< Update


Friday, April 04, 2008

And now, an update on a subject we've been following for a while – America's image abroad. For the first time in years, our standing has actually improved. According to the BBC and GlobeScan, a whopping 35 percent of those surveyed across 34 countries say the U.S. is a positive influence.

We could only guess the cause for the slight uptick from last year's 31 percent – changing perceptions of the war in Iraq, the presidential primary, anger simply bottoming out – a wide margin of error. One thing seems clear – the Bush administration's international PR campaign didn't help too much. Opinion of the U.S. reached its lowest point in 2007, the year in which Undersecretary of State for Public Diplomacy Karen Hughes stepped down.

But, PR campaigns by countries shouldn't be written off wholesale. Those with a favorable view of Russia went from 29 percent last year up to 37 percent in the most recent poll. That leap in popularity coincides with a huge investment in the agency responsible for Russia's image abroad. Tens of millions of dollars were poured into their public diplomacy campaign, involving a technologically savvy team of some 300 journalists.

Of course, there's no way to know how much international opinion is swayed by policy and how much by branding.
But if America's approval rating means anything, it's that we have a lot to learn.