

Overall, a median of 65 percent expressed a positive opinion of the US, although the rating was just 30 percent in the Middle East. Among 35 countries around the world that were surveyed both in 2014 and 2013, the US rating was unchanged at 62 percent. There was no direct comparison available covering all the countries covered in the survey.

America’s reputation for protecting individual liberties has been damaged in the year since Snowden began sharing with the public documents on US interception of communications. Yet, the US still ranks far higher on that count than China and Russia, and by a narrow margin, France.

In all, majorities in 30 nations expressed a favorable opinion of the US Notwithstanding declines in American popularity gauged in Germany and Greece in recent years, there’s no evidence of a rise of anti-Americanism in most of Western Europe, as happened in the middle of last decade after the invasion of Iraq.

The biggest decline in US popularity in the world in the past year is in Russia, amid growing Moscow-Washington tensions over Ukraine, a former Soviet state. Those with a favorable opinion of the US dropped in Russia by 28 points to 23 percent.

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Meanwhile, estimations of China’s global clout are rising. The numbers of respondents believing China has or will eclipse the US as the world’s superpower has risen markedly since the global economic slowdown struck in 2008.

China’s growing economy is generally seen as a good thing in most of the countries surveyed, but its overall image in the US and Europe is mostly negative. Among all nations surveyed, a median of 49 percent expressed a favorable opinion of China, 16 percentage points lower than the US

In Asia, China doesn’t lag far behind America in the popularity stakes, but there is growing anxiety over its rising power.

In all 11 Asian nations polled, roughly half or more say they are concerned that China’s territorial disputes with its neighbors will lead to a military conflict. Those worries are most intense among three nations with conflicting territorial and maritime claims with China in the South and East China Seas, including 93 percent of Filipinos, and around 85 percent in both Japan and Vietnam.

The Pew Research Center interviewed 48,643 respondents in 44 countries from March 17 through June 5, 2014. Interviews were conducted face-to-face or by telephone, depending on the country, and are representative of at least 95 percent of the adult population of each nation except for Argentina, Greece, India, Indonesia, Malaysia, Nigeria and Pakistan where some difficult to reach or rural populations were excluded, and Japan, where interviews were conducted by landline telephone only. Samples in China, India and Pakistan, were disproportionately urban, and were weighted to reflect each nation’s actual urbanity distribution.

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Associated Press director of polling, Jennifer Agiesta, contributed to this report.

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