SOURCE: Bertelsmann Stiftung

December 12, 2007 02:00 ET

Fewer and Fewer People Still See the USA as a World Power

International Opinion Poll: Dramatic Loss of Image Worldwide for the World Powers -- Awareness of Ecological Threats and the Challenges Facing the World Community Has Risen Drastically

BERLIN--(Marketwire - December 12, 2007) - The USA is losing its status as a globally active world power more and more. In contrast, China, India and, more recently, Russia once again, have managed to significantly increase their superpower images. At the same time, the most important challenges facing the world powers have clearly changed in the minds of the world's population. In many countries the awareness of ecological threats has risen dramatically, whilst others threats, such as international terrorism, are being put into perspective. In addition to these results are the findings of a representative survey, completed by the German foundation, the Bertelsmann Stiftung, during the past few weeks, in which 9000 people in the most important countries were questioned about the role of the global powers.

According to this study, the USA's status as a world power is waning more and more in the minds of the population. When asked which countries could be viewed as world powers today and in the year 2020, 81% of those surveyed worldwide mentioned the USA, followed by China with 50%, Russia with 39%, Japan with 35% and the EU and the United Kingdom with 34%. Compared with a survey two years ago, the number mentioning China has increased by 5% and, most notably, those mentioning Russia by 12%. Especially the Chinese (+24%), the British (+22%) and the Germans (+20%) give a significantly higher status to Russia than two years ago.

In relation to the year 2020 however, only 61% still see the USA as a global power in international comparisons, followed closely by China with 57%. These are followed by Russia, the EU and Japan. A significantly more important role is also attached to India in the year 2020. Although only 15% view the country as a global power today, 29% see the country as a global player in 13 years.

People in many countries around the world are expecting an increase in the importance of their own countries. This nationalistic self-confidence is particularly distinct in China, Russia, India and also Brazil. Europeans, Americans and Japanese do not think the importance of their nations will grow in the future.

A significant change in the awareness of worldwide threats and challenges facing the international community can, however, be detected. There has been a strong increase of 10% in the awareness of environmental problems worldwide compared to 2005. The percentage of those who perceive climate change and environmental damage as a global threat has increased significantly in all countries surveyed. This is especially apparent in the USA (+ 22%), in China (+17%) and in Japan (+16%). According to the results, 54% of all people questioned view environmental damage as the most important threat. Only in Russia (31%) and India (28%) do a minority consider this problem to be a great threat. In comparison, less importance is now being attached to international terrorism than a few years ago. In addition to this, the estimation of the threats facing the populations, as well as the wish that the super powers deal with these, differ greatly between the respective countries. In India, for example, poverty and over population are most often the central issues, in Russia the threat of war, in China the lack of raw materials and in France, religious fundamentalism.

Josef Janning, head of the subject field International Relations at the Bertelsmann Stiftung, concludes: "The expectations that citizens have of the future has a big influence on the shaping of politics. Worldwide people see the USA's position of supremacy vanishing in the future. In their assessment a new bipolar constellation is suggested, which is defined by the USA and China and which shows further regional centres of power in Russia, the EU, India and Japan. But simultaneously the vast majority of people hope for a world order in which power is balanced out and the UN takes over a decisive leadership role."

According to the people, there is currently still no common agenda for dealing with the most important problems. The priorities being set still differ greatly. According to Janning, the fact that the populations in the aspiring countries tend to place more emphasis on their own strengths in global competition is a problem. "If this perspective and expectation takes hold in global politics, we may see a resurgence of the sort of nationalistic brinkmanship between current and future global powers that we experienced so disastrously in 20th century Europe. However, the threat of climate change appears to be encouraging greater political cooperation at the international level."

Gallup International/TNS-EMNID, an opinion research firm, recently questioned 9,000 people around the world for the Bertelsmann Stiftung study. The representative survey was conducted in the US, Russia, Brazil, China, India, Japan, Germany, France and the UK. As a benchmark, the findings were compared with a prior Bertelsmann Stiftung poll from 2005.

About the Bertelsmann Stiftung:

The Bertelsmann Stiftung is a non-profit German foundation. As a think tank and political consulting institution, it is committed to developing innovative, humane solutions for the challenges faced by a globalized world. One of its main areas of expertise is international relations. Established in 1977 by Reinhard Mohn, a German businessman, it is still a majority shareholder of Bertelsmann AG, an international media company. In its projects, the Bertelsmann Stiftung is non-partisan and independent from the company.

To download details about the international survey, go to:

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    Bertelsmann Stiftung
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