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International poll looks at terror fears

Thursday, March 4, 2004 Posted: 12:07 PM EST (1707 GMT)

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Public Opinion
United States

WASHINGTON (AP) -- A majority of people living in the two countries bordering the United States and in five major European countries say they think the war in Iraq increased the threat of terrorism in the world, Associated Press polls found.

In the United States, people were evenly divided on whether the war has increased or decreased the terror threat.

The AP polls were conducted by Ipsos, an international polling firm, in Britain, Canada, France, Italy, Germany, Mexico, Spain and the United States.

While a majority in each of the countries polled except the United States said the terrorism threat was greater now, fewer than one in 10 in any of the European countries said the terror threat had been decreased by the war.

In Canada and France, just over half felt it had been increased, whereas in Germany, three-fourths thought the Iraq war has made the terror problem worse.

Concern about terrorism was very high in Italy and Germany, where about seven in 10 said they were very worried or somewhat worried, and especially in Spain, 85 percent, where residents also have to contend with domestic terrorism by Basque separatists. The high levels of concern about terrorism are probably linked to the recent history of terror in those countries, one public opinion analyst said.

"Italy and Germany were the countries most heavily affected by terrorism during the 1970s," said Christian Holst, director of opinion research at Ipsos Germany. "This kind of sticks in people's memories -- the older they are, the more they remember, and the higher the level of fear is."

Fewer than half in Canada said they were worried about terrorism, a finding that didn't surprise Darrell Bricker, president of public affairs polling of Ipsos-Reid in Canada.

"Our experience with terrorism tends to be on the news and south of the border, not here," Bricker said.

Events in the Mideast are increasing terror concerns in many countries, the polls found. A majority in each country, including the United States, said they felt the situation between Israel and the Palestinians has made the terror threat around the world worse.

General negative feelings about the Iraq war contribute to fears of "either defeated Iraqis or terrorists who use the Iraq war as a pretext to commit attacks," Holst said.

The polls found that people living in all the countries except the United States have an unfavorable view of the role that President Bush plays in world affairs. Only in the United States did a majority, 57 percent, have a positive view of the role played by the U.S. president.

Just over half in Mexico and Italy had a negative view of Bush's role. In Britain, the closest U.S. ally in the war in Iraq, and in Canada, two-thirds have a negative view.

Sam McGuire, director of opinion research at Ipsos UK, said Bush's low ratings in Britain are notable, given that country's close alliance with the United States. Britain traditionally has been seen as the United States' "staunchest European ally on world affairs," he said, and long has been a buffer between the United State and Europe.

Three-fourths of those in Spain and more than four in five in France and Germany had a negative view of Bush's role in world affairs.

"Bush has a lot of work to do if he wants to be popular in France," said Edouard LeCerf, director of opinion research for Ipsos France.

People in the different countries had a more mixed reaction about whether Britain and the United States should have gone to war in Iraq, if it turns out no weapons of mass destruction are found.

Of the eight countries polled, a majority in five countries -- the United States, Canada Mexico, Italy and Britain -- say that even if no weapons of mass destruction are found in Iraq, there were other reasons to justify the war.

The AP-Ipsos polls of 930 to just over 1,000 adults in each country were taken February 12-21 and have margins of sampling error of plus or minus 3 percentage points.

Copyright 2004 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.


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