Russia, Iran, China and Israel rank worst out of 14 key nations and global institutions for the negative influence they are having around the world, survey finds

Russia, Iran, China and Israel have been judged to have the most negative influence of 14 countries and institutions around the world, with global perceptions taking a significant hit over the last five years, according to new research.

A global poll of some 23,800 people from five continents found around half now believe Russia uses its influence for ‘bad’ on the world stage, with Iran, Israel and China also proving divisive in policy.

Public opinion has shifted significantly in the last five years, with comparative polling from 2019 revealing a 22 per cent rise in the share who feel Russia has a largely negative influence in the world.

While global conflicts and tussles for control of strategic corridors and resources may have soured the public’s view of these global players, the perception of Great Britain and the US remains largely the same.

The survey carried out by Ipsos and the Policy Institute at King’s College London found 26 per cent of the global public believe Britain uses its influence for good, placing behind only Canada and Germany.

Russian T-90M and T-14 Armata tanks parade through Red Square during the general rehearsal of the Victory Day military parade in central Moscow on May 7, 2022

Russian President Vladimir Putin attends a meeting of the Council for Science and Education at the Joint Institute for Nuclear Research in Dubna today

Russian President Vladimir Putin attends a meeting of the Council for Science and Education at the Joint Institute for Nuclear Research in Dubna today

Iranian demonstrators burn a barricade during a protest for Mahsa Amini, a woman who died in custody after being arrested by the republic's 'morality police', in Tehran, September 2022

Iranian demonstrators burn a barricade during a protest for Mahsa Amini, a woman who died in custody after being arrested by the republic’s ‘morality police’, in Tehran, September 2022

Polling thousands of international respondents on their perceptions of foreign nations, the researchers found significant shifts in how some of the world’s main players are viewed.

Forty-eight per cent said they believe Russia to use its influence in the world for ‘bad’, with just nine per cent believing it to be using its power for ‘good’.

This put the eastern European giant ahead of all others by a considerable margin, followed most closely by Iran.

As many as 37 per cent judged Iran to be using its influence for ‘bad’, compared to just eight per cent who believed it was working for the common good.

Iran scored lowest of the 14 nations and institutions examined on this front, although 17 per cent felt Iran was using its influence for both good and bad purposes.

Israel, in the midst of a devastating conflict with Hamas in Gaza, ranked only above Russia and Iran for perceptions of doing good in the world, at 12 per cent.

Around a third of 23,800 respondents believed Israel to be doing more harm around the world – with 21 per cent perceiving some balance.

The ‘mostly good’ assessment has fallen one percentage point since the last polling while ‘mostly bad’ rose nine per cent. 

China and Russia also saw hefty jumps in the number of people judging their actions to be ‘mostly bad’, from respondents in 23 countries taking part in both waves.

The number of people judging China to be having a negative influence rose 10 percentage points as those concerned about Russia rose by nearly a quarter.

People holding Iranian flags gather to stage a demonstration in support of Iran's attack on Israel in Tehran, Iran on April 14

People holding Iranian flags gather to stage a demonstration in support of Iran’s attack on Israel in Tehran, Iran on April 14

Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) members march during the annual pro-Palestinians Al-Quds, or Jerusalem, Day rally in Tehra,. April 29, 2022

Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) members march during the annual pro-Palestinians Al-Quds, or Jerusalem, Day rally in Tehra,. April 29, 2022

A ball of fire and black smoke rises moments after an Israeli air strike targeted a residential building in the city of Bureij in the central Gaza Strip on June 3, amid the conflict with Hamas

A ball of fire and black smoke rises moments after an Israeli air strike targeted a residential building in the city of Bureij in the central Gaza Strip on June 3, amid the conflict with Hamas

Canada came out top for nations perceived to be using their influence for good, though perceptions had fallen by eight percentage points since the last count.

The UN, tasked with maintaining international peace and security, came just behind the UN on its reputation acting for the good.

By nations, Britain came third after only Canada and Germany – perceived to be doing good around the world by 26 per cent.

The EU and NATO both ranked around the same for perceptions of having a positive influence, with 28 per cent and 27 per cent respectively. 

Britain has offered sizeable donations to Ukraine’s resistance effort against the Russian invasion since 2022.

It has also imposed sanctions on Iran and China, though remains and ally to Saudi Arabia and Israel, which both rank among those perceived to be having a more negative influence on the world presently.

But Britons themselves are now less likely to see their country as a force for good around the world.

Between 2019 and 2024, this fell eight percentage points from 40 per cent to 32.

Americans also had their reservation, the number appreciating Britain’s influence in the world falling 13 points. 

France came just below Britain, with one quarter of respondents judging the country to be having a positive influence.

The ‘mostly good’ assessment fell five percentage points since the last polling, while ‘mostly bad’ rose by three. 

To get a broad range of viewpoints, Ipsos interviewed nearly 24,000 adults in 31 countries between March and April of this year.

The research pulled together opinions on some of the world’s most prominent agents on the global stage from North America, South America, Europe, Africa and Asia.

The global survey was conducted to mark the 2024 Fulbright Distinguished Lecture by Washington Post columnist and CNN host Dr Fareed Zakaria on 14 June.

British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak attends a meeting with Ukraine President, Volodymyr Zelenskyy, during day one of the 50th G7 summit on June 13

British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak attends a meeting with Ukraine President, Volodymyr Zelenskyy, during day one of the 50th G7 summit on June 13

A Challenger 2 main battle tank of the British forces during the NATO's Spring Storm exercise in Kilingi-Nomme, Estonia, Wednesday, May 15

A Challenger 2 main battle tank of the British forces during the NATO’s Spring Storm exercise in Kilingi-Nomme, Estonia, Wednesday, May 15

Ukrainian soldiers fire with mortar during a military training with French servicemen in Poland, April 4, 2024

Ukrainian soldiers fire with mortar during a military training with French servicemen in Poland, April 4, 2024

While the polling did not enquire as the causes of changing perceptions, the study’s authors provided some insight.

Dr Zakaria said: ‘The results of this survey are fascinating. Around the world, when it comes down to it, people still want liberalism in all sorts of ways. 

‘What surprised me was that the international paragon of good governance is the European Union. And the great irony is that while people in most countries have a more favourable perception of the United States than they did five years ago, the one place where this was not true was in America itself. 

‘It seems it is the inheritors of the liberal tradition who have the most self-doubt about their role in the world.’

Professor Bobby Duffy, director of the Policy Institute at King’s College London, said: ‘We are living in an increasingly multi-polar world, with very different views of how nations are acting and whether their models should be emulated in our own countries, which is bound to test international relations. 

‘It’s particularly important for people in liberal democracies to recognise just how increasingly diverse these views are around the world.’

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