Russia's Image Takes Major Hit, Poll Finds

Russia's image around the world took a dramatic dive last year, according to an opinion poll released Friday by the BBC World Service.

Forty-two percent of respondents said they had a "mainly negative" view of Russia, according to the poll, which surveyed more than 13,000 people in 21 countries in December and January.

"Attitudes about Russia have worsened dramatically in some cases over the past year," the report said.

Respondents were asked to rate each country's influence in the world. The poll was carried out by international polling firm GlobeScan, together with the Program on International Policy Attitudes at the University of Maryland.

In the United States, 64 percent of respondents had a negative opinion of Russia, up 28 percent compared to the previous year. In Britain, 25 percent said they had a "positive" view of Russia, down from 45 percent the year before.

The total number of respondents calling Russia's influence "negative" jumped 8 percent compared to the previous year. Russia's short war with Georgia in August and "increasing limitations on civil rights may be affecting American and European attitudes," the report said.

Russia was viewed most positively by the Chinese (74 percent) and most negatively by the Germans (70 percent). Most of the polling was conducted before Russia interrupted gas supplies to Europe through Ukraine amid a bitter price dispute with the Ukrainian government.

Eighty percent of its own citizens rated Russia positively, while Russians grew more critical of the United States and the European Union. Sixty-five percent of Russians expressed a negative opinion of the United States, up 12 percent from the previous year.

Only 31 percent of Russians called the influence of the EU positive, a 20 percent drop. "Naturally, the problems with Georgia and the problems with the gas pipes and Ukraine are reflected in the population," said Vladimir Andreyenkov, head of the Institute for Comparative Social Research in Moscow, which polled Russians for the survey.

Andreyenkov said the national media was largely responsible for widespread negative views of the United States. "In the media over the last year, and especially in the second half of the last year, there was a lot of discussion of the role of the United States and its president," Andreyenkov said.

Researchers from Andreyenkov's institute talked to 1,000 Russians in their homes in early December for the poll.