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Foreign polls give Kerry a big edge

WASHINGTON -- The first worldwide survey of preferences in the US presidential race found that John Kerry is a heavy favorite over George W. Bush, with only three out of 35 countries -- Nigeria, the Philippines, and Poland -- supporting Bush.

The survey, sponsored by the University of Maryland, found that Kerry is favored in Mexico, Canada, Great Britain, Turkey, Spain, France, Indonesia, and China, along with 22 other countries. Two countries -- India and Thailand -- were statistically divided.

Fifty-three percent of respondents overall said Bush's foreign policy has damaged their view of the United States.

The poll covered countries where questions could be added to ongoing polls, and did not end up including any Arab countries or Israel. Nor did it include South Korea or Taiwan.

"Kerry would win handily if the people of the world were to elect the US president," concluded Steve Kull, the director of the nonpartisan Center on Policy Attitudes at the University of Maryland, which organized the polls along with Globescan, a Canadian polling firm.

Overall, 46 percent of respondents worldwide supported Kerry, who angered the White House this spring when he claimed many world leaders supported his candidacy, compared with 20 percent for Bush. The pro-Kerry tilt was most pronounced in Western Europe; the president polled in the single digits in many countries.

In France, which Bush criticized in the United Nations for its failure to support the Iraq war, only 5 percent chose Bush, 64 percent chose Kerry, and 31 percent said they either don't know or feel there is no difference.

Still, a companion poll also released yesterday found that foreign attitudes would have little impact on American voters. Only 18 percent of undecided voters said they are more likely to vote for the candidate favored internationally -- and 7 percent said they are more likely to vote against the international favorite.

"If it has any effect, it's probably going to be slightly positive for Kerry," Kull said. "But we're talking about very small numbers."

The compilation of polls also found that public views of the United States had fallen dramatically during the Bush administration. Respondents in 30 of the 35 countries said Bush's foreign policy had made them feel worse about the United States. The figures seem consistent with the State Department's own surveys of America's "favorability" rating abroad, numbers that went into a tailspin after the Iraq war.

"Right now, Brand America is challenged," said Doug Miller, the president of Globescan.

Bush's foreign policy scored least poorly in Asia and Africa, which Miller attributed to lasting pro-US sentiment in many developing countries.

Thirty-eight percent of Indians said they feel better about the United States as a result of Bush policy, while 33 percent said they feel worse. A plurality also approved of Bush policy in Thailand and the Philippines, two countries that have sent troops to Iraq. In Indonesia, the world's largest Muslim country, 44 percent of respondents said Bush's foreign policy makes them feel better about the United States, while 49 percent said it makes them feel worse.

To compile the poll, Globescan says it asked polling firms in the 35 countries to add questions about the US election to polls that had already been planned. In all, 34,330 people were surveyed, most of them in July and August.

Kull said that the numbers don't necessarily reflect enthusiasm for Kerry, about whom foreign citizens know little, but opposition to the president. "The most significant finding is that only one out of five support Bush's reelection," he said.

The Bush campaign dismissed the poll's significance yesterday. "Everything the president does he does with the citizens of this country in mind," said spokesman Reed Dickens. "The president is also aware that the American people will be deciding this election."

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