PARIS -- If the world could cast a vote in the United States presidential election, John Kerry would beat George W. Bush by a landslide, according to a poll released on Wednesday that is described as the largest sample of global opinion on the race.
"It is absolutely clear that John Kerry would win handily if the people of the world could vote," said Steve Kull, director of The Program on International Policy Attitudes of the University of Maryland, a co-sponsor of the survey. "It is rather striking that just one in five people surveyed around the world support the re-election of President Bush."
The poll of 34,330 people older than 15 from all regions of the world found that the majority or plurality of people from 32 countries prefer Kerry to Bush.
People with higher education and more income were more strongly in favor of Kerry..."Those at the top of world society are more negative towards Bush than those at the bottom. The most likely common link is that those who have the most access to information tend be more negative towards Bush than those with less access to information."
Asia was the region showing the most mixed results, although Kerry still did better than Bush. Kerry won clear majorities in China, Indonesia and Japan, but slipped past Bush by only a slight margin in Thailand and India.
The most negative attitude toward the U.S. came from France, Germany and Mexico, where roughly 80 percent of those surveyed thought that the foreign policies of President Bush had made them feel worse about the United States.
In addition to presidential preferences, the poll also inquired about people's views on U.S. foreign policy.
"We found an unusually low level of support for U.S. foreign policy," Kull said. "This runs in line with trends from recent attitude surveys by the Pew Research Center and may have implications when the U.S. wants to move forward on issues with its closest allies."
The polling in a total of 35 countries was conducted by The Program on International Policy Attitudes and the polling company GlobeScan Incorporated during a period ranging from several days to several weeks, starting in mid-May and running through early September.
Most traditional U.S. allies came out strongly favoring Kerry, while only those polled in Nigeria, Poland and the Philippines preferred Bush.
"Even where the president does beat John Kerry, there is no enthusiasm apparent from the numbers," Kull said. "Those countries that support him for re-election also tend not to like his foreign policy."
The only country where Bush received support from more than half of those polled was the Philippines, where 57 percent supported his election, compared with 32 percent who supported Kerry. About one third of those polled in Nigeria and Poland gave their support to Bush, while support for Kerry ran at a margin of about five percentage points lower.
Norway and Germany tied - at 74 percent - as the countries where those polled most strongly support Kerry. Canadians preferred Kerry by a ratio of 61 percent to 16 percent for Bush.
The sample size, running from 500 to 1,800 people per country polled through a variety of means including face-to-face interviews, telephone or Internet was a fair measure of public sentiment, Kull said. Even when adjusted by weight of population in each country, results remained nearly identical, Kull said.
"Our average sample size per country of about 1,000 people is nearly double the number used by Gallup International for their annual Voice-of-the-People Poll," Kull said. "With numbers this robust it would be difficult to conclude anything but a broad feeling of dissatisfaction with Bush and his foreign policy."
Another pattern that became apparent in studying the data was that those people with higher education and more income were more strongly in favor of Kerry, Kull said.
"Those at the top of world society are more negative towards Bush than those at the bottom," Kull said. "The most likely common link is that those who have the most access to information tend be more negative towards Bush than those with less access to information." Overall, only 20 percent of those surveyed supported Bush for a second term, while just under half support Kerry and one third did not express a preference.
"Keep in mind that most people probably know very little about John Kerry," Kull said. "In that way, you can really count the one third who do not support either candidate as holding back their support from Bush." Of the one third responding to the poll who expressed no preference between the candidates, roughly half said that it would make no difference who was elected.
Polling among some traditional U.S. allies found strongly negative attitudes toward Bush.
In Germany, France, Norway, Italy and the Netherlands, the portion polled as supporting Bush amounted to 14 percent or lower, while more than half in each country supported Kerry.
In Britain, where Prime Minister Tony Blair has been the foreign leader most closely allied to U.S. policy in Iraq, those polled preferred Kerry by a margin of 30 percentage points. Of the 1,001 Britons polled by telephone across the country, 47 percent preferred Kerry, while 16 percent preferred Bush.
Among the 12 countries that took part in the war in Iraq as what Bush has termed the "coalition of the willing," only in the Philippines did the majority of those polled prefer Bush. More than half of those polled in seven "coalition of the willing" countries said that U.S. foreign policy was worse under Bush.
The only country in Europe that supported Bush was Poland, where he was preferred by 31 percent, compared with 26 percent for Kerry. But 41 percent of those polled in Poland said that the foreign policy led by Bush had made them feel worse about the United States.
In the Czech Republic, a new ally and member of the Iraq coalition, 42 percent supported Kerry while 18 percent supported Bush.
All 11 Latin American countries polled supported Kerry. While Kerry received support from a bit more than 50 percent of those polled in two countries in the region - Brazil and the Dominican Republic - the spread was wider in other countries. In Venezuela, for example, Kerry received support from 48 percent of those polled while Bush received 22 percent.
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