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Brazil appears to be the most popular BRICS nation even as other members seem to be facing an image deficit globally and among themselves.
It occupies a middle ranking position relative to the other countries (and the EU) evaluated in 2013, ranking seventh overall in terms of positive ratings, a 25-country poll released last week said.
However, the overall picture for the Latin American country is less favourable than it was in 2012, owing to an increase in global negative ratings, which saw nine countries losing their earlier shine.
On the other hand, positive views of China and India have fallen sharply around the world over the last year, while views of Russia and South Africa have deteriorated further from earlier years, the poll showed.
The 2013 Country Ratings Poll, conducted for the BBC World Service by the international polling firm GlobeScan together with the Program on International Policy Attitudes (PIPA) at the University of Maryland in the US, asked respondents to rate 16 countries and the EU on whether their influence in the world is “mostly positive” or “mostly negative.”
“With ratings of most countries declining this year, it appears that frustration with governments in general is growing, as nearly five years on from the financial crisis they seem incapable of pulling their economies out of the slump, ”said GlobeScan Director Sam Mountford.
Another opinion poll released earlier this month, which looked into how Indians view the world, also put governance and economic performance above their own government’s foreign and trade policies.
Asked to rate their feelings toward 22 listed countries on a scale of 0, meaning very cold, to 100, meaning very warm, Indians were asked to gauge societies and systems of government that function well as worthy of admiration and emulation.
Indians ranked the United States first, at 62 degrees, followed by Singapore (58), Japan (57) and Australia (56). BRICS allies trailed the developed nations, with traditional Cold War-era ally Russia scoring a warm 53 followed by South Africa (47). Brazil and China got a fuzzy 44, in the India Poll 2013 carried out by the Lowy Institute for International Policy, an Australian think tank.
Rory Medcalf, the author of the India poll report and director of the Lowy Institute’s international security program, said that while his survey showed 83 percent of Indians see China as a security threat, at the same time 63 percent would like relations with China to strengthen. “The poll results suggest that China and India face major challenges in achieving trust and cooperation,” said Medcalf.
In the GlobeScan country ratings poll, the average positive views of China across 21 tracking countries dropped eight points to 42 percent while negative views rose by the same amount to reach 39 percent. After improving for several years, views of China have sunk to their lowest level since polling began in 2005.
India has shown a similar decline, with negative views up eight points and positive views down six. For the first time this year, those negative views (35 percent) slightly outnumber those with positive views of India (34 percent). Overall, China is ranked ninth, while India is ranked twelfth.
“While China and India’s prestige was enhanced by defying the gravity of the economic downturn, they seem to be falling back to earth with slowing growth rates and a perception of widespread corruption. The scandals surrounding the treatment of women in India may also have had an impact on this year’s findings,” said Steven Kull, Director of PIPA.
Brazil not popular among peersChina can take comfort from positive views among other BRICS countries. They have particularly warmed in Brazil, with both an increase in positive ratings (54 percent, up six points from last year) and a decrease in negative ratings (24 percent, down seven points). Strong pluralities also lean favourable in Russia (42 percent positive vs 24 percent negative) and in India, where public opinion has shifted from being divided in 2012 (30 percent vs 31 percent) to firmly positive this year (36 percent vs 27 percent).
Russian perceptions of India continue to be strongly favourable (42 percent positive vs 9 percent negative), but these have deteriorated in China and in Brazil. In China, the opinion of India was somewhat negative in 2012 and the trend has worsened this year following a 12-point drop in positive ratings (to 23 per cent) along with a slight five-point rise in negative views (to 45 percent). In Brazil, the opinion has shifted from leaning somewhat positive in 2012 (39 percent positive vs 34 percent negative) to being negative this year (26 percent vs 37 percent).
While Brazil did the best among BRICS on the global front, among its peers it does not enjoy particularly positive views; India has the fewest positive responses about its influence of all countries surveyed.
Only 18 per cent of Indians lean positive about Brazil (down nine points since 2012) and opinion has shifted from leaning positive in 2012 to being split in 2013 (18 percent positive vs 20 percent negative) with a majority undecided.
China also has seen its public positive view of Brazil decline in the past year, now down to 34 percent following a seven-point decrease.
The Chinese are also divided in 2013 (31 percent negative), a shift from 2012 when the opinion leaned positive (41 percent vs 31 percent). Incidentally, this is the lowest proportion of positive ratings ever given by the Chinese about Brazil’s influence since tracking began there in 2008.
Bucking this downward trend seen in India and Brazil, Russian views of Brazil have remained stable and positive (38 percent positive vs 8 percent negative).
As for Russia, views among its peers are mixed. China remains comfortably positive although favourable views have decreased eight points to 44 percent, which incidentally is the lowest percentage ever posted by Chinese respondents about Russia since polling began 2005. In India, a small and stable plurality of 34 percent continues to hold favourable views, while a quarter of Brazilians continue to be somewhat negative about Russian influence.
Globally, views of Russia’s influence have further deteriorated in 2013. In both 2012 and 2013, 30 percent have positive views of the Russian influence in the world, one point less than in 2012. At the same time, the proportion giving negative ratings has jumped four points to 40 percent.
Caution over South Africa
South Africa is viewed cautiously by its counterpart emerging economies, as opinions in Brazil, India, and China do not seem to be quite settled yet.
Somewhat positive in 2012, the Brazilian public is now divided over the African nation following an eight-point drop in positive ratings (34 percent positive vs 38 percent negative).
A similar drop occurred in India: opinion there has also shifted from leaning positive in 2012, but with high numbers of undecided respondents, to being divided in 2013 (22 percent positive vs 18 percent negative).
Views of South Africa in China are also uncertain; Chinese opinion leans slightly positive overall (34 percent vs 29 percent). In Russia, while the public was somewhat positive in 2012, an eight-point increase in negative ratings has made the opinion shift to being negative this year (16 percent vs 22 percent, but with persistently high numbers of undecided Russians).
Overall, 35 percent of respondents have positive views of South African influence in the world – two points less than in 2012. At the same time, the proportion of those holding negative views has increased by five points to reach 30 percent.
These changes make South Africa one of the countries where global views have deteriorated the most, after China, India, and Japan. Of the 25 countries surveyed in 2013, nine countries lean positive, 11 lean negative, and five are divided.
The polling data points to less than flattering perception of the BRICS collective persona. It is most likely time for BRICS nations to review their copies of Dale Carnegie’s How to Win Friends and Influence People.
But all is not lost as the India Poll 2013 revealed that most Indians are positive about their economic prospects, supportive of democratic rights and deeply opposed to corruption. Amitabh Mattoo, Director of the Australia India Institute, said “the poll confirmed the ‘argumentative’ Indian’s great faith in democracy.”
Ranjit Bhaskar is a Toronto-based journalist with a keen interest in Canada, the emerging economies, the environment, science and technology, motoring and human rights. He has more than 20 years of experience with leading international news organisations, including Al Jazeera English.