Those were among the first findings of a new survey, “World Leaders,” to be conducted every two months by Harris Interactive for the International Herald Tribune and the all-news channel France 24.
In the six countries surveyed, the results differed sharply depending on whether the respondents were in Britain and the United States, on the one hand, or in France, Germany, Italy and Spain, on the other.
For example, the percentage who hold a “very good” or “somewhat good” opinion of Merkel ranged from 59 percent to 73 percent in Continental Europe, while it was around 30 percent in the United States and Britain. On the question of influence, the percentage in Continental Europe rating Merkel as having “some” or “a great deal” ranged from 66 percent to 77 percent, while just one in three Britons and Americans said the same.
There was no disagreement on which leader is the most powerful: President George W. Bush. Nor was there much of a divide on his respect: he was consistently ranked near the bottom. The same was true of Vladimir Putin, the prime minister of Russia.
Two of the other leaders ranked at the top of the power list, however, were also among the most respected: Merkel and President Nicolas Sarkozy of France, though both got higher rankings on the Continent that elsewhere.
The Dalai Lama, the exiled spiritual leader of Tibet, was ranked the most respected leader, generally by a wide margin in every country, though in the United States he was edged out by former Prime Minister Tony Blair of Britain. Blair’s ranking was dragged down worldwide, however, by low marks in his home country and in Spain.
The other world leader ranked near the top in popularity was Pope Benedict XVI. That two religious leaders are ranked in the top five surprised Brent Scowcroft, the former U.S. national security adviser, who was asked about the results on the France 24 program “The Talk of Paris.”
“What it says is that the world is yearning for an, if not religious, at least a humanistic approach that puts religion – or if you will, care and concern for one’s fellow man – at the top of the agenda,” Scowcroft said.
Respondents were asked to give their overall opinion of 19 world leaders, ranging from Ban Ki Moon, the secretary general of the United Nations, to President Bashar al-Assad of Syria, as well as their view of each leader’s global influence. And while Bush’s ranking on the respect scale was low, it was not at the bottom: that spot belongs to President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad of Iran.
Others ranked near the bottom were Putin, Assad, Fidel Castro of Cuba, Hugo Chavez of Venezuela, Dmitri Medvedev of Russia and Hu Jintao of China.
Patrick Van Bloeme, chief executive for France at Harris Interactive, said the new survey would allow tracking of the various leaders over time, a longstanding practice among pollsters reviewing the popularity of the national leaders in their respective countries. The new survey is the first reviewing popularity of leaders in different countries in parallel, he said.[/ihc-hide-content]